Agroforestry is defined as the integration of trees and shrubs within an agricultural production area where trees are grown alongside or around crops to promote an agroecological approach to farming. Most often perennial woody vegetation is seen managed with common crops. Yet, what are the benefits that Agroforestry can provide to urban areas? Numerous benefits exist to this approach of farming in social, economic, and environmental contexts for the urban areas in which they exist. Urban Agroforestry establishes a greater mixture of species in a polycultural setting, supplying both food and ecosystem services.
According to a PP presentation by the USDA titled, “Urban Agroforestry: How can Agroforestry Support Urban Farmers”, urban agroforestry provides three main benefits:
- Ecological Benefits includes the improvement of soil health, water quality, and air quality. In addition urban agroforestry can also “Provide wildlife habitat, support pollinators, and grow renewable energy sources”.
- Economic Benefits that urban agroforestry brings involves the increased yield in crops and production of livestock, salable products, added-value opportunities and an increase in property value.
- Social Benefits involve the ‘creation of jobs, opportunities to teach and learn from other in the community, and the potential development of cooperatives for value added processing.
To build upon the ecological benefits mentioned, in an article titled ”Urban agroforestry and its potential integration into city planning efforts”, the benefits of trees are discussed as they state that, “Urban trees, as key components of green space, can help to modulate extreme weather events and disturbances such as flooding, strong winds, and heat waves.” Furthermore, urban agroforestry can tackle climate change by providing mitigation effects when it states “…urban trees offer a substantial mitigation strategy due to their potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from alternative land use types that require greater inputs of fertilizer and maintenance activity (e.g., lawn mowing). By encouraging a focus on productive trees and shrubs, UAF can be highly compatible with other tree canopy initiatives designed to combat the effects of global warming.”
Economically, jobs can be created through the creation of urban agroforestry projects. According to agroforestry.org, “Urban forestry can provide jobs for the poor as both skilled and unskilled labourers. Tree planting and especially urban agroforestry systems can be labour-intensive and provide both initial startup jobs as well as more permanent employment in tree care.” Enhanced crop-yields can also benefit urban farmers economically as a result of windbreaks that trees can provide. Based on the USDA’s presentation, “Urban Agroforestry: How can agroforestry support urban agriculture?” windbreaks are plantings of trees that form a row which redirect or modify winds which is linked to higher crop yields.
Moreover in a social context, the health of individuals from agroforestry can be improved passively by lowering the rate of respiratory illnesses through the improvement of air quality. Likewise, the aesthetics of an urban area can be beautified from the vegetation and greenery that is visually appealing and attractive to residents.
Urban agroforestry could be an alternative design to urban farming that proves to have plenty of benefits. Food justice and environmental justice can be further achieved through more agroforestry development. Food forests can become a reality in urban areas with more agroforestry projects.
Lovell, S. (2020, May 19). Urban agroforestry and its potential integration into city planning efforts. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://acsess.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/uar2.20000
Kuchelmeister, G. (n.d.). Overstory #142 – Urban Trees and Forests. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.agroforestry.org/the-overstory/130-overstory-142-urban-trees-and-forests
MacFarland, K. (2018, June 21). Urban Agroforestry: How can agroforestry support urban agriculture? Retrieved from https://www.nacdnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/NE-NAC-Jun2018.pdf
Sauer, T. (n.d.). Agroforestry Helps Protect Crops and the Environment. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.ars.usda.gov/oc/utm/agroforestry-helps-pro
2 thoughts on “The Benefits Urban Agroforestry Can Provide to Urban Areas”
Video Link – “Mark Shepard – Pioneer Agroforestry Farm Tour Video Series” https://youtu.be/xBRnPcZ8xUo
The video provided is an example of a farm using an agroforestry system, while this is not an urban farm the system used can be scaled to work in an urban setting and the ecological benefits to the environment could also benefit people living in urban areas.
This farm is New Forest Farm in Viola, Wisconsin. It is a 106 acre farm run by Mark Shepard. In the interview/farm tour above, Mark explains from his years of experience, how his farm uses Restoration Agriculture to produce foods like produce, apples, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and livestock. New Forest Farm works to mimic the naturally occurring ecosystems of the region by using the same genus of native plant species and practicing minimal maintenance/disturbances. His farm uses alley cropping in which trees are grown in rows and crops are grown in between them. This system uses very minimal maintenance and disturbs the land very little, allowing for healthier soils and support of wildlife habitat and pollinators. New Forest Farm also uses a silvopasture system which integrates animals into agroforestry. The pigs raised at New Forest Farm graze between the trees removing weeds and providing fertilizer.
This system would work well in an urban setting where the use of chemical fertilizers should be avoided. It may also help to restore damaged soils often found in urban areas.
Here is a link to New Forest Farms website with even more information: https://newforestfarm.us/
This is a really interesting article i didn’t expect forestry and urban agriculture would ever be able to come together at all considering that we think forest and urban areas don’t exactly mix if you don’t have the information and experience to make such ideas mix. I genuinely hope we had some sort of visualization of such topics to come together as it sound very interesting. I only wonder how viable this idea is though in a major metropolitan area where the idea of a forest is massive where as urban agriculture is small and reduced. would this be inside of a building modified to house these trees like a green house? or simply adding bigger shadier trees to the community to lower temperatures by shading the concrete? some cities are prioritizing their property space for businesses and doing it to community unless done from the local government would I’m guessing not last long if not for donations from the public to pay for a agroforestry space. I’m curious how this would pan out besides just adding more trees to a community. I am not one wanting to harshly criticize but some extra info on how this would work would be super helpful. lastly how would the design change from a urban farm in terms of design, size, costs?