National Partner Organizations (Current)

NAFSN has 13 founding national partner organizations. These are well regarded groups that are committed to working together to plan and pursue resources to further the work of the North American Food Systems Network. 

Founding Partner Organizations and representative to NAFSN

Memorandum of Understanding

Outlining the Formal Collaboration Between the Founding Partners of the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN). This was signed by the above founding organizations during th spring 2015- 2016 launch of NAFSN.


This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizes the non-binding agreement among the organizations and institutions to collaborate as “founding partners” of the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN). A more formal memorandum of agreement may be established at a future point if deemed necessary.


Local and regional food has been estimated to be over $6 billion subsector of the U.S. food system (Low et al., 2015). In recent years increasing recognition of the economic and social significance of of this subsector has been associated with dramatic growth in food systems research and practice to meet the demand for new information and good practices in food systems development work. New professional specialties both within and outside of Cooperative Extension are emerging, including educators and trainers, food systems planners and consultants, endowed faculty chairs, food hub managers, and the like.These address a wide range of needs, including training beginning farmers, helping operators of small farms, promoting food system security and sustainability, and supporting local policy development.

The North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN) was founded after a survey of 1,300 self-identified food systems development practitioners demonstrated strong interest in a professional development organization that would contribute to building skills and promote networking and collaboration. After the survey results were published, a working group of approximately 130 individuals emerged. Out of this group a steering committee was established and currently includes representatives of NAFSN’s national founding partners along with other individuals who have pledged to volunteer their assistance in moving the network forward. A Leadership Circle currently administers NAFSN using dynamic governance.

Current NAFSN Status

As a professional development network, NAFSN is conceived to provide training in “good” food systems development practice and serve as a networking hub to build the capacity of program managers, project directors, public officials, planners, activists, farmers, students, scholars, consultants, and others who work on food systems issues. Key programs under development include online self-paced training, a certification program, conference workshops, webinars, a Senior Corp of Researchers and Educators (temporary name) program to provide volunteer technical assistance to member organizations, and a social networking platform for its members to communicate throughout North America — both within and between specializations and across geographies and silos of activity to foster collective impact.

National Founding Partnership

To support achieving NAFSN’s mission, the signatory of the national organization or institutional program listed below agrees that their organizations will serve as a member of a strategic alliance of founding partners of NAFSN, and will collaborate on administration, program development, and finding resources to support the organization.

Specifically the undersigned partner (not legal partner, but partner in the collaborative sense) agrees to:

  1. provide one member from their organization to sit on the NAFSN Leadership Circle; 
  2. participate in decision-making, hiring staff, program planning, and curriculum development; and
  3. contribute to efforts to develop and submit funding proposals relevant to their organizational interests.

For the above contributions, the partner will receive:

  1. recognition as a founding partner of the North American Food Systems Network;
  2. special membership discounts for their own constituencies; and
  3. a potential share of funding to develop an appropriate component of the certification curriculum.


This MOU is at-will and may be modified by mutual consent of authorized officials from each partner organization. This MOU shall become effective upon agreement by the authorized officials and will remain in effect until modified or terminated by mutual consent.


Low, S. A., Adalja, A., Beaulieu, E., Key, N., Martinez, S., Melton, A., Perez, A., Ralston, K., Stewart, H., Suttles, S., Vogel, S., & Jablonski, B. B. R. (2015). Trends in U.S. local and regional food systems: Report to Congress (Agriculture Economic Research Service Administrative Publication No. AP-068). Washington, D.C.: U. S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.