Food Forest & Gleaning Program

core of mclean tree icon

Food Forest

A food forest is a public area that is planted with perennial food crops for free access to community members to harvest fresh foods or simply enjoy the space. Perennials are plants that stay in place and return every year, such as trees and shrubs, or plants that emerge from the ground in the spring and die back in the fall.

In 2023 we partnered with the Ecology Action Center in Bloomington to plant 19 native trees on village-owned property under the new water tower. The majority of these are nut-bearing trees, including hickory, pecan, hazelnut, and chestnut, but we also planted three American plum trees and two different oak species. Ecology Action Center donated both the trees and their labor to put these trees in, and our volunteers have since kept them maintained and watered, with water and hoses from the village plus materials donated by volunteers. In the future, we hope this will mature into a diverse food forest. We plan to plant more food crops in this space, such as fruit-bearing brambles and rhubarb or asparagus, in the years to come.

Gleaning Program

We also hope to establish a gleaning program in McLean. Gleaning is the act of harvesting excess crops to be shared among a community. Our village has lots of fruit trees in people’s yards, especially apple and pear but also others, that are often not harvested. We plan to have a team of volunteers who can harvest from these trees and put the fruit to use. We can donate much of the harvest to the food pantry but could also hold canning classes for the public, and could give away canned fruit as well.

Our first step for this was a “Fruit Tree ID” workshop we held in May of 2023. A University of Illinois Extension agent led a group of community members around town to identify fruit trees. This helps us know where they are and also enables folks to be able to spot more around town and help us create a map of the gleaning possibilities in McLean. We hope to hold more workshops like this in the future!

If you are interested in volunteering to help with these programs, please fill out the Volunteer Form.

If you are interested in being a sponsor of these programs, please fill out the Sponsor Form.