The Edible Garden at Bernheim engages people in experiences that illuminate connections between food, ecology and community.
What crops does a garden grow?
Mostly we think about gardens in terms of the harvest. We measure the worth of a garden in bushels, pecks, and pounds. We talk about the first tomato, the last beet, and the endless profusion of squash. But to think of a garden only in terms of what food we harvest is limiting. A garden grows far more than plants. As we work to establish the Edible Garden at Bernheim these are some of the crops we wish to sow:
- connections with nature
- a playful space for children
- a platform for teaching science and math
- regenerative design inspiration
- a negative carbon footprint
- inspiration for fewer lawns and more food gardens
- a grassy area to watch clouds
- a place to get married
Some crops will fail and others will flourish. That’s the way gardening rolls. You are invited to join us in the journey.
A Garden Exploring Regenerative Design
The Edible Garden project is an official applicant to the Living Building Challenge. In 2012 when the garden began development it was one of only two Living Building Challenge (LBC) projects in Kentucky and the only LBC project going after full certification. The LBC is a performance-based standard that represents a visionary path to a regenerative future. For Bernheim, this project presents us with the challenge of taking the lessons we learned in establishing the first LEED® platinum building in a four state area to a whole new level. The challenge requires that we meet 22 imperatives that address:
Just by way of example, some of the considerations that will go into this project include:
- A net-zero ecological water footprint that will allow us to capture, store, use, and reuse water. And when water is released from the garden site to the surrounding ecology, it will be released as clean or cleaner than we received it.
- A net-zero energy footprint. The garden and the garden buildings will produce more energy than they consume. In fact, we are hoping to produce 10x more energy than the project consumes. In other words, it will also be a power plant.
- No “red list” materials. The garden will not include any of a long list of environmental toxins, some of which are common building products such as polyvinylchloride (PVC), formaldehyde, halogenated flame retardants, and phthalates.
- We are even tracking the carbon equivalents in the production of the garden so we can off-set them at completion. That requires us to track every gallon of fuel we use in the equipment that is used to build the project.
In terms of environmental design, this is the most ambitious project Bernheim has ever pursued. What we learn in the process will inform how we design everything in our future. We hope that by pioneering this type of thinking at Bernheim, we will be able to share our experiences with others in the future. And that’s another crop we hope to harvest from this project.
An Evolving Plan
Bernheim is exploring an integrated design process as we move the Edible Garden forward. That essentially means the planning process is part planning, part conversation, part experimentation, and lots of communication at every step along the way. It’s slower and more cumbersome than having one person or team plan out all the details and then contracting the work, but it opens the project up to a more creative approach. And nature is always a partner at the design table. In fact, it’s the design partner that gets the final say.
Here’s the original site plan that resulted from numerous design charrettes. A charrette is a design process that brings lots of voices around a table for a short time to accomplish a set objective. But design is an iterative process that responds to a shifting landscape of options that always seem to emerge.
The project is being built in three primary stages. Phase one (2011-2012) established the goals of the project and opened up a conversation between staff and key community partners. It resulted in the initial site plan. Phase two (late 2012 through fall of 2013) will result in finalizing the infrastructure for the water systems, the primary pathways, the pond and water capture systems, the arbor and a set of raised beds that will be laid out in a petal configuration. Phase three (late 2013 to mid 2014) will result in a pavilion structure on the north side of the garden. All along the way, and added as possible, will be the plant landscapes. These landscapes will include:
- planted arbor systems
- raised bed gardens
- edible forest ecosystem
- lawn alternatives and edible lawns
- herb spirals
- trellises and espalliers
- living roof gardens
- filtering wetlands
- rain gardens
You can follow the progress of the project at this Edible Garden timeline link. It is updated frequently, so please stop by often.