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Survey of Food System Development Practitioners

NAFSN conducted a survey of food system development practitioners twice: first in 2012 and again in 2019.

Our objective is to periodically survey current or prospective food system development practitioners (including professionals and volunteers) to better understand their needs and opportunities. The results are shared publicly (although all responses are anonymous) and used to inform the work of a broad range of organizations and agencies. We define a “food system development practitioner" as anyone who, as a significant portion of their work, uses community development strategies in working with farmers, business people, government agency staff, local residents, or other persons or entities to create or strengthen the viability, equity, and sustainability of food systems. Under our definition of food systems, we include (a) agriculture and other kinds of food production, processing, distributing, marketing, and retailing, (b) food security, and (c) food waste management. Under our definition of "food system development professional," we include paid staff with a broad range of job titles and effort allocations, as well as consultants, volunteers, and activists.

A report with a comparison of the key results for 2012 and 2019 is available here. For questions about the report, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Training and Certification Community of Practice

NAFSN has begun formally collaborating with Iowa State University and other national partners on a project funded by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to identify best practices–based core competencies for food system development professionals. The project outcome and outputs to be generated over the Fall of 2019 include the following:


  • Increased networking throughout the nation on food systems curriculum
  • Understanding and Development of core competencies
  • Increased understanding in the existing curriculum related to food systems
  • Identification of gaps where curriculum do not exist to meet an identified core competency
  • Identification of gaps in curriculum specific to critical Extension core competencies
  • Increased collaboration on efforts between organizations


  • 1 report of existing curriculum gathered from existing surveys from leading organizations
  • 1 report of required core competencies for local food Extension Educators
  • 1 assessment survey to organizations with curriculum to understand which competencies are met  
  • 5 Zoom calls with leading partners to address research, meetings, etc.
  • 2 in-person meetings with partner organizations (30 organizations)
  • 1 report and matrix of curriculum and core competencies
  • 1 final in-person presentation to USDA with leading partners (5 organizations inclusive of ISU), focusing on food marketing curriculum gaps within Extension, and recommendations
  • 1 public platform for hosting of the matrix developed


Sustainable Food System Sourcebook

The Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook is a free database of degree programs, consultants, scholarships, funding, conferences, and other education and training resources for professionals and students focused on food systems work. It is published on behalf of NAFSN by the Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems. The Sourcebook is routinely updated by the listers and by the Lyson Center. Basic listings are free, but commercial listing packages which are editable and offer interactive components are available for a fee. 

For details on how we promote the Sourcebook and other questions see FAQs here.



Agriculture Supported Communities Certification Program (Working Title)

Community certifications exist for many kinds of economic and environmental criteria in the U.S. and Canada, but none exist regarding community food security. Counties and municipalities across the U.S. and Canada have caught on to the Good Food Movement, which promotes locally produced food that is healthy, green, fair, and affordable. But many are not aware of the plethora of policies, ordinances, and programs they can employ to develop a resilient local food system that addresses hunger and community health, supports local farmers and protects farmland, and encourages food-related jobs in the local economy. We have cataloged over 100 ordinances, policies, programs, and other initiatives, many of which communities are not even aware of.

To address this gap, we propose the first food and farming certification program for counties and municipalities. The foundation of the "Agriculture Supported Community Certification Program" (ASCCP) is an exhaustive self-audit that inventories a community's policies and programs and compares them to other communities.

A draft framework of the audit tool can be seen at, and a full description of the program concept can be found here: .

After completing the online audit, the community receives a score and designation as a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum Agriculture Supported Community. It can post road signs attesting that it is a "Certified Agriculture Supported Community." A national ranking will encourage friendly competition and constant improvement.

The ASCCP can help a community see where it can focus its attention to improve its score and ranking. The program thus provides an incremental and self-guided approach for a community to enact proven policies and programs with a broad range of impacts. Participation in the ASCCP can also serve as a measure of accountability to residents.

To support struggling communities ASCCP may provide "circuit riders" to provide outreach and training. For more information, contact Debbie Tropp: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.