Building Local Food Systems: Training the Trainers, Peer Collaboration, and Materials Development

Final Report for ES13-115

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $64,113.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: N.C. State University
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
S. Gary Bullen
N.C. State University
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Project Information


Building Local Food Systems Project helped build the capacity of Extension educators to grow local food systems by responding to training needs as expressed by North Carolina Extension educators in a comprehensive 2012 training-needs survey.

Local Food Systems training was the focus of the 2013 NC Extension Annual Conference. The Annual Conference provided training in Retail Ready for Local Foods, Role of Extension in Enhancing Local Food Access, Local Foods Programing, and Secrets of Community Partnerships. Educational materials were developed and posted on the NC Local Foods web portal

In addition to building community partnerships to grow local food systems, the project focused on research, materials development, and training to address the top-rated training need expressed by NC agents in the recent needs survey: marketing local foods to restaurants, grocers, and institutions. The Retail Ready education portion of this project is designed to equip agricultural educators to work with small-scale farmers to develop new market relationships with restaurants, grocery, and wholesale buyers

The two Food Hub workshops were organized to help extension agents working with small-scale farmers evaluate possible food hubs as a way to grow the local food system. To supplement the workshops, two webinars were offered on selected marketing topics. Buyers and farmers experienced in selling to institutional buyers will be recruited to speak at workshop. As a result of the project, many NC Extension educators have incorporated the local foods and retail ready educational materials and training into their county programs.

Project Objectives:

The project's training objectives are to increase the capacity of Extension educators to work with farmers and educate community members in the development of local food systems and to work with farmers and institutional buyers to establish new business relationships.

(1) Objective: Extension educators can knowledgeably explain the benefits and challenges of localized food systems to community partners engaged in work in community and economic development, public health, and expanding local food access to limited resource individuals. The inclusion of advisors knowledgeable about food access and community economic development and public health within the Advisory Committee ensures that the training as developed includes these concerns.

(2) Objective: Extension educators will understand the requirements for selling to restaurants, groceries, and food service buyers (including post-harvest handling specifications and food safety certifications).

(3) Retail Ready teams organized by extension districts to deliver the curriculum and educational resources to small-scale farmers to increase these farmers sales to restaurants, grocery, and food service buyers.


Agricultural producers and their communities are interested in developing local food systems because of the potential they hold to increase the profitability of farm enterprises, keep small and limited resource farmers in production, bring new farmers into the profession, preserve farm land, generate new businesses in rural communities, and improve community health by making fresh local foods more widely available.

While there is a great deal of interest by extension educators in working in the area of local foods they have noted that much of their traditional training has not prepared them with the knowledge to build local food systems. A 2012 local foods training-needs survey found that Extension educators were interested in (1) how to increase farmer's capacity for direct sales into institutional markets (2) how to develop government and organizational partnerships around local food issues (3) how to increase agent's capacity to work in their communities to improve local food access for residents with limited resources. The audience for this training project are Extension educators across all four extension program areas-Agricultural and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H, and Community Development.

The project's training curriculum and the research and development to generate this curriculum will be based on the top training needs as identified by 2012 survey. Project collaborators designed training materials for the targeted topics for the November 2013 annual extension conference to meet the above needs. In the second year a targeted research and training program was developed to help extension educators gain the needed knowledge to guide producers in accessing institutional markets.

Building Local Food Systems project helped build the capacity of NC Extension educators to expand local food systems providing training and educational materials.


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  • Amy Lynn Albertson
  • Dara Bloom
  • Carolyn Christman
  • Herbie Cottle
  • Nancy Creamer
  • Ben Filippo
  • Joann Gallegher
  • Brenda Garner
  • Leigh Guth
  • Leslie Hossfeld
  • Jay Jayaratne
  • Mike Jones
  • Joanna Lelekacs
  • John O'Sullivan
  • Karen Stanley

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Outcomes and impacts:

Local foods workshops were developed and delivered as a part of a two and one-half day all Extension Conference in Raleigh, NC in November 2013 attended by agents, specialists and administrators.

Topics delivered included: 1. Local Food Systems Programming: Engaging all Extension Program Areas and Community Resources in a Systems Approach. 3 hour session. 88 attendees. 2. The Role of Extension in Enhancing Access to Local Food. 1.5 hour session. 75 attendees. 3. Moving Forward Together: Secrets of Successful Community Partnerships. 1.5 hour session. 93 attendees. 4. Retail Ready for Local Food. 3 hour session. 41 attendees.

Inventoried and developed materials have since been posted to a new NC Cooperative Extension Local Foods web portal – Pages including materials on topics noted in this report include:
• Local Food Access:

• Partnerships and Collaboration:

• Local Government, Planning and Agricultural Policy:

• Local Food & Economic Development:

• Retail Ready for Local Foods:

A manuscript summarizing planning, development and evaluation of local food programs for Extension in-service training has been submitted for peer-review.

Outcomes from Pre Conference Workshop at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Annual Conference. Growing a Healthy Economy with Local Foods
• 65% of attendees were Extension educators

• 100% of survey respondents were satisfied with the training.

• 54% of survey respondents indicated they already do have broad collaborative regional partnerships including producers, potential buyers, economic developers and/or other potential partners for promoting local foods in your county.

• 46% of survey respondents indicated they were considering forming broad collaborative regional partnerships including producers, potential buyers, economic developers and/or other potential partners for promoting local foods in your county.

• 85% of survey respondents indicated they would use the tools provided to support conversations on the economic development potentials of local foods with community partners in their counties.

• Average knowledge change pre-test to post-test for survey respondents (on a 5 point Likert scale where 5 was very high):
o 2.9 to 4.1 -- Resources for communicating agriculture and local foods economic development opportunities
o 3.4 to 4.4 -- Economic development potentials of local foods
o 2.7 to 4.0 -- The language and mindset of traditional and community economic development.

Enhancing Local Food Access by Strengthening Connections with Food Pantries – webinar
16 Extension educators watched the webinar
55 Views of the YouTube recording to date.

92% of survey respondents gained knowledge/skills/attitudes about the topics presented.

100% of survey respondents will use what they learned to enhance their professional responsibilities.

100% of survey respondents will use the knowledge and skills gained to impact their Extension clientele.

Understanding Packaging & Specifications for Wholesale Markets webinar
26 Extension Agents watched the webinar
41 Views of the YouTube recording to date.

60% of survey respondents gained knowledge/skills/attitudes about the topics presented.

60% of survey respondents will use what they learned to enhance their professional responsibilities.

60% of survey respondents can use the knowledge and skills gained to impact their Extension clientele.

Outputs / Materials Developed from Webinars

Enhancing Local Food Access by Strengthening Connections with Food Pantries webinar
Here is the link to the recording -

Understanding Packaging & Specifications for Wholesale Markets webinar
Here is the link to the recording -

As result of the Annual Extension Conference Training Extension agents offered 8 Retail Ready for Local Foods workshops. One hundred sixty four farmers attended the 6 workshops. We partnered with Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) to organized two regional Retail Ready For Local Foods workshops

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

We conducted 86 phone interviews with a wholesale companies. The interviews were compiled into Retail Ready for Local Foods workshops and manual.

We conducted a six month follow up evaluation after the Annual Extension Conference We had 80 survey respondents. AS result of the Annual Conference training:

39 respondents indicated they added local foods as an objective in their plan of work

46 respondents indicated their experience at the local foods workshops(s) helped/enhanced work or projects with which they were already involved

61 respondents indicated they implemented Extension work for supporting local food systems projects/programs in their area

As result of the Annual Extension Conference Training Extension agents offered 8 Retail Ready for Local Foods workshops. One hundred sixty four farmers attended the 6 workshops. We partnered with Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) to organized two regional Retail Ready for Local Foods workshops

Implementation of work related Local Food System training
46 Identified community partners for promoting local foods

25 Engaged their community stakeholders using tools learned in this session

28 Adjusted your extension approach to situation of community partnerships available

31 Developed partnerships with people beyond their county staff to design concrete initiatives to build a local food program

23 Implemented a successful collaborative local foods program in their county

20 Supported or initiated local Farm to School programming

9 Introduced an EBT system to their farmers’ market

26 Conducted educational programs with community partners for enabling limited resource community access to local foods

20 Conducted an educational program on marketing opportunities through season extension methods in their county

16 Supported or initiated programming on crop opportunities / economic potential for growers in their county

27 Helped their farmers identify different market channels available in their area

17 Met with potential buyers and discuss their needs

19 Helped their farmers understand the requirement of institutional buyers

8 Conducted educational programs using Retail Ready for Local Foods materials

25 Encouraged farmers to use best business practices learned at this training

23 Helped their farmers sell their products to a new local market

Examples of implemented programs reported:

• Hosted a marketing program for farmers and interested personnel.
• Marketing for Farmers
• Working on Farm to Restaurant project.
• Training for beginning farmers
• NC Farm School (4)
• Support for local food hub (2)
• Hosted Meet the Buyer Event

• Started a high tunnel grower incubator.
• Held a three-county program on high tunnel greenhouse production as a means of season extension.

• Held a series of Risk Management Workshops which benefited many of the small scale produce growers
• Produce Safety workshop
• GAP Certification training (2)
• Hosted a Forum anticipating issues related to FSMA.
• Getting ready to host a workshop on grafting tomatoes.

• Created a grant funded position to conduct survey and demo work at farmers' markets in ten counties
• Support developing farmers markets. (2)
• Work with the farmers markets. We do marketing meetings, and we have food safety programs.
• Worked a little bit with my county to start a farmer's market.
• Assisted with creating web page for farmers market.
• Assisted the farmers market.

• Cooking class highlighting local food. Planned programming integrating the local food idea.
• Farmers market cooking demos
• Hosted a cooking class specifically focused on cooking with local, seasonal products.
• Host a cable TV Show [focused on cooking local food], and I spotlight a local farm/farmer each month by using their produce or product and talk about their farm or they come on the show with me.
• I also do cooking demos at our local farmer's markets.
• Food demonstrations at the farmers market utilizing food from the local farmers.
• Tailgate market demos
• Food Demos at the Farmer's Markets
• Trained local foods agent and community garden coordinator in food preservation techniques
• Worked with our local horticulture agent to provide classes on preservation of foods.

• Hosted a webinar on local food councils.
• Hosted a Local Govt:Local Foods webinar
• Established a county Local Foods Policy Council.
• Introduction and mobilization of planning for Local Food Policy Council.
• Launched Local Government Webinar Series.

• Organized a farm to table restaurant week to raise awareness of options for buying local food and to highlight local products.
• Promoted local foods on our county website.
• Hosted a farm tour to educate general public on local agriculture.
• Provided awareness to program participants of the many ways to access local foods in the county.
• Hosted a local TV program that focused on Local Foods

• Expanded and revised school gardening program.
• Scheduling our 4-H Clubs to visit local farms and this summer we have 2 summer day camps that focus on local foods and cooking using local foods.
• GAP work with local school ag program.
• Hosted farmers market activities for kids.
• Housed a FoodCorps Service member with specific goals towards school gardens.
• Implemented Little Farmer's Corner at the Farmer's Market
• Supported submission of grants for local funding to expand Farm to Child Care

• Assisted communities in starting community gardens (4)
• We have a Community Garden Project underway that involves our local foods agent, myself (FCS) and our 4-H Agent. It not only involves the planting/growing of vegetables, but also has an educational component for the families involved.
• Collaboration with Christian Ministries and Yokefellow and the start-up of community gardens
• I started a community garden in my county with a CRD neighborhood.
• Established new community garden site with the objective of training local citizens to grow a portion of their food needs.
• Established community garden in XXXX, NC. Used garden as a teaching site for local food production training and public outreach.

• Working on a program to donate locally grown produce to families involved in extension EFNEP program.
• When doing the More In My Basket Program, to promote SNAP benefit / teaching nutrition/SNAP-Ed programs, promoted purchasing local foods.

• Assisted growers in developing contracts/ policies for their CSA's
• Implemented Faithful Families Series, which includes local food component.


Potential Contributions

The goal of this project was to help grow the local food system in NC. We did this by proving training at the 2013 Annual Extension Conference. This allowed us to introduce the different extension subject specialists to new ways of working together. We hope to continue this approach to future local food programming.

As a result of this project, we partnered with several groups already working in local food to narrow down the potential list for the interviews. Without the partners we developed as result of the work on local food markets, we could not have conducted the interviews in timely manner. As a result of the project we have developed long term partnerships with several organization and agencies working to get local food into new markets. We have been asked to continue local food work, by working with fishermen developing a local market for seafood. We have tested two local products this year with promising results.

This project provided the market contacts and understanding of local food systems that will be used in future projects.

Future Recommendations

The goal of the project was to help build the local food system in NC. I would recommend for future project to focus on one part of the food system instead of all the food system. The Food Hubs training did incorporate many aspect of the local food system but it was difficult to include all part of the local food system into the training.

For the retail ready portion of the project, we focused on fruit and vegetables for interviews and materials developed. We did not include meats or eggs. After we were into the project learn how much demand and opportunity for locally sourced meat and eggs existed in NC. We could have improved the results for the participants if we had included meat and egg as part of the project. This was pointed out in several of the workshop evaluations.

We need more research on local food distribution system, what are the barriers to local food to new markets.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.