August 18, 2020

Contact(s): Sue Beckwith, Texas Center for Local Food, 512-496-1244

Courtney Long, program manager, ISU Extension and Outreach Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program,, 515-460-3227

ELGIN, TEXAS – A growing number of practitioners across the US are working to create and enhance thriving, equitable local and regional food systems. These food system practitioners have identified a need for professional development opportunities to build their skills and capacities and are pleased to release their report today.

In August 2019, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) formed a cooperative agreement with the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program to work with national partners to develop a set of core competencies that food system practitioners deemed essential to their success.

Under the leadership of program director Craig Chase and program manager Courtney Long, a diverse group of more than 30 partners including the Texas Center for Local Food, identified nine core competency categories for food system practitioners. Categories range from community capacity and equity to policy and business development.  

The group then agreed upon a set of sample learning objectives related to each competency. Finally, based on a national survey, the team developed a matrix of existing curricula from providers across the US that can meet one or more of the learning objectives. 

“Relating to agricultural marketing, extension educators identified a need for curricula that address emerging markets and consumer trends,” said Courtney Long. “Building skills in those areas will help food businesses and farmer clients improve profitability.”

“As a result of the burgeoning consumer interest in local food, we are seeing expanding career opportunities across the food system from increasing food access to enhancing economic development to catalyzing food business opportunities to reducing food waste,” said Sue Beckwith, Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food. “By identifying the requisite core competencies and essential skills, we have created the foundation for focused professional development that will increase our effectiveness and quality of work individually and collectively.”

The next step recommended by the project team is to create an online public access portal listing existing curricula based on the identified competencies. The portal also would offer information to assist food systems practitioners in understanding the logistics of accessing the curricula (location, costs, registration, etc.)


The Texas Center for Local Food provides education, research, and technical assistance to create regional food systems in Texas that support prosperous family farms, healthy Texans and vibrant rural economies.  The Texas Center for Local Food is financially supported by members.  We invite you to join us today to support this important work.

Related links:

Group photo of about 30 adults who worked together on the core curriculum project.
The Food Systems Core Competencies Project partners met in October 2019 in Chicago to begin developing a list of food system training requirements and available curricula.
Photo Credit: ISU Extension and Outreach

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