Joan Nelson MacLeod
Vice President, Damon Farber Landscape Architects
An inadequate food infrastructure is like an inadequate transportation system of vehicles, roads, and bridges—it’s difficult to get where you want to go without reliable food supply chain operations, facilities, and services in place.
Joan Nelson MacLeod, Vice President at Damon Farber Landscape Architects, is working to bridge gaps in Minnesota’s food infrastructure and build new pathways through landscape architecture.
“Food infrastructure is similar to other kinds of infrastructure; it is essentially a system that supports the people it serves,” Joan explained. “When food infrastructure systems are well designed, they can be counted on to support the health and well-being of everyone in the system’s network, not to mention the environment.”
As a professional designer of landscaped spaces, Joan has taken a professional oath to support the public’s well-being. Her connection to working on food-related issues came from learning about the use of neonicotinoids, which are a kind of pesticide and have been linked to the collapse of honeybee colonies. “These changes in our ecosystem at the level of honeybees are having a profound impact on our food security, which is deeply concerning to me,” Joan told us. “As a landscape architect, I believe that I have an obligation and an opportunity to advocate for protecting and creating pollinator-friendly landscapes.”
Joan has been able to put her passion and vision for intentionally designed food systems to work through a number of projects—including the demonstration garden at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab, and the Bee Discovery and Pollinator Center at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. “I hope that these projects will lead to a new approach and aesthetic that integrates pollinators into our gardens and also begins to re-weave the beauty of the natural world back into our lives,” Joan said.
She also served on a White House advisory panel with the American Society of Landscape Architects to develop a strategy that finds opportunities to support pollinators within all federal programs. The Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators was released in May of 2015. This plan outlines a comprehensive approach to tackling and reducing the impact of multiple stressors on pollinator health, including pests and pathogens, reduced habitat, lack of nutritional resources, and exposure to pesticides.
Feeding Bees Feeds Us
Joan encourages others to get involved, even if they are not involved in food infrastructure work. “Grow, buy, eat, and vote for what we know is good for both the environment and ourselves,” Joan said.
You can also do simple and fun things, like plant a patch of native flowers and grow them without pesticides. “You could do this in your garden, on your deck, or at your place of work,” she added. “This will give you a chance to observe the wonder of pollinators. Feeding bees translates into food for the rest of us.”