An Introduction to Community, Local & Regional Food Systems

Welcome to Community, Local and Regional Food Systems (CLRFS)

Community, local and regional food systems are increasingly important to individuals, families, businesses, and communities for a number of health, economic, and educational reasons.  Interest in issues related to community, local and regional food systems has therefore exploded of late, and government agencies, universities, Extension services, nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurial groups are generating new information, as well as seeking information, on the wide range of topics encompassed within this food systems umbrella. We’ve put together a Community of Practice (eCoP) through the eXtension network called Community, Local and Regional Food Systems (CLRFS). The overarching goal of the CLRFS eCoP is to provide resource materials, training opportunities, and collegial interaction for Extension educators, community-based practitioners, and individuals involved in work related to building equitable, health-promoting, resilient, and economically balanced food systems.  

This eXtension Community of Practice does this by specifically providing relevant and timely information to an extensive group of food system stakeholders nationally and internationally. Our Community of Practice includes content experts and practitioners who are well positioned to provide new or synthesized information (and links to already published documents) that support successful food systems. The CoP also offers a unique, online meeting place for these diverse groups and interests to share information and learn from one another. Examples of resources available currently include:

• CLRFS frequently asked questions through eXtension’s “Ask the Expert” 

• CLFRS webinar series

• Feature articles

• Resource articles and links

• Meet the CLRFS members through eXtension’s “Expert Bios” 

• Social media, including Facebook and an eCoP listserv (

The eCoP is comprised of over 220 members, including but not limited to:  extension agents/educators/specialists, university researchers, and food systems practitioners. Our numbers are growing steadily, indicating the widespread interest in this issue-area. Our community leadership team ‘meets’ regularly via conference calls. We also share information through webinars. For example, in 2013, we hosted a series of “quick share” webinars, which provided opportunity for eCoP members to learn from each other about projects exploring innovations in community food systems. We held our first face-to-face meeting of the National Leadership group in October, 2012, and are planning a larger meeting of the eCoP for 2014.

What makes us unique?

Systems Approach:   We understand that the food systems in which we participate have many connections and impacts that are critical to our social, cultural, and biological lives.

Multiple Actors and Interests:  We believe that the work of community, local and regional food systems requires information, resources, and networking from and with individuals and organizations that are developing their community, local, or regional food system. We are committed to collaboration and cross-sector learning. Our stakeholders are many and can be further identified by the following categories:

• Producer/Grower/Farmer

• Processor

• Aggregator/Retailer/Distributor

• Educator/Practitioner/Organizer

• Consumer/Eater/Engaged Citizen or Resident

• Youth, Family and Community

• Policy Maker

Values:  The work of community, local and regional food systems is driven by values. Values determine the type of food system that will be put in place by those entities, organizations, and individuals (producers, entrepreneurs, and advocates) who are working on building and strengthening community food systems. We adopt the values identified in “Whole Measures for Community Food Systems,” a values-based planning and evaluation tool developed by the Community Food Security Coalition (2009). These values were identified through an extensive community input process. The descriptions below are excerpted from the Whole Measures manual:

  • Justice & Fairness: values-based food systems are deliberately organized to promote social equity, justice, worker rights and health.
  • Healthy People: community and individual health includes our physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
  • Strong Communities: values-based food systems build strong communities across class, race, age, education, and other social categories.
  • Vibrant Farms: vibrant, diverse farms are central to the health and vitality of community based food systems.
  • Thriving Local Economies: community based food systems contribute toward thriving local economies that are decentralized, participatory, democratic, and supportive of the ecological integrity of the ecosystem.
  • Sustainable Ecosystems: community based food systems depend upon and help to build sustainable, balanced ecosystems characterized by interdependent relationships, clean air and water, healthy soils, and resource recycling.

Other organizations and entities have also sought to define the principles of a healthy, sustainable food system. For example, a collaboration of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Nurses Association, the American Planning Association, and the American Public Health Association came up with a set of shared food system principles, which include: health-promoting, sustainable, resilient, diverse, fair, economically balanced, and transparent.

Local and Regional Examples and Impacts:  

We strive to showcase and share “on the ground” examples and tools of the work we do as practitioners, advocates, and scholars. Case studies, reports, toolkits, “quick share” research ideas and instruments are possible options to find and submit. This eCoP has been recently established; content in this area will be available as submissions emerge. The geography is based on the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) regions

  • Northeast

  • Northcentral

  • Southern

  • Western


How can you get involved?

Please help us make this eCoP a valued resource. Here are ways that you can get involved during this stage in the development of the eCoP:

1) Become an “Ask the Expert” question answerer.  To do so, you just need to establish an AeA profile and join the Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems AeA group. If this is of interest, please contact Kim Niewolny at  To learn more about the Ask the Expert feature, check the Ask an Expert User Profile guidance link:

2) Contribute content for the public site using the “Create” wiki.  If this is of interest, please contact associate editor, Phil D’Adamo-Damery at  

3) Become a content reviewer. If this is of interest, please contact our senior editor Kim Niewolny

4) Create an eXtension biography identifying your areas of expertise.  This would help us to identify reviewers for content!  You would also be profiled occasionally (and randomly) on our eXtension home page.  For assistance, contact Phil D’Adamo-Damery at

5) Join our National Leadership Team. This group meets periodically to plan next steps, write grant proposals, or plan face to face gatherings. This team also creates working groups to address on-going or short term efforts. If this is of interest, please contact Sharon Lezberg,, Brian Raison at, or Kim Niewolny at

6) Help us ‘optimize’ our eCoP through use of social media. If this is of interest, please contact Brian Raison  We currently have a presence on facebook, but we’d benefit from having an eCoP member take on twitter, blogging, e-Newsletter,, slideshare, YouTube, and other content sharing social media outlets. 

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