Research & Tools

The majority of the resources and research posted on this page are created and maintained by the Local Food Economies initiative and our partners, and are available free for public use. However, please credit  NC Growing Together when citing or reprinting these documents (or the appropriate agency if labeled otherwise).

Note that this online hub is a source for new and innovative research and resources, and as such, is always being expanded and refined with new information. Please check back frequently for additional tools.


Local Food Supply Chain Infrastructure Map

Update August 2017: Piedmont Triad Regional Council is now hosting the Local Food Supply Chain Infrastructure Inventory, and has made the files available in GIS format to anyone who is interested!

You can see the map here – twelve different layers are represented, and you can filter by county and location as well as by region. Please help us keep it up-to-date by using the Google Forms linked on the map to report changes or additions!
(If this link doesn’t work, copy and paste this link into your browser:

The North Carolina Growing Together Project, in collaboration with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service’s Local Foods Flagship Program, has created a mapped inventory of businesses that serve as intermediary steps in local food supply chains. This includes value-added processors (for example, meat and seafood processors, cheese manufacturers, specialty jams and pickling operations), fresh produce wholesaler/distributors, multi-farm CSA’s, food hubs, community kitchens, incubator farms, and cold storage locations. The inventory does not include information on end retailers (e.g., restaurants, groceries, etc. selling local foods to consumers).

The NC Local Food Infrastructure Inventory is supported by the North Carolina Growing Together project, a CEFS-led project funded by USDA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant #2012-68004-20363) to scale-up local food supply chains, and by the BlueCross BlueShield of NC Foundation as part of a statewide food system assessment and action planning process.

Looking for a map or directory of farmers in North Carolina? Check out NCDA’s new version of the NC FreshLink Directory, which lists NC farms by product type and region:

Recommended Professional Resources

Many leading local government and small business development organizations have conducted their own research into the impacts and strategies of local food system development. Useful resources are listed below. If you know of additional agencies providing this type of information that you would recommend to other local government professionals, please contact Emily Edmonds.

Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future has a number of food policy initiatives. A 2016 webinar, “The How and Why of Local Government Support for Food Systems,” showcased regional and county government efforts in Santa Fe County, the City of Baltimore, and the Lewiston-Auburn Council of Government in Maine. Download a copy of the presentation here, or check out CLF’s website for additional resources.

Useful County-Level Economic, Health, and Environmental Data

North Carolina County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

health snapshots by countyThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation posts annual updates

to the County Health Rankings in all 100 North Carolina counties. These rankings take into account a number of different health outcomes.

To download for your county, visit the County Health Rankings website.


North Carolina Justice Center Economic Snapshots by County

btc brief snapshotsThe North Carolina Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center releases annual economic snapshots by county for all 100 North Carolina counties. The snapshots utilize several different economic data points to analyze growth across industries.

To download for your county, visit the Budget and Tax Center website.


Western North Carolina Vitality Index

wnc vitality indexThe Western North Carolina Vitality Index is maintained by UNCA’s NEMAC (National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center). It contains economic, environmental, social, and built capital information for the 27 western counties in NC.

To see the agriculture and other economic data in your county or region, visit the WNC Vitality Index.

Other Resources and Publications

Tools for Assessing Economic Impact: A Primer for Food System Practitioners
Published by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems

Rural-Urban Connections Strategy: Sacramento Area Council of Governments
An example of rural-urban economic development policy that emphasizes agriculture and regional cooperation from SACOG

ATTRA: The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s Sustainable Agriculture division maintains a web resource center for urban agriculture. In July 2016, they published Agrihoods: Development Supported Agriculture, which explores examples of agrihoods around the country and their development premise and challenges. Access the publication here.

Croatan Institute: Croatan Institute, an independent institute for advanced social and environmental research and engagement based in Durham, researches a variety of topics including local food economies. Their July 2016 publication explores place-based impact investing in Southern rural value chains: access the publication here.