NAFSN is a professional development association for people working together
to strengthen local and regional food systems.
Featured Organization: Center for Environmental Farming Systems

Featured Organization: Center for Environmental Farming Systems

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is a founding partner organization and a national partner organization of the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN). CEFS is committed to working with other organizations within NAFSN to plan and pursue resources to further the work of NAFSN.

In 1994, a dedicated group of farmers, community members, university researchers, and state government officials, came together to launch the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) out of a shared conviction that a land-grant university–based research, education, and extension program focused on organic and sustainable agriculture could have a significant and essential impact in North Carolina. CEFS’ three key partners, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recognized a need for testing and adoption of research-based sustainable farming practices in North Carolina.

Since then, the mission of CEFS has expanded beyond food production to address broader food system issues, including how health, equity, and community engagement pertain to food. Today, CEFS’ field research, including agroforestry, pasture-based dairy and beef, organic, and small farm research units, is housed at CEFS’ Field Research, Education, and Outreach Facility located at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, NC. For example, the Small Farm Unit aims to integrate sustainable and profitable farming practices for specialty vegetable production on small scale (less than one acre), multifunctional farms. CEFS’ food systems initiatives engage communities, consumers, and institutions across the local food supply chain in North Carolina to make healthy, local food accessible to all. CEFS’ Extension and outreach programs, such as the NC 10% Campaign, engage and connect the public to state-level resources and networks. CEFS also offers academic and education programs, including internships, apprenticeships, and fellowships, to train the next generation of food system leaders. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, CEFS initiatives and research units have adapted and expanded their programming with an emphasis on serving those most impacted by the pandemic. News, announcements, and resources related to CEFS COVID-19 work are available through the CEFS COVID-19 portal. In light of racial injustices against Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities across the United States, CEFS and its Committee on Racial Equity in the Food System (CORE) recently published a statement regarding impacts of systemic racism in the food system.

Upcoming projects at CEFS include field research projects related to cover crops and climate change and food systems initiatives addressing food inequities that have been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19. CEFS is also partnering with many NGOs including Growing Change, a non-profit organization that aims to address lack of food access by reclaiming old prisons and converting them into sustainable farms and food education centers. Given the wide range of its programs and initiatives, CEFS is an organization that continues to grow and adapt to the challenges of a dynamic food system.

CEFS Website:

About the author: Susan Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a career in creating equitable and sustainable food systems.

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