CEFS history map

History of CEFS

It began with a vision.

In 1994, a small circle of leaders in sustainable agriculture came together with a single vision: to create a center for the study of environmentally sustainable farming practices in North Carolina.

A task force of university faculty and administrators, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, farmers, and citizens was charged with developing strategies to build a strong sustainable agriculture program in North Carolina.

The state’s two land-grant universities, North Carolina State University (NC State) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T) formed a groundbreaking partnership, creating an institutional “home” for the new endeavor.

A third key partner, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), provided a physical base for research and demonstration projects at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, North Carolina: two thousand acres of land, along with personnel and equipment. And the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) was born.

Today, CEFS flourishes as one of the nation’s most important centers for research, extension, and education in sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems. It is recognized as a national and international leader in the local foods movement, and is celebrated for its work in building consensus around policies, programs and actions that facilitate a vibrant local food economy.

What began as a vision in 1994 has grown into a movement that is shaping agriculture across North Carolina and the nation. In the twenty-plus years since its founding, bold and innovative programmatic initiatives have expanded CEFS’ footprint beyond the boundaries of the research farm, reaching every corner of North Carolina and forming deep partnerships in local communities.