Thriving Agricultural Systems in Urbanized Landscapes

The Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) are collaborating with multiple universities, partners, farmers, and stakeholders from throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed region in a 5-year sustainable agriculture systems study, led by Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, and funded by a prestigious $9 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA).

This comprehensive, multi-institutional project entitled “Thriving Agricultural Systems in Urbanized Landscapes,” and headed by principal investigator David Abler of Penn State, is an interdisciplinary framework developed to conduct practical research into sustainable agriculture practices that will mitigate environmental degradation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed while providing economic feasibility to farmers and farming communities for the long-term.

Considering the current pandemic and associated food shortages, research in food systems to determine the options available to city planners is a necessity. Population growth, as well as sprawl, affects how people access food and the availability of nutritious food and clean water. The unpredictability of other factors such as climate change and infectious diseases like the COVID-19 crisis can further exacerbate issues of supply and demand.

Along with Penn State University and the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Hughes Center is partnering with Virginia Tech, Ohio State University, and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The Hughes Center is charged with performing outreach aspects of this project.

Recognizing that consumers within these urban communities value the local foods, open space, wildlife habitats, and agritourism associated with urban farm operations, the team of almost 20 scientists will create feasibility studies to maintain those systems in the face of intensifying competition for land, population sprawl, and water pollution.