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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Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Wholesale Markets
SARE’s newest bulletin, Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Wholesale Markets, provides a variety of strategies and tools to help owners of small- to mid-scale operations branch out into wholesale markets.
Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Wholesale Markets
For direct market farmers, expanding your operation to capture local and regional wholesale markets can represent an opportunity. But such a shift brings with it many changes to how you run your farm because the expectations that wholesale buyers have is much different than your direct market customers. Scaling Up Your Vegetable Farm for Wholesale […]
Farmer-Focused Innovations Funded by SARE
“Institutionalized food is the forgotten part of the food revolution,” says Ann Swanson, talking about the lack of fresh produce available from local institutions in her community of Champaign–Urbana, IL. Inspired, Swanson used a SARE Farmer/Rancher grant to create new opportunities for local farmers, launch a series of educational classes and expand institutional capacity to […]
2021–2022 Report from the Field
Report from the Field features 12 stories from around the country of recent SARE grantees who are finding new ways to improve the sustainability of U.S. agriculture. The report also summarizes our total investment in research and education projects since 1988.
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.
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.
A Farmer's Guide to Crop Quality for Wholesale Outlets
A simple guide to crop quality focused on tomatoes, cucurbits and greens, with photos of good and poor crop quality as well as best practices for post-harvest handling.
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.
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.
Farm to Table: Building Local and Regional Food Systems
More and more, farmers, ranchers, ag professionals, community organizers and others are striving to reconfigure the nation's food system so more value stays in food-producing communities.
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 […]
Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities
This guide lists funding opportunities offered by federal programs, and is indispensable for anyone seeking government help to foster their innovative enterprise in forestry and agriculture.
Good Natured Family Farms Brings Together Producers and Local Businesses to Market Local Foods
Good Natured Family Farms is an alliance of more than 150 family farms and small businesses in the Kansas City, MO area. They sell products under the Good Natured Family Farms’ logo in Balls Food Stores in the Kansas City Area. Their selection of products encompasses all-natural beef, free-range chickens, free-range brown eggs, farmhouse cheeses, milk, eggnog, […]
Farm to Hospital Toolkit
Tools farmers and hospitals can use to increase direct hospital purchases from local producers.
How-to-Guide for Aspiring Urban Micro-Agricultural Entrepreneurs
Created for city residents who want to increase their access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.
Edible Avalon Curriculum
This summer program curriculum teaches youth about local food systems and sustainable agriculture.
MarketReady Educational Resources
MarketReady prepares food producers to sell directly to consumers and wholesale buyers.
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 […]
Community-Based Food System Assessment and Planning
This guide was created to help communities conduct their own food system assessment and provide them with guidance on planning the development of a local food system.
Guide to Starting a Locally-Scaled, Local-Foods Based Cooperative
Information on planning for and running a cooperative can be found in this handbook.