April 12, 2017

Maryland Food System Map: Version 2.0 has arrived

Caitlin Fisher

Caitlin Fisher

Program Officer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

You asked and we listened.

During the 2016 evaluation of the Maryland Food System Map, we asked you what new features you would like to see added to the mapping application. Based on your opinions, suggestions, and ideas, the CLF worked with Blue Raster—a consulting firm specializing in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and interactive mapping technology— and is excited to announce the new and improved Maryland Food System Map.


New phones, gadgets, and applications emerge regularly, all with new and improved functionality. Technology changes rapidly, and the same is true for GIS and web mapping applications. It was clear that an update to the Maryland Food System Map – first launched in 2012 – was needed to keep up with modern advances. One survey taker indicated that it would be helpful to have ready-made maps “since the map data take so long to load.” We agreed and made this the number-one priority in the map upgrade. The new application employs modern Javascript and HTML frameworks and as a result provides the user with a fast and easy-to-use interface. No more pesky “please be patient, loading” box – data load instantly, giving users a much more engaging and pleasant experience.


Our GIS Specialist, Jamie Harding, was at a conference at Towson University a few years back. He overheard a staffer to then governor Martin O’Malley mention that the governor would not look at a website unless he could view it on his phone or tablet. The sentiment stuck and became another priority on our map makeover wish list. Mobile phones have become mini-computers in our pockets and, according to a report by the Pew Research Center, ownership of smartphones and tablet computers has increased, whereas ownership of other digital devices has not grown in recent years. Among young adults 30 and under, 86 percent own a smartphone in 2015, up from just 52 percent in 2011, whereas owning a computer has decreased from 88 percent to 78 percent in the same timeframe. Our new mapping application has a responsive design, allowing for users not only to access the map on laptops and desktop computers, but also their mobile devices.



With over 175 data layers available on the mapping application, it can be difficult to explore which data are available or find a specific layer you are interested in. While many of you said finding specific data was a challenge, 85 percent of survey takers indicated they still wanted the option to see all data layers at once. CLF worked with Blue Raster to come up with a solution: a new data search function right on the application. All data layers have been tagged with keywords, such as “farms,” “local,” or “schools.” Now you can search your topic of interest and only related data will be visible. For example, if you’re interested in learning about the poultry industry, you can search “chicken” and “poultry,” as shown in this image. With the click of a button, you can clear this search and are back to the full list of data. Now users can hone in on topics of interest without losing the ability to see the spectrum of data available.

Maps provide a familiar frame that brings complex data to life, enhancing the story you are trying to tell. With this in mind, we wanted users to be able to create a map on the application and share it easily. With this new feature, users will be able to turn on data layers, zoom to a point of interest and share the exact map that they created through a unique URL. Map creations can easily be sent through email or embedded into social media, blog posts and other platforms. Maps are compelling visuals, and now you can easily share them to tell your local food system story.

A primary goal of the Maryland Food System Map is to make data available and accessible for researchers, advocacy groups, policymakers, and community-based organizations. Survey takers noted the importance of easily finding metadata and data sources. As such, CLF worked with Blue Raster to add all datasets available on the map onto Esri’s Open Data platform. Users can click on any data layer on the mapping application for more information, which results in a pop-up box with a description of the data layer and a link to download. The link to download will take you to the Open Data platform and provide users with additional information on the dataset including the source and year, opportunity to download in multiple formats, and view data tables and charts.

Thanks to you and your suggestions, we are proud to launch the new and improved Maryland Food System Map. Explore the tool for inspiration, create your own map for funding or advocacy, or download data for your own research and planning.

Happy mapping!





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