Multifunctional Landscape Analysis and Design

Farm Design & Planning for Multifunctionality

One of the largest barriers for farmers to transition to more diversified production systems is a lack of appropriate planning tools to envision alternatives that offer multiple functions. MLAD works on the development and application of tools for assessing existing and future agricultural landscapes based on a range of attributes across the three dimensions of ecological, production, and cultural functions.  These tools are particularly important for encouraging a transition to perennial systems such as agroforestry systems, that require a greater up-front investment and longer-range goals.  Previous work assessed the multifunctionality of Vermont farms, and current work focuses on developing strategies to integrate multifunctional buffers on marginal (or "opportunity") lands of Midwest farms.  Multifunctional buffers can be designed with trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plant species that yield harvestable food and biofuel products for use in local markets.  Project Lead and Photo Credits: Sarah Taylor Lovell.

.
MULTIFUNCTIONAL PERENNIAL CROPPING SYSTEMS FOR SMALL FARMS
Integrated grant funded by USDA-NIFA Small & Medium Sized Farm Program; Lead PI: Dr. Sarah Taylor Lovell; Award: $499,866


Project Summary.  Multifunctional Perennial Cropping Systems (MPCs) offer an opportunity to integrate multiple ecosystem services into the landscape, yet farmers lack tools to design, plan, and implement these systems to optimize the benefits. Our overall goal is to develop the information and tools to facilitate the transition to MPCs on “opportunity lands” of farms (lands marginal for conventional crops).  These systems will be designed to provide alternative food and biomass products that would improve prosperity for small and medium-sized farms, while also providing ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and water quality. This project will be accomplished in the Upper Sangamon River Watershed (USRW) through five objectives: 1) identifying farmer/landowner preferences and behaviors related to MPCs, 2) mapping opportunity lands and market networks in the USRW, 3) developing and evaluating design alternatives for 16-20 participating small farms, 4) engaging students in the development of MPCs through existing courses, and 5) educating stakeholders about the benefits of MPCs. 
.
            
        INTERESTED LANDOWNERS or FARMERS, click here for information on cropland survey:


.
This project is one step in an ongoing effort to improve community health, food security, and quality of life for rural residents through combined agricultural and conservation activities. Our proposal supports the priority to “…achieve sustainable production in agroecosystems,” by evaluating opportunities to provide multiple ecosystem services. The decision-support tools developed and tested in this proposal will empower small farmers to design agroecosystems with multiple benefits. Broader impacts include engaging students from different disciplines (landscape architecture and natural sciences) in research related to agriculture, training graduate students in on-farm research, and connecting with rural stakeholders.  Research has begun with surveying landowners. 

This project is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Competitive Award #2014-68006-22041 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
MULTIFUNCTIONALITY AT THE INTERVALE - Further information available here.
.
Food production and other functions provided by the Intervale Farms and Community Gardens in Burlington, VT. 

.
Map and application of the Multifunctional Landscape Assessment Tool for the Intervale in Burlington, VT.


.