In Traverse City, hikers and bikers find more than just scenic views and wildlife along the TART TrailKids and adults using the trail can also gather produce and herbs for free from the public food forest known as Grand Traverse Edible Trails.

The first gardens were planted in fall 2014 and spring 2015. Already, gooseberries, currants, jostaberries, strawberries, raspberries, sage, thyme, oregano, bee balm, rhubarb and mint are producing food for the public (berries and rhubarb are done for 2016, but the herbs are still in season).

In the future, once the plants mature, pawpaws, American persimmons, mulberries, hazelnuts, hickories, walnuts, chestnuts, wild plums, apples, saskatoons, blueberries, cherries, silver buffaloberry, asparagus and thimbleberry will also be available.

“This is a project that will take time to come to fruition,”says AmeriCorps VISTA member Jonathan Aylward, who helped start Grand Traverse Edible Trails. “Many of the trees and shrubs were planted quite small, and it will be fun to see them grow and eventually bear fruit.”

Grand Traverse Edible Trails 2_Photo by Emma Winowiecki

There are currently four food forest locations along the TART Trail. The largest is at DeYoung Natural Area. The trail is marked by a small sign and the plants are labeled. A larger, permanent sign will be installed soon. The second location is across from Orchard Creek Retirement Home about .5 miles north of Cherry Bend Road. It’s marked by a large, wooden sign. The other locations are outside the SEEDS Farm along the Buffalo Ridge Trail and at the Caboose on Carter Road. These sites are unmarked.

Many of the plants along the edible trail were dug up from local farms, including the saskatoons, which came from Cross Farm. Plants were also grown and planted by local students from the TBAISD Career Tech Center, Greenspire and Children’s House Montessori. A plant nursery at the SEEDS Farm has over 1,000 trees growing right now, which will soon be transplanted along the TART Trail and other locations.

“The idea was inspired by many things,” Jonathan says. “The public food forest movement, indigenous food systems, and our founding citizen group’s collective vision of creating abundance in public spaces.”

For more information or to volunteer for Grand Traverse Edible Trails, contact

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Photo(s) by Emma Winowiecki