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Professional Development Training

Who Should Take These Courses?

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. Most of the examples and case studies currently represent North Carolina projects, but South Carolina and Virginia content is also included. While place-specific context is important in food system development, professionals across the country have taken this course and found the information useful.


Why Is There a Prerequisite Course?

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. 

A former course participant sums up why the course series has a prerequisite: "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.

How Many Hours Are Each Course and What Kinds of Learning Activities Are They Composed Of?

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 20 hours for Foundations in Local Food Systems Development, and approximately 15 hours for each of the other courses.


These are "asynchronous" self-paced, online courses; an optional, but highly encouraged, synchronous session is offered once a month (Fall 2024 dates: 10/15, 11/19, and 12/17 from 12-1:30pm EST) to allow for networking, questions, and additional learning opportunities.


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 --
     course starts 10/1/24: register here!)

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, describes benefits and challenges of local food systems, and introduces participants to the concept of equity in food systems and the importance of community-based leadership with local food projects. Course participants will be asked to learn and reflect on what values and historical context influence local food system development in their own communities. Participants will also learn to distinguish between government, policy, and law as relates to local food systems, and will build their understanding of how to best act to address structural issues in local food system development.

2. Farm to Fork: Foundations in Local
    Food Supply & Value Chains
    (course starts 1/6/25: register here!)

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
    (course starts 1/6/25: register here!)

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.

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