Collaborative Evaluation of Ecosystem Services Provided by Urban Agricultural Best Management Practices in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $198,529.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Nicolas Jelinski
University of Minnesota

Information Products


  • Vegetables: cabbages, greens (leafy), sweet corn, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: cover crops, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, pollinator habitat, water management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: earthworms, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Despite the rapid expansion of urban agriculture at local, regional and national scales, unique challenges to urban agricultural operations remain unresolved. In the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA), Minnesota, urban growers remain challenged by issues related to land access, high public visibility, and the perceived trade-offs between agricultural land use and other, more traditional forms of urban land use. Thus, a data-driven approach to evaluating the ecosystem services provided by urban agricultural best management practices will play a critical role in informing the decisions of policy-makers and providing sustainable outcomes for urban farmers, whose specific management practices and challenges often go overlooked by traditional agricultural research and extension activities. Our team of researchers, farmers and community organizations is uniquely poised to address this need through integrated on- and off- farm collaborative research. Our on-farm approach involves the evaluation of soil quality, water quality and quantity, biological diversity and crop yields at multiple scales for urban agricultural best management practices implemented by our farmer-partners. This is paired with an off-farm replicated approach implemented by our academic partners to allow rigorous comparative data collection without imposing additional constraints on space-limited urban agricultural operations. The expected outcomes of this work include the production of scientific information which can be utilized by policy-makers and farmers to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of urban agriculture, and the development of a long-term collaborative and information sharing framework which improves outcomes for urban agriculture in the Twin Cities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The action outcomes of this project align with three project aims: (1) 3 large-scale urban farms and 20 community gardens will use results from our evaluation of ecosystem services to improve amendment practices, yield, and resource protection, (2) policy-makers will be empowered to make data-driven decisions regarding the current and potential land base and ecosystem services from urban agriculture, and (3) networks of communication through academic, farmer and community partners will be strengthened and the Twin Cities urban agriculture community will have an increased number of communication tools for shared information exchange.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.