More than half of all people on Earth live in cities, and that share could reach 70% by 2050. But except for public parks, there aren’t many models for nature conservation that focus on caring for nature in urban areas. One new idea that’s gaining attention is the concept of food forests – essentially, edible parks. These projects, often sited on vacant lots, grow large and small trees, vines, shrubs and plants that produce fruits, nuts and other edible products. Unlike community gardens or urban farms, food forests are designed to mimic ecosystems found in nature, with many vertical layers. They shade and cool the land, protecting soil from erosion and providing habitat for insects, animals, birds and bees.
Instead of developing it into townhouses, the City of Atlanta recently voted to transform a vacant, old, overgrown pecan farm into a food forest. The 7-acre public park will feature fruit-producing trees, shrubs and vines along walking trails, a community vegetable garden and restored native forest and stream-side areas by 2020. The vegetable garden has already been planted alongside preexisting walnut and pecan trees. More than 100 fruit trees have also been planted including figs, apples, plums and peaches.