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The Role of Planning Professionals on Mitigating the Encroachment of Development on Farmland in Hampden County, Massachusetts

Productive agriculture is essential to creating and maintaining a sustainable community. At present, there are many anthropogenic threats to farmland, an important one being development. Encroaching development is a credible threat to farmers, and, by extension, the members of the community for whom they provide food. As farmland is lost, food production suffers with it. The purpose of this study is to highlight the issue of development encroaching on agricultural land in Hampden County, Massachusetts and provide some insight as to how regional planners are handling the issue. A combination of interviews and geographic information systems (GIS) was used to conduct this study. Interviews were conducted with two planning professionals in the study area during which they were asked six questions pertaining to the effect of development on farmland and food production. GIS was utilized to perform a raster analysis to determine how much land that was formerly agricultural is now developed land. Results from interviews indicate that GIS is heavily used to analyze this issue, that development pressure is high in the area, and that an effort needs to be made to preserve as much agricultural land as possible. The raster analysis indicates that a significant amount of farmland has been replaced by development over the past 20 years. This data demonstrates that farmland is at risk because of development and that planning professionals are aware and trying to mitigate. If more is not done to combat this issue, major problems will arise in the area’s food production industry.

Melissa Adams '22
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