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Community Food Systems and Agroecology

Community Food Systems research works to understand and build a consensus around policies, programs and actions that facilitate a vibrant local food economy. Agroecology is the application of ecologically conscious practices in agricultural production systems. Food system initiatives are based at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, a partnership of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and North Carolina State University. CEFS develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.

Supply Chain and Business Development

Market displaying a variety of vegetables, carrots, peppers, onions and scale.

Economic food system initiatives include programs focused on bringing more locally-produced foods into mainstream markets and strengthening the economics of small to mid-sized farm and fishing operations and their communities. NC Growing Together integrates Research, Academics, and Extension –bringing more North Carolina produce, meat, dairy, and seafood into retail and food service supply chains by researching and identifying best practices for cooperative production and aggregation of products from small and mid-sized producers to larger-scale distribution partners. NC Choices promotes sustainable food systems through the advancement of the local, niche and pasture-based meat supply chain in North Carolina. UFOODS (University Food Systems) is a two-year project designed to develop new market opportunities for farmers by building collaborative supply chains links from farms to university campuses in North Carolina.

Organic Production

Field research units are housed at CEFS’ 2245-acre Field Research and Outreach Facility, located at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, N.C. Cherry Research Farm is part of the Research Stations Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). The varied landscapes, soils and water resources at the Cherry Research Farm provide researchers with diverse opportunities. The size of the operation provides the ability to conduct large-scale research to simulate conditions on commercial farms and space to isolate different management components. Amazing Grazing is a pasture-based livestock educational initiative that began at CEFS’ Field Research and Outreach Facility at Cherry Farm in Goldsboro and has developed into a statewide program. The program includes producer workshops, interagency advisor workshops, and research and demonstration projects focused on improving profitability, animal health and well-being, and environmental sustainability. CEFS’ Pasture-Based Beef Unit operates a coastal plain beef cow/calf production system that maximizes profitability while minimizing expenses and sustainably impacting the environment. Work at CEFS’ Pasture-Raised Dairy Unit examines grazing strategies and other herd management techniques that provide environmentally sound and economical milk production while also generating an acceptable level of family income and quality of life. The Alternative Swine Unit provides opportunities for researchers to develop and demonstrate methods for production that optimize productivity and animal welfare while minimizing environmental impacts.

Western North Carolina is home to many organic, biodynamic, certified naturally grown, and sustainable farms. Most of these farms are small and highly-diversified in the crops and animals they produce and the outlets they market to. Field studies to support these growers are conducted on the certified organic research unit on the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC.

People and Policy

conference discussing equality in the food chain
Conference discussing equality in the food chain

The NC 10% Campaign is a statewide initiative that encourages individuals and businesses to spend 10% of their existing food dollars on locally-produced foods and provides web-based local foods search & data tracking dashboard. Community Food Strategies helps community-based coalitions organize to improve their food system. Our multi-organizational team provides networking opportunities and technical support to communities interested in food council development across North Carolina. CORE is a long-term commitment to work internally and collaboratively with community and grassroots groups to address root causes of food system inequities and build collective solutions through the lens of structural racism as an entry point.