Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

John Jones

Second Advisor

Jennifer Ciminelli

Third Advisor

Janit Llewellyn


Urban and suburban agriculture is increasing in popularity across the United States. However, many of these farms are short-lived due to a combination of human factors (e.g., managerial, economic, cultural) and environmental or spatial factors (e.g., zoning, soil quality, distance to markets). Geospatial analysis, in the form of suitability modeling, could aid in locating suitable sites for these activities. Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) is a suitability modeling technique that generates a score for agricultural land use in traditionally rural spaces. This research explores adapting this method to encompass the complexities of placing diverse, in-ground agriculture in urban and suburban areas in Chesterfield County, Virginia and is referred to as Urban Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (uLESA). The uLESA model was developed collaboratively with officials from six departments of Chesterfield County. A total of 20 factors related to natural and agricultural resources, equity and accessibility, and heat island mitigation emerged. An individual scoring criterion was developed for each factor based on its suitability for agriculture and equitable access to agriculture. The final scores generated represented percent suitability for agriculture in urban and suburban spaces. The majority of high percent suitable sites were located within five miles of the border of the City of Richmond, Virginia and the City of Petersburg, Virginia, which are rapidly urbanizing. This underscores the importance of using the uLESA model to inform future planning decisions to conserve these agricultural resources into the future. The uLESA model allows localities to approach localized food system development with greater intentionality and to expand definitions of green infrastructure to include urban and suburban agriculture.


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Available for download on Friday, May 10, 2024

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