Food production is a central concern for the environment and livelihoods. It dominates water extraction and pollution, emits as much greenhouse gas emissions as transportation, and is essential to the global standard of living. Innovation in food systems is one of the world's most pressing challenges.


One such innovation is local food which is experiencing explosive growth, reaching $7 billion in annual U.S. sales from farmers’ markets and local distributors. In local foodsheds, food production and consumption are located within 100 miles of each other.


Shipping energy in local foodsheds is well studied. But little is known about the broader implications of local food on the food-energy-water nexus. In the FRESH Study, an inter-disciplinary team will explore three overlooked food-energy-water synergies that could be enhanced by short distances between food producers and consumers:

Urban Zero Waste

Urban food and landscape waste can be diverted from landfills to compost application.  But because compost is bulky, it can only economically be shipped short distances to local farms.

Cropland Cooling Belts

Demand for local food conserves croplands in the regions around cities and potentially slows the rate of urban sprawl. Croplands have an opposing effects on local climate, creating a cropland cooling belt.

Local Pest Management

Local farms create diverse croplands due to the diverse foods required for local food supplies.  Pests may naturally decline in more diversified landscapes, reducing pesticide use and preventing pollution.


We welcome people from diverse backgrounds to our team of environmental scholars. Some of us develop computer models of the environment and others test these models by making measurements in the field. We find that our team has the most findings and fun when we work across disciplines. Email an introduction to elliott.campbell@ucsc.edu.


Natural Science 2 - Room 461
University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA 95064