Agroecological Assessment of Farming in the Rural-Urban Interface: Building Resiliency in Regional Food Systems
CSANR Project 127
Farmland in urban-influenced regions produces the majority of vegetables and fruits grown in the U.S. , yet rural-urban interface (RUI) farms are threatened by development pressure, climate change, economic conditions, and infrastructure loss. Developing innovative marketing relationships and strategic policy alliances with urban consumers can potentially enhance RUI farm viability. Community-led food system initiatives, including multi-stakeholder food policy councils and alternative food distribution networks, seek to strengthen such regional consumer-farmer linkages. Viable RUI farms can increase local food production and access, enhance long-term food security, contribute to local economic development, and provide a wide range of ecosystem services. Clark County, with the sprawling city of Vancouver, offers a unique opportunity to investigate RUI food system resilience at the farm level. This under-studied region hosts approximately 60 market and CSA farms. We propose to develop and pilot an on-farm sustainability assessment tool that includes indicators for social, environmental, agronomic and economic parameters through participatory field research with 20 direct market farms. Results will document the usage of BIOAg practices, highlight areas of farm vulnerability, and identify areas for improvement. The tool will be evaluated by farmers and made available for use in other regions. This proposal addresses priority areas of “social and economic dimensions” as well as the eligible topic areas of “innovation and diversification to increase the resiliency and sustainability of farming and foods systems” and “assessment of the environmental, economic, and/or social sustainability of agriculture and food systems that provide direction for needed improvements.” Our unique focus will benefit other assessment tools under development. Results will directly inform regional policy and farming practices.