A few weeks ago, Professor Denise Glover’s two seminar classes (SSI 117 People, Plants, and Animals) took a field trip to the Swan Creek Food Forest (SCFF) here in Tacoma. The purpose of the trip was to learn more about local urban foraging and the connections between land and people in the area. Our guide was Puget Sound alumna Renee Meschi (’15), who now works for the Pierce Conservation District in Tacoma, and is Program Specialist for SCFF activities. She explained to us the layers of social history on the land (which included the land as traditional Puyallup foraging grounds) that was designated as the Swan Creek Food Forest in 2012.
In our class, we had just finished up a unit on traditional foraging and were transitioning into a section about contemporary issues involving people, plants, and animals (such as industrial farming, non-human animal legal rights, urban edible landscapes, the centrality of pets in the lives of urban Americans, and related topics), so the field trip was well timed—and offered students the opportunity to see the ideas we had been discussing in action. As one student wrote: “While reading the articles for class, I didn’t fully grasp how examples of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in indigenous communities were relevant to me. Seeing the food forest helped me tie all the readings together, as I drew from the ideas of Agrawal and Turner to put TEK in the perspective of my position—a suburban, western educated white boy.”
In addition to an introduction to the SCFF, we toured the grounds and Renee pointed out important areas of foraging and the natural kinds foraged there, such as bracken fern (Pteridium), hawthorn (Crataegus), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), and ground ants (some of the students even sampled ants during our walk through the food forest—see photo). Lastly, students lent their human labor to the task of removing invasive blackberries.