The Alaska Community Forestry Program is looking for creative ways to grow fruit and nut trees in the state.
The Division of Forestry through the Department of Natural Resources is seeking proposals for community orchards or “food forests” to receive grant funding.
Food forests are meant to mimic a natural forest ecosystem including plants like trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Benefits of these forests can include providing a variety of healthy foods, improving soil quality, attracting pollinators, and encouraging a diverse habitat, the division says.
These forests may include layers like a canopy, low tree layer, shrubs, ground covers, vines and climbers, and below ground fungal communities.
In its request for proposals, the division notes these projects may be planted in a private orchard or in public spaces throughout a community.
The goal is to provide the division data to help evaluate what works and what doesn’t when it comes to planting these types of community orchards in a unique Alaska environment.
Growers will be able to share their results and make recommendations for future projects.
The hope is that the project will increase public awareness about community trees, forests, and food sources, help communities better choose, plant, and care for fruit trees, and develop a set of harvest guidelines for certain species to ensure well-managed and sustainable harvests.
Applicants must be a government entity or nonprofit and may apply for grants of $1,000 to $1,250 to purchase trees. According to the division, a total of five to six grants will be awarded.
Proposals are due by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20. They will then be reviewed by Alaska Community Forestry staff and the Alaska Community Forest Council and the grants will be awarded in early April.