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.

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.

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.

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. […]

Ohio MarketReady Team Connects Producers to Markets

Proactive marketing strategies have proven to be a key to success for many agricultural enterprises, and a team of researchers and educators in Ohio are working to connect willing markets to quality sources of food. MarketReady is a comprehensive educational program that prepares food producers to sell directly to consumers and wholesale buyers, and the […]

Nebraska Nonprofit Teaches Youth and Community About Sustainability

A nonprofit organization that has made a difference for beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska is now reaching out to youth. Community CROPS (Combining Resources, Opportunities, and People for Sustainability) has a simple, but lofty mission – help people work together to grow healthy food and live sustainably. What started as a single […]

Youth Grow Fresh Food with Edible Avalon’s Summer Youth Program

In southeastern Michigan, a dedicated non-profit organization is growing and delivering fresh produce to low-income residents through a youth program. “Edible Avalon” is an organic community garden and education program in association with Avalon Housing, the largest provider of permanent, supportive affordable housing for extremely low-income residents in Washtenaw County, MI.   “Most Avalon Housing […]