SHERIDAN — A group of volunteers gathered last weekend to plant apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, raspberries and huckleberries at the new Sheridan Food Forest.

Food forests are designed to mimic a woodland ecosystem in structure, however, fruiting trees and bushes, perennial vegetables and herbs are substituted as the usual plantings. The Sheridan Food Forest will be open to the public and the fruit the food forest provides will be made available for harvest. In addition to increasing access to nutritious local food, providing habitat for beneficial insects and beautifying the community, the food forest will serve as an outdoor classroom where residents can learn about growing food and the importance of pollinators to food production.

“It will still be a few years before the trees bear any fruit,” Food forest volunteer Carol LeResche said, “but we also planted a few annuals like zucchini, pumpkins, melons and potatoes, which can be harvested this year.”

In addition to the annual vegetables, volunteers also planted a perennial vegetable garden that will feature horseradish, asparagus and rhubarb.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council was awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant of $3,500 from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to purchase the fruiting trees and bushes for the food forest. The food forest committee is currently seeking other funding to help complete the project. Eventually the Food Forest committee would like to install pathways, a visitor’s board, gazebo, irrigation system and more edible plants.

The Food Forest planting and watering crew included Scott Hininger, Donald Legerski, Bob LeResche, Val Burgess, Gillian Malone, Nancy Drummond, Jill Morrison, Carol LeResche and Ann Fuller, who also donated the raspberry plants. Chuck Walters from the Sheridan Recreation District provided the group access to water, a backhoe and compost, and Joe Pultizer helped prepare the site for planting by removing weeds and laying down mulch.

On Saturday, volunteers will plant the remaining plum and apple trees. Anyone who wants to help with the planting at the Sheridan Food Forest is welcome to meet the group outside of the Sheridan Recreation District Office in Thorne-Rider Park at 7 a.m.

Those planning to help are asked to bring a shovel, rake, five-gallon bucket for watering, sturdy shoes, gloves, hat, sunscreen and plenty of water to drink.