Identifying, quantifying and classifying agricultural opportunities for land use planning

Daniel L. Erickson, Sarah Taylor Lovell, V. Ernesto Méndez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Worldwide, urbanization is causing a loss of agricultural land as residential and commercial development expands. In many parts of the US, this land use conversion has in some cases resulted in subdivision of farms into large residential parcels. Some of these residential parcels may retain sizeable areas of undeveloped prime agricultural soil. In an uncertain future challenged by population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water shortages, and energy limitations, communities are beginning to explore their ability to feed themselves from local supplies. Addressing this issue will require additional tools for planning land use in a way that could support greater food self-sufficiency at the community level. In this study, a process was developed to identify, quantify and classify agricultural opportunities (AO). AO are simply open lands suitable for some level of agricultural production.The methods outlined here were developed in Chittenden County, Vermont but they can be applied elsewhere. While individual ancillary datasets may be unique to each study area, the general process can be replicated as long as some basic datasets such as classified land cover imagery and prime soils are available. The tools described herein, if employed by planners or geospatial analysts, can generate actionable information. The results of the analyses, as well as the associated participatory community discussions, can aid decision makers when drafting new or revising old policies. Because of their widespread applicability, these tools can serve as decision support aids for policy makers and planners tasked with developing strategies to increase food self-sufficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Agricultural neighborhood
  • Agricultural opportunity
  • Cluster analysis
  • Embedded agriculture
  • Food security
  • Land inventory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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