Urban food forests: what it really means to grow peaches on Peachtree Street
Urban food forests can have multiple benefits for neighborhoods and cities
On Friday, I wrote about how backyard gardens can mitigate climate change in multiple ways. I’d like to continue the theme today, on Science Monday, with some recent research out of Florida International University that has found multiple benefits from urban food forests.
A food forest is an amalgamation of food bearing plants—fruit trees, food bearing shrubs, along with regular garden staples, such as tomatoes corn, or kohlrabi—that mimics the setting of a natural forest, with an overstory of trees, an understory of shrubs, and a further story of low-growing or ground-level plants. Food forests may be the oldest type of farming done by human beings.
They have been touted as being more beneficial to the soil than many traditional farming practices as well as industrial agriculture. Farm forests attract native pollinators, while naturally reducing the number of pests. Evidence is beginning to show that food forests that are adjacent to open spaces or nature preserves are ecologically beneficial. Food forests in Sri Lanka have been shown to benefit native birds.
The researchers looked at ten food forest gardens that had been installed at ten schools in Miami-Dade County. The food forests were sponsored by a local program, Food Forests For Schools, which is part of a county-wide education organization, The Education Fund. The forests had been installed over the past year to six years and were from a quarter to a full acre in size. The research team was led by Cara A. Rockwell, a research assistant professor at the Institute of Environment at Florida International University. The results of this research were published in the journal Urban Planning in June.
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