Tag Archives: food systems

Exploring Stories of Innovation: Local Government Food Systems Planning and Policy

Growing Food Connections announced Exploring Stories of Innovation, a series of short articles that explore how local governments from across the United States are strengthening their community’s food system through planning and policy.

Beginning in 2012, Growing Food Connections (GFC) conducted a national scan and identified 299 local governments across the United States that are developing and implementing a range of innovative plans, public programs, regulations, laws, financial investments and other policies to strengthen the food system. GFC conducted exploratory telephone interviews with 20 of these local governments. This series will highlight some of the unique planning and policy strategies used by these urban and rural local governments to enhance community food security while ensuring sustainable and economically viable agriculture and food production. The first four articles in the series feature Seattle, WA; Baltimore, MD; Cabarrus County, NC; and Lancaster County, PA.

For more information and to download these free articles, visit http://growingfoodconnections.org/research/communities-of-innovation/.

Growing Food Connections is made possible with a grant from the USDA /NIFA AFRI Food Systems Program NIFA Award #2012-68004-19894. Partners include American Farmland Trust, American Planning Association, Cultivating Healthy Places, Ohio State University, and University at Buffalo.

Growing Food Connections Policy Database

Municipalities and counties got a big boost yesterday, in Lexington, KY at the American Farmland Trust National Conference, with the unveiling of a searchable database with more than 100 newly adopted innovative, local government food system policies that can be shared and adapted across the country. The Growing Food Connections Policy Database, hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, will assist local governments as they work to broaden access to healthy food and help sustain local farms and food producers.


Growing Food Connections, a federally-funded research initiative to strengthen community food systems nationwide, has compiled over 100 policies governing issues as diverse as public investment in food systems, farmland protection, local food procurement and food policy council resolutions.

The content development for the database was led by Kimberley Hodgson, Principal, Cultivating Healthy Places, in partnership with the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo, American Planning Association, American Farmland Trust and Ohio State University.

Growing Food Connections is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Local governments constantly search for ways to strengthen the local food economy and provide better access to healthy, local foods through public policy,” said Kimberley Hodgson, planner and co-investigator for Growing Food Connections. “This database will serve as an important tool to help local governments enact the kind of policies that will positively impact their local food systems.”

The database is a comprehensive catalog of enacted food policy. By drawing upon partner resources and networks, the database provides a vast resource of policies that have been implemented and are currently being used by communities. Furthermore, it provides inspiration for communities looking to start building their own food policy. The policies span different geographic regions, sizes of government, rural and urban areas, policy topics and policy types. This database is a useful resource particularly for government officials, planning and public health professionals, academics, and students.

“Until about a decade ago, many of these public policies did not exist,” said Samina Raja, PhD, Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo and Principal Investigator of Growing Food Connections. “The adoption of these policies signals that local governments in the United States are finally beginning to recognize the need to invest in food systems just as much as other public infrastructure such as housing and transportation,” she said. The policy database will grow over the course of the project and is organized to promote the sharing and adaptation of policies across communities.

In addition to the local government policy database, Growing Food Connections supports information-sharing and community education through a Food Systems Reader and growing list of publications via its website. The program is also developing an intensive program of research, education, technical assistance and extension activities for 10 Communities of Opportunity, or regions poised to tackle their food access challenges and agricultural viability, across the U.S.

Community-Based Farming in Southern British Columbia


Many farms and organizations throughout North America are interested in the social, economic, and environmental benefits of community-based farming. Innovative programs and food system enterprises aimed at enabling community-based farming include examples such as Intervale (Burlington, Vermont), Serenbe (Atlanta, Georgia), 21 Acres (Woodinville, Washington), Zenger Farm (Portland, Oregon), Fairview Gardens (Golita, California) and Prairie Crossing (Grayslake, Illinois). More recently, new community-based farms such as the Black Creek Community Farm in Toronto have been planned and are currently being launched.

The Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan – developed by Tara Moreau, Owner of Grow Moreau Consulting, and Kimberley Hodgson, Founder of Cultivating Healthy Places – provides an example of how a community-based farm can be developed in southern British Columbia.

What is community-based farming?

Community-based farming is the production, processing, distribution, and marketing of food and other products that cultivate direct connections between farmers and the adjacent community. Community-based farming:

  • Builds community through the interaction of people with the land;
  • Promotes small-scale, sustainable agriculture;
  • Protects and enhances natural habitat for wildlife;
  • Creates aesthetically pleasing landscapes, and;
  • Embraces the local and regional context.

Community-based farming generally occurs at a smaller-scale, allowing for a greater diversity of farm types; depends on cooperative government systems, such as shared facilities and equipment, for economic short-term feasibility and long-term viability; encourages interaction between farmers and residents; and provides economic activity through direct market sales neighborhood farmers markets and other supportive economic infrastructure.

The Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan

The Southlands property, a tract of land in the southeast quadrant of Tsawwassen in Delta, British Columbia, is currently owned by Century Group Lands Corporation. In October 2006, Century Group outlined a broad, sustainable land use vision for Southlands. To achieve this vision, Century Group’s proposal includes mixed-use development on 20% of the site, and agriculture, natural habitat, and recreation uses on the remaining 80%. This proposal dedicates 279.2 acres for agricultural uses.


The Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan illustrates how the agricultural area of the Southlands property can support the development of community-based farming over the next 30 years, by:

  • Identifying a 30 year vision and goals for community-based farming and related food system activities on the land;
  • Identifying and describing a diversity of community farm types that could be used to achieve the long-range vision and goals;
  • Proposing a potential governance and management structure for how to connect, coordinate, and manage the various farm types;
  • Exploring potential steps and estimated costs required for implementing the farm types; and
  • Exploring the potential economic, ecological and social benefits of the farm types to the immediate and surrounding communities.


The Delta Community-Based Farm District has the potential to provide a number of health, social, economic, and ecological benefits to Delta residents and surrounding communities, including: increased access to healthy food by increasing the production of a diverse range of fruits and vegetables; empowerment and mobilization of new farmers by providing access to land, education and farming communities; and ecological stewardship by ensuring that farmers meet specific sustainability standards.

An exploration of this specific scenario reveals significant economic benefits for Delta and its residents. These estimated annual benefits include over $2.39 million per year in net revenue for farmers, approximately 26 full-time jobs per year created, and $281,645 per year in net revenue for the proposed governing non-profit organization. Total net revenue for the 30-year time period would be approximately $2.8 million for the proposed governing non-profit organization. Startup costs for this scenario would be $1.9 million for farmers and $1.6 million for the governing entity.

This scenario demonstrates how such a community-based farming endeavor could be economically self-sufficient after only ten years of operation and serve as an innovative model for community-based farming in Metro Vancouver and beyond.

For more information about the Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan and to view a copy of the full plan, click here.

About the Authors

Tara Moreau, PhD. Dr. Moreau is a sustainable agriculture scientist. Over the past decade, her research has focused on the science, planning, and policy of sustainable food systems. As the sole proprietor of Grow Moreau, her expertise around climate change, urban agriculture and integrated pest management give her a diverse background into the implementation of sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD. Hodgson is the founder of Cultivating Healthy Places, an international consulting business specializing in community health, social equity, and sustainable food systems planning. As a certified planner and health professional, her work focuses on conducting policy-relevant research and providing technical assistance to the public and private sectors related to the design and development of healthy, sustainable places.

New Report from APA: Healthy Planning

The American Planning Association’s Planning and Community Health Research Center recently released a new publication – Healthy Planning: An Evaluation Of Comprehensive And Sustainability Plans Addressing Public Health. This report provides results from an evaluation of 18 local comprehensive plans and 4 sustainability plans from local governments across the United States that address various public health topics and issue areas in their local level plans. Results highlight the progress of specific localities in addressing public health, but also reveal the slowness of the planning field to fully embrace public health as an important societal issue.

This evaluation is part of a multiphase research study that began in 2010 for the purpose of identifying “local planning responses to important health issues [and examining] how comprehensive and sustainability plans can promote long-term community health.”

The multiphase study commenced with a national survey to identify local governments across the U.S. that are actively planning for public health. According to the survey, only 260 and 51 respondents indicated that their local comprehensive plan or sustainability plan, respectively, contains explicit goals or policies that address public health.

Not surprisingly, traditional public health topics, like clean water and air, emergency preparedness, and public safety were cited the most. However topics related to chronic disease, social health and equity; and food and nutrition – all high priority public health issue areas – were only addressed by 6.7%, 12.6%, and 8.7% of the identified comprehensive plans, and 4.9%, 35.3%, and 22.2% of identified sustainability plans that explicitly addressed public health.

Based on specific criteria (such as geographic spread, plan adoption date, population, and inclusion of 10 or more health related topics), APA staff and its advisory committee selected a handful of these identified plans for further evaluation. Selected comprehensive plans included Alachua County, FL; Baltimore County, MD; Chino, CA; Washington, DC; Don Ana County, NM; Dubuque, IA; Easton, PA; Fort Worth, TX’ Kings County, CA; Niagara County, NY; North Miami, FL; Omaha, NE; Oneida Nation, WI; Palm Beach County, FL; Raleigh, NC; San Diego City, CA; South Gate, CA; and Trenton, NJ. Selected sustainability plans included San Francisco, CA; Grand Rapids, MI; Philadelphia, PA; and Mansfield, CT.

The APA team developed an evaluation tool to evaluate the extent to which these plans address various components of public health, the overall quality and structure of each plan, and the implementation strategies used to achieve public health goals. Results of the evaluation revealed that overall, the plans made clear connections between planning, the built environment and public health impacts. However, goals and policies related to active living were strongest, while explicit connections to other public health issues, like food and nutrition, social cohesion and mental health, and health and human services were less frequent and not comprehensive. Plans that included a standalone health element tended to have a greater and more comprehensive emphasis on health, than plans that integrated public health throughout. One of the most noticeable weaknesses of the evaluated plans was the “lack of explicit discussion about how the built environment can affect a range of public health factors”. Additionally, public health data was often not utilized to support public health related goals and policies.

The results of this research point to the need to further educate planners about the connections between the built, natural, and social environments, and public health. While planning has its roots in public health, the field has a long way to go before it fully embraces public heath – in all its dimensions. After all, how can a community be truly sustainable without a healthy population?

Cultivating Healthy Places’ founder, Kimberley Hodgson, led the initiation of this multiphase research study, when she was the Manager of APA’s Planning and Community Health Research Center from 2008 to 2011. She currently serves on the advisory committee for this study. 

This blog post was originally published on Virginia Tech’s Sustainability Planning Lab Blog: http://www.sustainabilityplanninglab.com/planning-for-public-health/.