Cornucopia in the Cities: Growing Urban Agriculture with Trees
In the United States, more than 80 percent of the population now lives in metropolitan area. As the urban population has grown, so has the complexity of how to feed people who are far removed from the actual production of foods. Growing food in urban and peri-urban areas can be an important component in our nation's agricultural production portfolio. Urban agriculture can provide a local source of fresh healthy food, create jobs, promote physical activity, increase community connections, create biologically diverse habitats, and raise surrounding property values. Accomplishing these interrelated goals can be enhanced by incorporating trees and shrubs into the fabric of urban and peri-urban agriculture. Woody species benefit urban agriculture by adding nutritionally rich nuts and fruits into the mix of food products that can be grown while creating favorable microclimates for vegetable crops. Supporting ecosystem services including pollination, biological pest control, air quality, and increased resiliency to climate change are enhanced by these perennial plants. Urban trees have been shown to strengthen a sense of ownership, community well-being and aesthetics; value-added features for urban food plots. Contaminated soils in cities are often a barrier to growing food safely and fast growing species like poplar trees can aid in cleaning up the soil so sites are suitable for food production while also providing a biofeedstock for generating energy in combined heat and power systems. Advances in research are laying the groundwork for developing diverse sustainable systems for growing food in cities that will increase food security.