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An aerial shot of the land lab fields

Photo by Jacob Boomsma

The UMD Land Lab hosts ca. 12 acres of organically managed fields amid a 30 acre, bio-diverse landscape.  We educate young people in sustainable agriculture and supply thousands of pounds of fresh produce to our campus dining services.  We also help students see the bigger picture of how our community based food systems fits into the context of a regional transition toward more sustainable human systems.   We work with our entire campus to become more sustainable and we collaborate with citizens and organizations to create solutions to our social and ecological challenges and opportunities at a regional scale.   Our solutions-oriented action research, teaching and public engagement is focused on the nexus approach to regionally adaptive food, water, energy and biodiversity systems.  

The western Lake Superior region faces many challenges and opportunities related to climate change, invasive species, species extinction, and landscape transition. And we are in the process of transforming our human infrastructure to match our 21st century challenges and opportunties.  This transition to more sustainable infrastructures is social and cultural as much as ecological and technological.  Indeed, these challenges and solutions demand collaboration across silos of all sorts, be they academic disciplines, social sectors, or political orientation.

The UMD Land Lab addresses these challenges by facilitating collaboration with researchers from the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences and engineering on solutions-oriented, community embedded projects.  We foster collaboration between campus academics and operations, community organizations, and various governmental units on site.  And we model these collaborative activities for and with our students, who will in turn take these examples and replicate them in their lives and careers wherever they travel.

UMD’s Dining Services plays a visionary role in the UMD Land Lab, supporting personnel needs and purchasing produce grown via organic field methods (~40,000 pounds projected in 2016) which is mostly served on campus.  More than a thousand students annually participate in on site experiential learning activities at our field site.  Our UMD campus in turn is modelling how to transition an institution in the wake of the social and ecological changes unfolding around us.