Joanna Massey Lelekacs
Extension Local Food Flagship Program Manager
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
NC State University
North Carolina Cooperative Extension and many organizations and stakeholders are working with our communities on development and expansion of local food systems across the state. This Local Food web portal has been developed by North Carolina Cooperative Extension to provide local food systems resources and timely information to all residents and businesses across the state. The goal of the website is to provide information and link to resources from Cooperative Extension as well as from other NC organizations and state partners working on local food programming. It is a dynamic portal and is intended to include new resources as they are developed over time.
In 2012, Local Foods was named as N.C. Cooperative Extension’s first Flagship Program. The Local Foods Program is a collaborative program of The Cooperative Extension Program of North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of North Carolina State University.
Each county Cooperative Extension office and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has a designated Local Food Coordinator. To contact your area Local Food Coordinator, click on your county name or the EBCI from the County Centers website, and then click on the ‘Local Foods‘ link listed under Agriculture & Food on the lefthand sidebar of the county Extension web page.
What are local food systems? Though there is no generally agreed upon definition for ‘local’ food or ‘local food systems’ (Martinez, et al, 2010), the language of local food systems generally refers to the geographic context in which food is produced, marketed, and consumed and all other intermediary supply chain steps taking food from farm to table. Additionally, localized food systems are place-specific and seek to embed the production, distribution, and consumption of foods in community relationships. Farms, from large to small and from conventional to certified organic, are finding opportunities to engage in the local foods market opportunities across the supply chain in the state.
The US Department of Agriculture has linked local foods to many of its key priorities such as food access and nutrition, enhancing rural economies, the environment, addressing consumer demand, and improving profitability of agricultural producers and strengthening markets. The USDA recognizes that consumer demand for local foods has been growing in recent years and that federal, state and local policies are responding. A recent congressionally mandated report states, “Producer participation in local food systems is growing, and the value of local food sales, defined as the sale of food for human consumption through both direct-to-consumer (e.g., farmers’ markets) and intermediated marketing channels (e.g., sales to institutions or regional distributors), appears to be increasing.” (Low et al 2015)
Practically, many local food system efforts in North Carolina also include a focus on nutrition and health or community development, from community and school gardening to economic development to food justice. Therefore, beyond the supply chain, support for local and community-based food systems is far reaching and far ranging. This web portal is intended to share the breadth of the field of work and research, and also to provide connections to resources and information to those working to support developing local food systems.
The organizational structure for this web portal is available on the ‘Site Map‘ page. If you enter the site through one of the “Your Role in the Food System” links, you will be directed to aspects of the overall site structure relevant to that role. Additionally, you may use the Search tool on each page to search the portal or other N.C. Cooperative Extension portals for the information you are seeking.
If you are interested in weekly updates on news items published to this web portal, you can subscribe here. You may also keep up with local food system activities through the Local Food – N.C. Cooperative Extension Facebook page.
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If you have questions or comments, or if your organization has research-based North Carolina local food systems resources that you would like us to consider linking to from this portal, please contact Joanna Massey Lelekacs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please connect if you have potential news items about local foods of interest at a regional or state level.
Low, Sarah A., Aaron Adalja, Elizabeth Beaulieu, Nigel Key, Steve Martinez, Alex Melton, Agnes Perez, Katherine Ralston, Hayden Stewart, Shellye Suttles, Stephen Vogel, and Becca B.R. Jablonski. Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems, AP-068, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, January 2015.
Martinez, Steve, et al. (2010). Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
Note: The use of brand names in this web portal does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.
Support for development and curation of this web portal is provided in part by NC Growing Together, a Center for Environmental Farming Systems-led initiative, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant #2012-68004-20363.