Local and Regional Food Systems

The educational materials listed on this page are about Local and Regional Food Systems.

Local and regional food systems are ones that produce and distribute foods on a local scale rather than a national or international one. Food goes from farmer to table in fewer steps, by means of CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture), local farmers’ markets, cooperatives, local food hubs or through commercial or institutional buyers, including schools, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants. The goals of local food systems are improving the economic wellness of communities, increasing avenues to fresh local foods and creating viable markets for farmers and ranchers through value based supply chains and rural/urban integration. Local food systems also help sustainable communities prosper by strengthening the economic resilience of farmers and ranchers, via partnerships and social networks. Local farmers’ cooperatives provide farmers with the resources and scale of production needed to help each other tap lucrative value added food processing opportunities. Community supported agriculture, and farmers co-ops also help beginning farmers have a place to start through the support of the community.

More information on local food systems, including tips for land access, a topic of particular interest to beginning farmers, can be found in the topic brief Building Local and Regional Food Systems. This topic brief is an online collection of practical resources on business and marketing planning, distribution and aggregation, meat processing and food processing, and more. For example, find resources for people who want to build poultry processing facilities or explore small-scale meat packing. The guide Building a Sustainable Business can be of service to beginning farmers, with its approaches to starting a successful farming business in a local food system and writing business plans and marketing plans.

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Building a Local Food Movement

Over the last few decades, agriculture in western North Carolina has transformed from a reliance on tobacco to a diversified, self-sustaining industry intertwined with local communities and economies. In this video, learn how one organization has worked alongside local farmers and communities to support this transformation.

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Bringing Independent Farmers into the Marketplace

Small- and mid-sized farms are increasingly turning to supermarkets as a means to earn more for their products and to participate in local economies. In this video, Diana Endicott discusses how she decided to take this route 15 years ago when it was less typical, and how her efforts have resulted in a 100-member co-op today that sells to 30 stores in the Kansas City area.

download the investing in the next generation of agricultural scientists report in PDF format

Investing in the Next Generation of Agricultural Scientists

Sustainable solutions to today's agricultural challenges arise when scientists, educators and producers work together to test theories in real-world, on-farm situations. For this approach itself to be sustainable, there must be opportunities for the next generation of agricultural scientists to use collaborative, applied research to address the real-world needs of farmers and ranchers. The SARE Graduate Student grant program is one such opportunity—since 2000, the program has supported the work of 600 master's and Ph.D. students.

New Farmers' Market Cover

The New Farmers' Market 2nd Edition

The New Farmers' Market - 2nd Edition - is a must-have resource for growers interested in selling their farm or market garden products through farmers' markets, as well as for market managers and city planners in starting, managing, and promoting a market.

the inside of a high tunnel

Abundant High Tunnels Provide a Community Boost in West Virginia

For years now, small-scale vegetable farmers have been turning to high tunnels—cheap, unheated structures similar to greenhouses—as a cost-effective way to extend the growing season and their on-farm income stream. But while high tunnels were popping up throughout many cold Northeastern states, in West Virginia they were not. Until 2008 that is, when West Virginia […]

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Edible Avalon Curriculum

This summer program curriculum teaches youth about local food systems and sustainable agriculture.  

Food Hubs: The Next Evolution in Local Markets?

If you think the local foods movement is just a fad, think again. For the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has included restaurants and grocery store sales in its local food markets survey, and the sales are hard to ignore: nearly $5 billion a year in fruits and vegetables from local farmers. That […]