Principal Investigator:  Dave Abler

Project description:  This 5-year, $9 million project funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) seeks to create economically thriving and environmentally beneficial agricultural systems in urbanized landscapes. These agricultural systems are located in metropolitan counties and in non-metropolitan counties adjacent to metro areas, and are vital to the sustainability of U.S. agriculture. Over two-thirds of U.S. net farm income comes from these urbanized landscapes.

Communities and consumers in urbanized landscapes value agriculture for locally produced foods, open space and scenery amenities, recreational opportunities such as agritourism, and wildlife habitats. However, the economic and environmental sustainability of agricultural systems in urbanized landscapes is threatened by intensifying competition for land and water from urban growth and sprawl, and by water pollution, livestock odors, pests, and dust from agricultural activities.

The central hypothesis of this project is that value-added agriculture of the kind required to be economically sustainable in urbanized landscapes can be achieved while enhancing ecosystem services. The overall goal is to make this hypothesis a reality within the next 25 years, using the Chesapeake Bay Watershed as a case study translatable to other urbanized landscapes.

This project is engaging closely with stakeholders using a shared discovery and co-learning process to envision desired 25-year futures for agricultural systems in urbanized landscapes that are economically sustainable while enhancing ecosystem services; and conducting scenario-building exercises with stakeholders to identify how agriculture in urbanized areas would need to evolve to realize these desired futures, and the technologies, markets, and public policies that could help make the desired futures a reality.

This project will implement education, extension, and evaluation plans to spur adoption of research outputs. In consultation with stakeholders, we will develop and offer workshops for businesses along the supply chain for food products and for policymakers; online courses to disseminate project methods and findings; extension programs to create a community of practice around agriculture in urbanized landscapes; and a rigorous external evaluation to provide ongoing feedback that will allow the project team to adjust their efforts to better align with project objectives. Expected outcomes from our stakeholder-led approach include rapid uptake of the project’s outputs because they will address present-day needs and desired futures identified by stakeholders.