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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Bringing Fresh Foods to Illinois Schools and Institutions
Illinois' Hendrick House Farm is working to create new opportunities for local farmers, bringing the local food revolution to community farms and schools.
University of Nebraska SARE Agri-Marketing Website
Marketing for the Ag Entrepreneur is a professional development opportunity initiative created by UNL Extension Entrepreneurship work group to improve entrepreneurial professional development opportunities. This program is funded through a two year North Central - Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE) grant.
Creating Change in the Food System: The Role of Regional Food Networks in Iowa
In Creating Change in the Food System, the authors present a case study of an integrated effort to build long-term local and regional food commerce in Iowa using a community of practice approach. This report, authored by Rich Pirog of Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food Systems and Corry Bregendahl of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture […]
Connecting the Dots Between Farmers and Rural Refrigeration
University of Minnesota researcher, Ren Olive, is exploring opportunities for small and medium-size produce farmers to utilize excess refrigeration in rural grocery stores.
Cottage Food: Launch a Bakery from Your Farm Kitchen
A farmer-led team in Wisconsin created resources to help farmers diversify their income by selling baked goods.
Supporting a Rural, Regional Food System with an Online Food Hub
Jacquelyn Zita (left) and the North Circle Food Hub distribute produce to local consumers, health providers, food-related businesses, and other markets in Minnesota using an online ordering system.
Food Systems Curriculum for High Schoolers
Mingla Charoenmuang developed an online food systems curriculum for high schoolers called Food Systems Thinker.
Heritage Grains for Craft Brewing
With support from SARE, a Minnesota farmer learned that Conlon barley, Paul hulless oats, and Red Fife wheat could be malted with good flavor for prize-winning beers.
Collaborating Around Food Literacy in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Using a model known as land-based learning, students and their teachers collaborated with farmers or ranchers and MSU Extension educators to help implement sustainable, land-based farm solutions in Michigan's upper peninsula.
Traditional Fertilizer, Modern Applications for Iroquois White Corn
Farmers have long relied on liquid fish fertilizers because they are a source burn-free nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Traditional Native American growers were well aware of the benefits that decaying fish could bring to their soil; they buried fish under mounded soil and planted the 3 Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) directly on top of […]
Building Resilience and Flexibility into Midwest Organic Potato Production
When Maria Carter’s parents emigrated to America from the Netherlands in 1956, they brought along a knowledge of growing seed potatoes. Shortly after they put down roots in North Dakota, they put down tubers to start their new seed potato farm. They knew potato growers needed healthy seed potatoes, and they knew how to grow […]
Ohio Farmer Develops Mobile Hops Dryer
In a state that boasts 300 craft breweries, David Volkman is one of many craft beer enthusiasts in Ohio. But Volkman, with 12 acres of land in Warren County, is not only supporting Ohio’s craft brewing industry through consumption; he’s also contributing to its production. In 2012, he and his wife, Nina, started transitioning some […]
Pioneer Agroforestry Farm Tour Video Series
A new video series on Midwest agroforestry is available from the Savanna Institute and North Central SARE. The six-part Pioneer Agroforestry Farm Tour Video Series features brief, detailed interviews with farmers who are advancing agroforestry in the Midwest.
Youth Hit the Road to Learn about Sustainable Livestock Production in Wisconsin
Jessie Oberlin is no stranger to the 4-H’ers in Jackson County, Wisconsin. Whether she’s providing coaching for the 4-H Livestock Judging Contest, setting up livestock production tours, or prepping youth for the 4-H Quiz Bowl, Oberlin has spent most of her adult life introducing rural young people to new livestock opportunities in a county known for cranberry and strawberry production. Oberlin grew up showing […]
Managing the Environment in High Tunnels for Cool Season Vegetable Production
Light, temperature, and relative humidity influence how crops grow and develop. With support from SARE, Purdue University Extension developed this publication, which introduces important factors to consider during design, operation, and daily management of high tunnels, and explains plant responses to the environment.
Agroforestry Fact Sheet Series
With support from a SARE grant, The Savana Institute created an "Understanding Agroforestry" fact sheet series. Users can download free one-page descriptions of five common agroforestry practices.
Aquaponics in the Classroom
Students at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy are being exposed to their core science concepts in a new way. They are learning biology, chemistry, physics, and other core scientific concepts through hands-on modules based on an aquaponics system. Through an NCR-SARE Youth Educator grant, instructors Kevin Savage and Gary Delanoy have created a curriculum that meets […]
Urban Farmers Unite to Market Sustainable Goods
Four urban farms in Indianapolis have created IndyGrown, a collaborative marketing presence for urban farms. Each farm is distinct in size, location, and personality, but all share similar farming practices and philosophies. Using sustainable growing practices, IndyGrown farms are creating green space in the urban core and repurposing vacant land in Indianapolis. With support from […]
Food Hub Development Study in Iowa
In 2014, a team of local and regional food leaders and researchers conducted a study of food hubs in Iowa. The goal was to better understand the current state of food hub development and create recommendations, if warranted, to support further work. This study was the first coordinated attempt to examine food hub development in Iowa.
Organic Broccoli Produced to Meet a Growing Need for Locally Grown Foods
Chris Blanchard raises about 15 acres of certified organic vegetables and fresh herbs for community supported agriculture operations (CSAs) and wholesale customers in the Twin Cities, Rochester, and Decorah on his Rock Spring Farm on the Iowa-Minnesota state line. His farm has been recognized as a model for food safety, post-harvest handling, and good business. […]