Advancing knowledge and practice on economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable agricultural systems in urbanized landscapes.


Agricultural systems located in metropolitan counties and in non-metropolitan counties adjacent to metro areas are vital to the sustainability of agriculture. More than 60% of net farm income in the United States in 2017 came from these urbanized landscapes and, in Pennsylvania, it was 93%. 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 sustainability of agricultural systems in urbanized landscapes is threatened by intensifying competition for land, labor, and water from urban growth and sprawl, and by water pollution, livestock odors, pests, and dust from agricultural activities.

Compared to more rural areas, agricultural systems in urbanized landscapes are characterized by higher rates of land use change, relatively high land values, higher value agricultural products, a more diverse mix of crop and livestock products, more intensive production practices, products destined more for local and regional consumption than distant markets, and better infrastructure, but often sparser networks of input suppliers and food processors. Zoning and other land use regulations, farmland preservation policies, and environmental policies also play a greater role in urbanized landscapes.

The research, education, outreach, and extension on this Critical Issue Initiative are proceeding with close stakeholder engagement using a shared discovery and co-learning process. This stakeholder engagement is designed to create a bridge between research and practical application by improving research relevance and stakeholder knowledge and practices.


Dave Abler, Ph.D.
Professor of Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Economics and Demography
Agribusiness Management Program Coordinator

Cibin Raj, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Biological Engineering Program Coordinator

Associated Members



  • Flor Acevedo, Assistant Professor, Entomology/Arthropod ecology*
  • Natalie Boyle, Assistant Research Professor*
  • Elizabeth Boyer, Professor, Water Resources*
  • Danny Brent, Assistant Professor, Environmental Economics*
  • Carolee BullDepartment Head, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Professor of Plant Pathology and Systematic Bacteriology, Director, Penn State Microbiome Center
  • Eric Burkhart, Associate Teaching Professor, Ecosystem Science and Management*
  • Anil Kumar Chaudhary, Assistant Professor, Agricultural & Extension Education*
  • Francesco Di Gioia, Assistant Professor, Vegetable Crop Science*
  • Jill Felker, Lecturer, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Long He, Assistant Professor, Agricultural & Biological Engineering*
  • Sara Hermann, Assistant Professor, Arthropod Ecology & Trophic Interactions*
  • Michael Mashtare, Assistant Professor, Agricultural & Biological Engineering*
  • Rui Shi, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering*

Related Penn State Projects

  • Thriving Agricultural Systems in Urbanized Landscapes:

Related College of Agricultural Sciences Research Impact Areas