The Learning Garden and Food Forest at Story Mill Community Park were created with input from our community, the vision of the Trust for Public Land, the partnership of the City of Bozeman, and the support of countless partners, donors, volunteers and community members. The space and partnerships are currently managed by Gallatin Valley Food Bank as another creative approach to improving food security in Southwest Montana.
Our vision is to create a healthier, more resilient, food-secure community in which all of the members are empowered and have the means to nourish themselves.
Our mission is to cultivate an environment of community-driven education, agricultural stewardship, environmental awareness, and food sovereignty.
History of the Learning Garden and Food Forest
Story Mill Community Park, now open to the public, is the largest public park in Bozeman and boasts over 60 acres of wildlife habitat, playgrounds, climbing boulders, sledding hills, dog parks, and community gardens. The initial conceptual plan for the park was developed with widespread public input and a common thread was the call for more community garden spaces since all others are currently at capacity in Bozeman. The management of the Learning Garden and Food Forest project was passed around between several organizations before Gallatin Valley Food Bank took it on. For GVFB, it was a natural partnership and an opportunity to bring the issue of food security to the forefront.
The Learning Garden
In an effort to expand this opportunity to more people in our community, we are trying a different “community garden” model in which the garden is parceled out to organizations or groups rather than individuals. Our partners include diverse organizations and community members who use the Learning Garden for educational programming, therapeutic activities and wellness opportunities. Current partners include: Gallatin Valley Farm to School, Big Sky Youth Empowerment, Blueprint (HRDC), The Bozeman 3, Headwaters Academy, Bozeman Parks & Recreation, Sacajawea Audubon Society, Sweet Pea Festival, and Indigenous members of our community.
Our garden goals are multifaceted in that we want to grow more nutritious food for our customers, provide spaces for therapeutic and educational programming, decrease stigma and raise awareness of the reality of food insecurity in our community, and provide an example of what it looks like to grow your own food in Montana. We hope that by creating these growing spaces, we can facilitate opportunities for our community to become more empowered and self-sufficient through their relationship to food.
The Food Forest
The Food Forest is a quarter-acre park within the larger 60 acre Story Mill Community Park in Bozeman. It is adjacent to the Story Mill Learning Garden and is intended to create a sensory experience for park visitors while at the same time educating them about the variety and extent of perennial edibles that can be grown in this climate.
Food forests mimic the architecture of woodland ecosystems but instead incorporate fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables. The food forest concept has been promoted by permaculture practitioners worldwide as a way of increasing food security, decreasing the inputs needed to grow crops, and inspiring more home-scale food production.
The public food forest model is based on an open harvest policy, where any visitor is invited to sample what’s in season.
The fruit trees and berry bushes of the Story Mill Food Forest were installed before the park’s official opening in July of 2019. Some of the species planted include apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees, along with edible shrubs like gooseberries, raspberries, red and black currants and chokeberries. Over the course of the following three growing seasons, the ‘understory’ of herbaceous perennial edible plants will be planted. At the same time, the hope is to build a strong network of supporters that will help maintain the park as it matures. For questions specific to the Food Forest, contact Kareen Erbe: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Get Involved:
- Volunteer at a work party
- Donate to the Learning Garden and/or Food Forest
- Attend a FREE educational workshop
- Teach a garden or wellness related workshop
- Visit the Learning Garden and Food Forest at 600 Bridger Drive. Your visit is important to us because it means we are one step closer to creating the community gathering space and educational hub we envision.
Still have questions? Call us at (406) 586.7600