Sustainable Farms: The Role of Historic Preservation on Working Farms


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Type of Work



MA in Historic Preservation

Citation of Original Publication


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This thesis was designed to better understand how historic preservation engages with farms and how this can be improved. Historic preservation as practiced in the United States does not engage well with working landscapes. Farms embody both historical context as well as representing a living community. For this reason, they are not strictly a thing to be preserved from the past but also a continuation of historic practices. This is best represented by seeing farms as Traditional Cultural Properties instead of Cultural Landscapes. Due to the complexity of farms--their working nature and need to change and adapt--historic preservation practice needs to adapt and be more dynamic if it is to engage with these spaces. This thesis proposes using values-based lens and recognizing that farms are a part of an ecosystem, not the whole context. Using the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a resource highlights the relationship between farms and another at risk landscape. There is a need for farms to be sustainable and the integrated landscape approach and using the traditional cultural property lens are two important adaptations to historic preservation thinking. Without these adaptations to practice, it will be difficult for historic preservation to aid in the future sustainability of farms. Thinking of farm preservation as a wicked problem helps one to understand the complexity of successful preservation. Historic preservation is tasked with preserving elements from the past for the future. Recognizing that farms are more than a collection of buildings and walls and that it is the continued practice that makes the space important involves different approaches. This is very different work from the preservation of the farm architecture. The practices of the farm give value to the land and vice-a-versa. Allowing, and encouraging, farms to change is integral to their survival and sustainability and therefore their long-term preservation.