Virginia Tech® home

Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems



Authors as Published

Kim Niewolny, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Agriculture, Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Tech; Joyce Latimer, Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of  Horticulture, Virginia Tech; Kelli Scott, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources Montgomery County; Caitlin Miller, Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Prince Edward County; Theresa Nartea, Assistant Professor and Marketing and Agribusiness Specialist, Virginia State University; Karen Gehrt, Extension Specialist, Department of Agriculture, Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Tech; Bobby Grisso, Associate Director Agriculture and Natural Resources, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech; Karen Vines, Continuing Professional Education Specialist, Ag Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Tech; Sarah Morton, Director, Richmond Growing Science Program; Eric Bendfeldt, Extension Specialist, Community Viability, Department of Crop Soil Environmental Science, Virginia Tech; Leonard Githinji, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Sustainable and Urban Agriculture, Virginia State University; Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Extension Specialist, Community Viability, Virginia Tech; Spencer Neale, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, State Extension Leadership Council

 Interest in local, regional, and community-based food systems has grown with great interest for several decades. We define community, local, and regional food systems (CLRFS) as a complex and collaborative network that holistically integrates food production, processing, marketing, distribution, consumption, and waste management to sustain the ecological, cultural, economic, and social health of a particular place. This approach is interdisciplinary and values-driven and includes the goal of developing socially just, economically vibrant, and ecologically sound food and farming systems embedded in local needs, people, and places so that all may thrive today and for generations to come.

Community, local, and regional food systems can include topics and issues such as

  • Community gardens, farmers markets, and community supported agriculture
  • Regenerative agriculture
  • Home food preparation and preservation
  • Models of food distribution and aggregation (e.g., food hubs, online sales platforms)
  • Value-added food processing and safety
  • Food justice and food sovereignty
  • Food security at the household and community level
  • Food system and agricultural policy
  • Innovation in educational approaches, processes, and evaluation
  • Institutional food procurement and preparation (e.g., farm-to-school, -university, and -hospital)
  • Market development and value chain coordination
  • Nutrition education and health promotion
  • Supporting producers/growers with startup and sustainability
  • Food recovery and waste reduction
  • Urban agriculture and food innovation clusters

Because food and agriculture are so fundamental and closely interconnected to the health, wealth, and capacity of a particular place, a more concerted, integrated effort is needed to develop much-needed infrastructure, strategies, programs, and policies to optimize the development of our community, local, and regional food systems. Our overarching aim is to facilitate innovative and interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations in a comprehensive way to strengthen farms and communities, nourish healthy individuals and families, empower communities, revitalize local economies, and protect natural resources across Virginia and beyond.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

April 22, 2022