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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Switching to Winter Crops Might Help Farmers Cope with Warming World

For people who grow food and cultivate the land, climate change isn’t something experienced though charts, graphs and predictions of foreboding futures. For growers, the threat of a warming world is immediate and increasing. “Climate change is playing out on farms like mine every day, every season and in every extreme weather event,” said Caitlin […]

Project Focuses on Equity in Agriculture

California agriculture includes a growing number of producers of color, who have historically been underserved by extension institutions, according to Sonja Brodt, University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SAREP). With increased attention on building constructive working relationships with producers of color and immigrant producers, extension services would become more widely accessible and […]

Growing Vegetables in Non-Circulating Hydroponic Beds

Growing vegetables hydroponically, such as bok choy or lettuce, can improve access to fresh produce in remote communities dependent on imported food. Additionally, the quality of locally grown produce can be higher than imported produce that can wilt during shipping. Download PDF

Hawaii and the Pacific Islands Face Unique Challenges During the COVID-19 Crisis

The agriculture community in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands is feeling the same impacts from COVID-19 as the mainland. But in addition, the islands face the added challenges of remoteness and having tourism-dependent economies.  The loss of tourism is a huge impact for all of the food system. Restaurants rely on tourists and the local […]

Fresh Growth Podcast

Fresh Growth: Approaches to a More Sustainable Future from Western Ag Practitioners introduces you to farmers and ranchers from around the western United States who are finding innovative sustainable practices that enrich the natural resources we all care about. These successful multi-generational operations experiment with new ideas and are making it pay. Listen in as […]

Responses to COVID-19 in Western Ag

Agriculture in the Western Region has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and its resulting Shelter in Place orders, labor and processing challenges, and strongly shifting consumer behaviors and markets. It has also become clear that our agricultural community has been responding quickly and creatively. Western SARE cares about our community and feels a responsibility to share ideas and strategies. Toward that end, we conducted a survey of our state coordinators and project leaders of grants funded in the past three years. The data and examples are listed below. We will also create a report from this information, along with ideas provided on how Western SARE itself should adapt to the crisis.

Building Internal Capacity for the Blackfeet Tribe Agricultural Resource Management Plan

The Blackfeet Tribe, according to Loren BirdRattler, faces exciting and challenging times in terms of achieving food sovereignty through sustainable agriculture practices. An important undertaking in progress – the Blackfeet Agricultural Resource Management Plan (ARMP) – will change agricultural practices on the Blackfeet Reservation for many years to come, as well as the economic futures […]