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A Multifaceted Focus on Farms and Food by ProQuest


[...] from 2002 to 2007, around 911,000 acres of farmland were taken out of production for housing, shops, and other development. Since it takes a lot of energy to produce nitrogen fertilizer, we could save part of that energy by recycling food scraps and capturing the ammonia in an organic matrix like compost.

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									In the Eastern United States
A Multifaceted Focus on Farms and Food
                                                                                           STEPHEN AUSMUS (D1632-2)

           he project is a cartographer’s which includes 13 states and the District
           dream: a map that melds layer of Columbia—exceeded $20 billion.
           upon layer of digital informa-       The research team wants to examine the
           tion to compile a comprehensive constraints imposed by time and space to
           picture of the potential for local pinpoint environmental, economic, so-
food production all along the eastern cial, and other geographic factors in local
seaboard.                                     agricultural practices. Then they will use
   “We want to identify the information the data to build computer models to as-
we need to assess our capacity to pro- sess local food-production potential and
duce food locally that meets the needs of the economic viability of realizing this
a large urban population,” says Wayne potential.
Honeycutt, who is the research leader at
the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Going Local
New England Plant, Soil, and Water Labo-        Until recently, low fuel prices contrib-
ratory in Orono, Maine. “And we want uted to the globalization of the U.S. food
to find out how this capacity changes all system. Food is grown and processed in
along the eastern seaboard region as the a limited range of regions and then trans-
seasons change.”                              ported over long distances to many dif-
   “It’s an incredibly diverse undertak- ferent markets. The result? More than 65
ing,” adds David Fleisher, an agricultural percent of the vegetables and 80 percent of
engineer with the ARS Crop Systems the fruit consumed in the eastern seaboard
and Global Change Labora-                                   is produced and brought in
tory in Beltsville, Maryland.                               from somewhere else.
“We’re going to compare                                        But today, says Pat Can-
county-level data on weath-                                 ning, an ERS economist and
                                                                                           Microbiologist Patricia Millner and soil
er, soil types, fertilizer use,                             a partner in the research,     scientist John White review gas-emission
land availability, water avail-                             “Fluctuations in fuel costs    data from an enclosed compost pile. A large
ability, projected changes in                               have significant cost impli-   metal box (seen being lifted with a tractor) is
climate, and plant suitability                              cations for long-distance      placed over the compost pile so that all gas
                                                                                           emissions can be captured and measured.
from Maine to Virginia.”         S u s t a i n a b l e food shipments.”
                                 Agriculture                   Fleisher and Honeycutt
Gathering the Data                                          believe that relying more
   For this project, the ARS                                on strategic production of     and benefits of locally grown produce
scientists have pulled together a diverse locally grown food can counter the chal-         compare with those of produce transported
array of research partners from the Mas- lenges of rising transport costs, expanding       over long distances.
sachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts populations, and vanishing farmlands.               “When we have our results, I think we’ll
University, Iowa State University, Cornell In addition, expanding opportunities for        remember how fertile the eastern seaboard
University, and Pennsylvania State Uni- local food production could stimulate              is,” Fleisher says. “But at the same time,
versity. Two other USDA agencies—the rural economies and offset the risk of                we’ll be surprised at how much land is no
Economic Research Service (ERS) and food shortages in one area by increasing               longer available—and how much soil is
the Agricultural Marketing Service—are and diversifying local production in other          not suitable—for crop production.”
also contributing to the study.               areas. It would also shorten the time pro-      Honeycutt is convinced that establish-
   The eastern seaboard is probably bet- duce spends in transport, which can boost         ing systems for local sustainable food
ter known for its dense urban corridors overall quality by 
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