Local Food Systems

The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices

Dawn Thilmany McFadden et al.

Compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, this new toolkit provides resources for communities to capture the impact of local food system investments. The toolkit describes how to develop the necessary infrastructure to collect data, and details various economic analysis methodologies. Topics covered include assembling a research team, defining the parameters of a local food system, identifying economic indicators to measure, developing processes for accessing datasets, and communicating findings.  

Reap Food Group

Based in Madison, Reap Food Group is a nonprofit focused on building and sustaining a local food system across Southern Wisconsin that supports small family farms and locally-owned businesses, promotes sustainable agriculture practices, and provides community-wide access to fresh, healthy food. Read more about Reap Food Group...

Peacefully Organic Produce

As the first veteran-led community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in the Madison area, Peacefully Organic Produce aims to provide a peaceful place for veterans to return home, learn about organic agriculture, and build a stronger community of support.  The farm specializes in high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, and pasture-raised poultry.  Committed to connecting with the community, the farm also hosts film-screenings of agricultural documentaries, field trips for local schools, taste tests, and an annual bluegrass concert, from which proceeds are used to purchase CSA share Read more about Peacefully Organic Produce...

FairShare CSA Coalition

Based in Madison, FairShare CSA Coalition aims to support and connect Community Supported Agriculture farmers and consumers.  Its network currently includes 50 farms in Madison, Milwaukee, Dubuque, the Twin Cities, and surrounding areas.  To help ensure all community members can access fresh, nutritious food, FairShare initiated its Partner Shares Program, which covers 50 percent of the cost of CSA vegetable shares for limited-income families.  The nonprofit also sponsors a range of activities and events designed to build community, share food, and highlight local, seasonal produce. Read more about FairShare CSA Coalition...

Community GroundWorks

Community GroundWorks is a Madison-based nonprofit that works to connect people to nature and local food.  Many of its programs are located on Troy Gardens, a 26-acre urban property that Community GroundWorks manages which includes community gardens, an organic farm, and restored prairie and woodlands.  Established in 2001, its 5-acre organic farm (Troy Community Farm) was Madison’s first urban farm and it now supports a CSA, a beginning farmer training program, a farm stand, and several entrepreneurial ventures selling sprouts, wholesale herbs, and bedding plants. Read more about Community GroundWorks...

Grow Pittsburgh

Established in 2005 by three urban farmers, Grow Pittsburgh is an urban agriculture nonprofit focused on teaching people how to grow food and promoting the benefits that gardens bring to neighborhoods. The nonprofit runs educational programs at Pittsburgh schools, a summer intern program for teens, and an adult intern and apprentice program.  Crops are grown at the nonprofit’s two farm sites by Grow Pittsburgh farm managers, apprentices, interns, and volunteers, and sold at various places, including two independent farm stands which serve the fixed or low-income populations living around the sites by selling at below market rates and accepting EBT/SNAP and similar payments.  In 2010, the organization launched a community gardening program that provides technical, educational and material assistance to communities interested in establishing community gardens and helps connect gardeners across the region to share resources and lessons learned.

U.S. Kitchen Incubators: An Industry Update

Adam Wodka

This most recent state-of-the-industry survey describes common characteristics of kitchen incubators, which stand at the nexus of the artisanal food movement, the sharing economy, and small business development. The authors find that the growth of the industry, which has increased by more than 50 percent over the past three years, is not a fad, but rather is representative of sustained and increasing interest in food as a tool for job creation and economic development. The report highlights common services offered by incubators to ensure business viability, such as such as small-business counseling, workforce development, and connecting businesses to affordable capital.

Market at Wright Stop Plaza

Formed in the fall of 2015 by a coalition of partners including Montgomery County, Greater Dayton RTA, Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County, and Homefull, the Market at Wright Stop Plaza aims to provide fresh, affordable, local produce at the Wright Stop Transit Center, an area considered to be at the heart of a food desert.  The Market will also serve as a job training site for clients of Homefull, the Dayton nonprofit that provides shelter and services to people experiencing homelessness.

Garden Station

Established in 2008 on a city-owned downtown lot that was vacant for over 50 years and had become a dumping ground, Garden Station is an art park and community garden featuring locally-created murals and sculpture, community garden plots, concerts, festivals, a regular Sunday farmer’s market, and other community-focused events.  In 2013, it first hosted EarthFest, which has now become an annual festival attracting thousands of area residents that features DIY sustainable living workshops.

Five Rivers MetroPark

Established in 1963 to preserve and protect open space and natural areas in Montgomery County, the publicly-owned Five Rivers MetroPark today encompasses 15,000 acres of forests, grasslands, farmlands and wetlands.  In 1986, MetroParks began a Community Gardening program that helps urban residents develop and maintain community gardens and green projects.  MetroParks also operates 2nd Street Market, a year-round farmers market held in an historic B&O railroad building once slated for demolition, that supports both the growing and buying of locally produced goods.

Intervale Center

Founded in 1988, Intervale Center is a nonprofit committed to strengthening community food systems by improving farm viability, promoting sustainable land use, and engaging the community.  For instance, its Farms Program, started in 1990, leases land, equipment, greenhouses, irrigation and storage facilities to small independent farms, enabling them to grow fresh produce –adding around 60 jobs to the Burlington economy.  Other initiatives include a food hub and a local conservation nursery.  The Center’s programs and enterprises are located on the 350 acres of land along the Winooski River that the nonprofit stewards as a community resource.

Burlington School Food Project

The Burlington School Food Project aims to serve wholesome, fresh, nutritious, and local food to the 4,000 students in the Burlington School District.  To do so, the project supports the creation of school gardens and farm partnerships, and prioritizes farm field trips, cooking classes and nutrition education to promote health and the local economy more generally.  Catalyzed in 2003 by a three-year USDA grant that brought together the school district, nonprofits, and families, the project was strengthened in 2006 when the district hired the first “Farm to School Coordinator” in the nation to source and encourage the use of locally grown foods.  All schools in the district now include a productive garden, and the district serves up to 70 percent local products (depending on the season) in school meals.  The project also encompasses a mobile restaurant that serves as a culinary job training program for local students.

Building Successful Food Hubs

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, University of Illinois Business Innovation Services, Illinois Department of Agriculture and FamilyFarmed.org

Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois is a new resource for communities, businesses, not-for- profits, and others interested in establishing food hubs. The guide "includes descriptions of key functions, best practices, and “how-to” strategies for food hub establishment and operation that are based on successful models operating in other regions that have been specifically adapted for application in Illinois." 

Urban Roots

Established in 2007 as a program of YouthLaunch, Urban Roots became an independent nonprofit in 2011.  Aiming to use food and farming to transform the lives of young people and inspire, engage, and nourish the community, Urban Roots’ operations center around its 3.5 acre urban, sustainable farm in East Austin, which aims to grow 25,000 pounds of produce on an annual basis.  The nonprofit provides paid internships to Austin youth who work on the farm.  Committed to local hunger relief, Urban Roots donates 40 percent of its harvest to area soup kitchens and food pantries, and sells the remaining portion through its CSA program and at local farmers’ markets.

Oakland Food Policy Council

Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC) has been a lead in successful policy initiatives in Oakland. They have worked with local organizations, such as City Slicker Farms, and successfully passed policies that remove barriers for a local, equitable, and sustainable food system. Their work has been local, regional, statewide, and national. Oakland Food Policy Council focusses primarily in areas of urban agriculture, economic security and development, procurement, and food access. Read more about Oakland Food Policy Council...

Planting Seeds of HOPE

Planting Seeds of HOPE (PSH) relies on urban agriculture and food justice programs to transform communities and develop people and families according to its “HOPE” principles: Health, Open communities, People development, and Entrepreneurship.  One current initiative is SWAG Project Newark, through which PSH and other local partners run an urban farm and community center in the South Ward that serves as a hub for local fresh food access and production as well as learning around environmental sustainability, nutrition, food justice, and related topics.  PSH is also collaborating with groups in the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District Facade to develop a farmers’ market, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and sustainable infrastructure including composting and water-saving systems.

Crossroads Community Food Network

Crossroads Community Food Network works to improve access to fresh, local, healthy food through programs and models mutually supportive of community residents and growers. Read more about Crossroads Community Food Network...

Wangari Gardens

Named after Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist and social justice activist who empowered women to plant more than 47 million trees, Wangari Gardens is a 2.7 acre garden park in Ward 5 designed, created, and sustained by the community.  It includes a 50 fruit tree forest garden, public vegetable garden, herb garden, medicinal garden, berry garden, strawberry patch, outdoor classroom, a free CSA program for low-income residents, a tool sharing program, and DC’s first public hammock.  It is also the site of free Sunday classes, which include yoga, gardening, and other community-focused topics, and a new “community composting cooperative” for residents interested in composting their food waste and creating high quality compost.

DC Greens

Founded in 2009, DC Greens aims to bridge gaps in the District’s local food system to ensure that all DC residents can access and afford fresh, healthy produce.  In 2013, the nonprofit’s accomplishments included the establishment of six School Garden Markets, through which students sold produce from their own school gardens and local farms while boosting their math and marketing skills; developed standards-based tools to help DC teachers find quality farm-based learning opportunities; trained over 50 teachers to become garden educators; hosted a free all-day urban gardening forum at which 800 DC residents participated in more than 60 hands-on workshops; and provided matching dollars to low-income residents using their federal benefits at five D.C. farmers’ markets.

Common Good City Farm

Farming on a half acre plot on the grounds of a DC Public School that closed in June 2008, Common Good City Farm focuses on growing food, educating, and helping low-income DC community members meet their food needs.  To do so, the farm offers a range of programs targeted to low-income individuals and families that provide hands-on training in food production, healthy eating, and environmental sustainability.  To help off-set the costs of its programs and provide free and reduced-cost produce to residents, the farm sells a portion of the over 5,000 pounds of food it grows a year to local restaurants and businesses.