UMD Land Lab

Geography, Urban, Environment & Sustainability Studies


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UMD Land Lab

Mission:

The mission of the UMD Land Lab (a.k.a. Sustainable Agriculture Project [SAP] Farm) is to strengthen food security in the Western Lake Superior region by promoting teaching, research and public engagement related to sustainable food and agricultural systems for all the economic, health, and ecological benefits it brings. 

History:

The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Land Lab was founded in 2009 as a platform for addressing the interconnected social and ecological challenges and opportunities in the western Lake Superior region.

The 30 acre UMD Land Lab hosts 7 acres of organically managed fields amid a biodiverse landscape.  Our solutions-oriented action research, teaching and public engagement is focused on the nexus approach to regionally adaptive food, water, energy and biodiversity systems.  We train young people in sustainable agriculture and community based food systems, we work with our 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.

To capture our diverse work, we use the frames and functions of a ‘University Farm’, a ‘Community Food Systems Incubator’, and a ‘Land-based Research Lab’.  These frames and projects are explained in greater detail on links in this website.  Taken as a whole, the UMD Land Lab represents a 21st century Land Grant University platform for meeting the challenges and opportunities in the western Lake Superior region as we revitalize university land formerly part of the Northeast Agricultural Experimental Station (1912-1976).

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.

Please browse our projects and consider joining the transition to a more sustainable western Lake Superior region.