Professional Development Training

This Overview of Local Food Systems Training Program is appropriate for those who are just getting started in their local food systems career, or for those who have experience but want to gain a broader or more complete perspective.The following professional development courses focus on core competencies, identified by a national group of local food leaders (NAFSN, 2017), needed to support high functioning and sustainable local food systems development. Most of the examples and case studies currently represent North Carolina projects, but South Carolina and Virginia content is also included.


The seminal course, Foundations in Local Food Systems Development, serves as an introduction to the practice of local food systems development and is a prerequisite for enrolling in the other courses identified below. Why is there a prerequisite? A participant from a pilot iteration of this training program sums it up: "When I enrolled I thought I knew a lot about food systems, but this course helped fill in the holes in that knowledge to form a full systems perspective. The classwork was rewarding and enjoyable because it was so applicable to my work, well organized and thought-provoking. I still refer to my notes and readings from the course often!" See more participant testimonials about the online training program here.

These courses are designed for working professionals and utilize various types of engaging activities, including lectures, readings, forum posts, podcasts, and virtual field trips. The estimated time for completion is 15 hours for Foundations in Local Food Systems Development, and approximately eight to ten (8-10) hours for each of other courses. These are "asynchronous" self-paced, online courses, meaning that there are no scheduled meeting times. Course certificates of completion will be offered through NC State University to participants who successfully complete all course modules, quizzes and forum post requirements.

1. Foundations in Local Food
    Systems Development
(Prerequisite for the following two courses -- 
register here! Starting April 1, 2021)

This introductory course is designed to provide a solid general foundation of knowledge of local food systems practice. The course provides a history of the US food system, defines key terminology, and describes benefits and challenges of local food systems.


Course participants are encouraged to learn about and reflect on what values and historical context influence local food system development in their own communities. Participants are introduced to the concepts of equity in food systems, and explore how the structure of the food system affects outcomes for different communities and populations.  

Strategies for participatory food system development to affect systems change are shared as well as the importance of community-based leadership on local foods projects. The course helps participants to distinguish between government, policy, and law as relates to local food systems, and guides participants towards understanding how to best act to address structural issues in local food system development. 

2. Farm to Fork: Foundations in Local Food Supply & Value Chains 
(register here! Starting April 1, 2021)

This course introduces participants to the concept of a value chain, and explores what values drive supply chain configuration in different contexts, as well as how value chain development can support community and economic development.


Participants will also learn about the importance of collaborative relationships in successful local food systems, how local value chains can be upgraded, and what producers need to consider when selecting a market channel.

3. The Bottom Line: Economic 
    Realities & Other Considerations of
    Local Food Systems
(register here! Starting April 1, 2021)

Local food systems are often promoted in terms of their ability to contribute to community economic development.


In this course, participants will learn about legal structures for local food value chain businesses, the case for triple bottom line impacts of local food systems, and traditional and alternative financing methods. Participants will also explore basic business planning and risk management, and some keys to marketing local food products, including regional branding.