Training the Trainers in Community-based Food Systems: a project-oriented case study team approach

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $99,266.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Nancy Creamer
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: technical assistance, extension
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture


    This two-year project utilized a train-the-trainer model to build the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service’s capacity to develop and initiate the growth of community-based food systems. Twelve county-based teams of extension personnel and community partners were trained in the conceptual framework of community-based food systems and project development and realization. Teams received planning assistance and ongoing support during the project. Resources created through this project include county project case studies, web-based community-based food systems training documents, webinars developed and recorded during this project, and a summary of project lessons learned. All resources are available to the public from the CEFS website.

    Project objectives:

    The objectives of the training project are listed below.

    1. Food Systems Education: for and with extension

    Through the trainings and presentation of case-studies by the Project Team (PT), county-based trainees will understand the comprehensive nature of food systems. Further, they will be able to easily explain these concepts and needs to those unfamiliar with “food systems” on both day-to-day practical terms and in relation to basic governmental policy. They will thus become educators and advocates for food systems awareness and engagement in their communities.

    The trained county teams in year one (CBT1) will be comfortable serving as trainers and support for the adjacent 2nd year counties (CBT2), Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, and future emerging county-based teams. They will know the resources available (written and people), grant opportunities, partnership possibilities, barriers, and opportunities.

    Through a targeted informational session and dialogue with extension administrators at both NCSU and N.C. A&T SU, they will demonstrate support of new comprehensive food systems programming throughout the extension system as supported by the new strategic plan.

    2. Food Systems Project Development: hands-on learning

    CBT1 trainees will successfully design, implement, and evaluate a community-based food systems project in their county. The county-based teams will understand what makes a successful project, and how to develop a needs-centered/asset-based team approach, where the needs of a specific community are overlaid with the area’s available resources to determine and develop a project that will have substantial positive impact and high success. The county-based teams will learn community building techniques so that they develop new leaders in addition to the new project. These teams will also learn formative evaluation strategies to help them assess and continually improve their project as it proceeds. County-based teams will thus lead the development of effective and sustainable projects that improve their local community’s food system through sustainable agriculture as well as build new leadership and community cohesion.

    3. Collaborative Training System: “passing on the gift”

    County-based teams will “pass on the gift,” by training and mentoring a subsequent team in N.C., ideally from an adjacent county. While the Project Team will still provide consulting expertise and assistance as needed, the newly trained county-based project leaders will take responsibility for generalized reciprocity, “paying forward” the training they have received by assisting in the development of a food systems project with another community group and teaching that group the same “pass it on” skills. This strategy will provide the support necessary to grow a statewide community based food system that is truly collaborative, community-based and community-driven. This design will also strengthen the long-term networking between groups, which in turn maximizes impact through facilitating shared resources and strategic replication. County-based teams will thus engage in cooperative and collaborative community-building strategies.

    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.