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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Ithaca, New York » Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health » Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research » Research » Research Project #436470

Research Project: Increasing Small-Farm Viability, Sustainable Production and Human Nutrition in the Local Food Systems of the New England States

Location: Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research

Project Number: 8062-52000-003-006-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2019
End Date: Sep 14, 2024

Develop the intellectual framework for an integrated program that addresses how food systems can provide nutritious and culturally appropriate food. The program will emphasize human nutrition/health, agricultural production, and value-added processing within the context of economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The milestones include: a. Establishment of the ARS Food Systems Research Center on the campus of the University of Vermont (UVM) with all the required scientific and administrative infrastructure. This includes the identification of linkages within and between USDA-ARS (ARS) and UVM for the purpose of supporting programmatic and support activities. b. ARS will recruit a qualified Nutrition Health Scientist / Nutritional Food Systems Scientist and Systems Modeler with expertise in modeling techniques and data integration in addition to the required support technical and administrative personnel; c. UVM will recruit qualified post docs, graduate students, other researchers, and support technicians, as deemed necessary especially a qualified informaticist or data scientist; d. ARS and UVM will develop a plan for cooperative research between the ARS and UVM as specified under this agreement; e. UVM will complete an inventory of all current ongoing relevant research projects and data sets across departments and centers at UVM; f. both UVM and ARS scientists will begin the process of data integration, in order to facilitate analytical work; g. both UVM and ARS scientists will start analyzing broad data sets from collaborating researchers, farms and the broader community by sophisticated modelling approaches to better understand the interrelationships of sustainability, climate adaptation, economic viability, market demand, human health, consumer preferences, nutritional value, ecosystem services, value added processing, and producer and consumer behavioral change. h. Improving Production Systems: Data-informed small-farm strategies to improve the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of crop and livestock production systems (initially with a focus on dairy) based on feedback from value-added processors, informed consumers, and potential impact on nutritional/health outcomes. i. Enhancing Value Added Processing: Innovative solutions for specialty value-added processes and products to improve consumer health outcomes as well as economic, environmental, and social sustainability of the food system, while informing consumer choice and diversified production system management. j. Optimizing Consumer Outcomes: Production systems and value-added processing tied to consumer preferences, product nutrition, and potential impacts on health, thus enabling consumers to make informed food choices and facilitating targeted research for the improvement of production systems, food processing, and development and delivery of new products.

The Food Systems Research Center using its resources and access to ARS and UVM researchers and scientists will engage a variety of producers, deploy instrumentation and sensors, and conduct strategic field research, to uncover keys to data-informed small-farm strategies, management, and technologies that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of agricultural production systems. Data collected on the interactions of genetics by environment by management (GxExM) with the post-production demands and requirements (GxExMxP) will enable a systems-level assessment of customer-focused sustainable production. The needs of value-added processors informed consumers and potential impact on nutritional/health outcomes will feedback to producers and to production systems, resulting in continual adaptability of production management and more precise, market and health-driven commodities. By working with small business and product innovation labs, and engaging with transportation, processing, and marketing, and product evaluation groups, data will be collected to enhance potential opportunities (e.g. artisanal cheese production) and discover hinderances to sustainability. Additional research in this area will help identify new products and uses for agricultural commodities grown locally. The research will leverage feedback from consumer outcomes research to optimize product development and will provide feedback to help producers optimize their production systems. Production systems and value-added processing will be tied to consumer preference, product nutrition and potential impacts on health, thus enabling consumers to make informed food choices. Tools will be developed that understand and convey relevant food choice information. Modeling approaches will integrate value-added products with consumer preferences, food choices, environmental impact, and potential nutritional/health outcomes. This will facilitate targeted research for the purpose of improving management of the production system, new product development and the delivery of value-added, agriculturally-derived products to the marketplace.