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.

Guild by association: Partnership grant organizes Maryland cheesemakers

Although consumer demand for local Maryland artisanal and farmstead cheeses is high, state regulatory hurdles have created significant barriers for this emerging industry. Working with Ginger Myers, agricultural marketing specialist with the University of Maryland Extension, a committed group of farmstead cheese producers and agriculture support specialists teamed up to form the Maryland Cheesemakers’ Guild […]

Food hub faces the challenges of scaling up ethnic produce

The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP), led by Jennifer Hashley, has a 20-year history of training next generation farmers—including immigrant and refugee growers—to improve local food systems. A recent Northeast SARE Partnership grant supported the Project’s food hub initiative aimed at long-term economic self-reliance among farmers while expanding access of healthy, culturally-appropriate foods in […]

Ginger: An ancient crop in the New World

Melissa Bahret of Old Friends Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, saw that her greenhousewas sitting idle in the late spring and summer, after her vegetable starts were in the ground or sold to customers.  She and her business partner, Casey Steinberg, were looking for new ways to use the space and to complement the flowers, salad […]

Fair Trade Strategy for Northeast “Eco-Growers”

For Northeast apple farmers it was a matter of survival. Facing a perfect storm of rising land, oil and labor prices, along with fierce competition from China and Chile, the apple farmers needed to find new revenue streams fast. They began a collaboration with Red Tomato, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that helps connect consumers to […]