Regional Food Self Sufficiency: New visions for productive landscapes


In the thesis I’m going to explore the possibility of food self-sufficiency in order to shift people’s visions and engagements with productive landscapes using New Bedford region as the test ground. During the design process, there will be new transformations of land based on calculated data. Those types of land will be multi-functional combining food production, environmental justice and human engagement together.


The food crisis is much more sever than we usually imagine. They’re are one in seven households in United States are food insecure1, which means they don’t have enough food or they can’t afford healthy diet leading them to obesity and other health problems.

The number of people living in poverty in the U.S. in 2012 (46.5 million) was the largest number seen in the 54 years for which poverty estimates have been published2. This number translates to a national poverty rate of 15%. As ranked by Poverty USA, Massachusetts was 11th in the country for poverty in 2011, with an overall state poverty level of 11.9% in that year3. By 2012, the state poverty rate had fallen slightly to 11.0%.  This level of analysis masks pockets of much greater poverty in the region, especially in the cities of New Bedford in Bristol County, which had poverty rates of 21.2%, respectively, in 2012. Childhood poverty rates are even higher, with New Bedford showing a startling childhood poverty rate of 28.3%4.

Food insecurity is also effecting a wider range of people. During the epidemic, the panic of seeing empty food shelves in supermarkets raised awareness about how precarious our food system is. By getting more people involved in the food production or processing system instead of just being consumers, it can bring the society with more social, economic and humanity values. For the people who use their leisure time to spend with crop growing, it can be a great time to refresh the mind and body by doing some simple farm work. For those who want to join the food system as their jobs, that can be great job opportunities.

Increasing food self sufficient rate requires to rethink the current food system of which current trend is not putting us on the track to feed people in the future. If not, people may suffer from chronic malnutrition, obesity, or hunger. And the environment may crush due to running out of certain resources. 



▲ Empty shelves in the supermarket during the pandemic



▲ Relationships between food sufficiency, sustainability and modern technology

Food self-sufficiency in the thesis, does not mean all the food should be produced and consumed in one single region, but means to achieve a higher food security in a sustainable manner. To achieve the goal, the possibilities of productive landscapes will be discussed. Food self sufficiency is an entry point to rethink about the connections between humans and the environment. Landscape architecture is the bridge linking the invisible system thinking to the macroscopic world using space design concepts. 

Knowledge from sustainability and modern technology will be applied to make those productive landscapes more realistic. Sustainability will focus on improving or maintaining the ecological value of the site while achieving high food production efficiency, including changing the traditional monoculture that decreases biodiversity, reducing resource waste and so on. It will mainly work with landscape architecture on the systems.  Modern technologies, on the other hand, will support the landing of the systems on the site. How to deal with the challenges and opportunities of existing materials on the site? How to apply historical materiality to the future-oriented design? There are tons of questions that need to be answered by modern technologies. 






▲ Community activities + waterfront production



▲ Floating farm system


Landscape Architecture is indispensable during the process of establishing a new world. It’s a trigger for people to start paying attention to normal things and think about the bigger system behind it. It’s the eye to discover existing problems and future potentials for the discipline has its unique ways to communicate with the world like mapping, modeling and so on which other disciplines usually do not have. It’s also the bridge or even the foundation while professionals from several disciplines are working in one team. That’s because the deigned space is the thing that holds all the other elements together. Also landscape designers are a necessary group of people while negotiating with engineers, environment specialists, economists, the government, and so on. In that case, it will be easier for engineers to figure out the structures to fit the needs of systems. And working with environmental specialists can make the environment more sustainable as well as enjoyable. The government and economists will determine how this new type of landscape can be linked with the local economy for both workers and visitors. Both group of people require good spaces to stay in which landscape designers have an important role to achieve the high quality.



▲ social avtivities