Food Systems

Our Food Systems Team supports the development of thriving local food systems statewide, in partnership with county extension staff and many other community collaborators.

Our Clients and Goals

We serve community coalitions, educators, non-profits, county extension staff, and farm and food businesses across Iowa. 

We strive to:

  • Elevate equity in the food system through practice and dialogue.
  • Promote and assist in the viability and visibility of farm and food businesses. 
  • Support a culture of local food purchasing and access to nutritious and culturally relevant foods through procurement, farming and gardening, and self-sufficient practices.
  • Strengthen food systems communities of practice and encourage personal growth and leadership opportunities.

Our Values

Equity by working to maintain a truthful and transparent communication and interpretation with partners and communities about who we are and our work, including acknowledgement of historical systems of oppression in agriculture and education. 

Systems Thinking by seeking connection between intersecting food system sectors, community assets and resources to enhance our food system. 

Collective Action by centering opportunities for collaborative work in projects and partnerships, with the intention of long-term system change. 

Responsive Education by supporting educational opportunities that prioritize culturally relevant, community-owned information, in response to unique contexts and community needs. 

Relationship + Networking by building authentic, respectful partnerships for shared understanding and trust. 

Programs and Services

Learn more about our service areas and programs.

A multi-phased, multi-year program that partners with communities to develop and design their local and regional food system.

Increases access to locally-grown food and food educations for children and families by building cross-sector partnerships to advance programs and policies in schools, early care settings, and the food system.

Nationally-recognized food systems certifications that teach foundational competencies and skills critical for successful food systems development in communities. 

Title page of the Iowa Farm to Early Care Education 2023 Success Story Report

Reports & Publications

Learn more about our work through our team's reports and publications.

Food Systems Framework

Food Systems Diagram with sectors: Cultivation and harvesting, processing and transformation, aggregation and distribution, purchasing and nourishment, and conservation and stewardship.; and assets: built infrastructure, culture and wellness, diversity, equity and inclusion, economy and finance, government and policy, knowledge and wisdom, and natural environment.

The Food System

Food systems are complex, dynamic, and involve numerous interactive sectors across the food supply as well as interactions across and within community assets. 

In 2023, we revised this framework based on literature review from indigenous food systems, partner communities and Universities, Local Food Leader and Community Food Systems certified partners, and the 2023 Resilient Community Food Systems: Intersectional analysis across impacts, values, and organizational capacity dissertation from Dr. Long. This led to the newly adopted framework of five food system sectors (interior ring in image to the left) ranging from cultivation and harvesting to conservation and stewardship. Because of the nested aspect of our food systems, despite what scale we may be working in, we recognize that food systems work within larger complex community systems.

Food System Sectors

We recognize five food system sectors ranging from cultivation and harvesting to conservation and stewardship. 

Icon of agricultural land, with a stream, fish, carrots, and livestock. Cultivation and Harvesting: Practice of science, art, or occupation that involves cultivating land, raising livestock, hunting, foraging, fishing, and other maritime practices.
Processing and Transformation icon of an apple becoming a baked apple pie. Defined as: change of raw ingredient through physical alteration or marketing practices into a new product.
Aggregation and Distribution icon of a shopping basket with food going into a truck for distributing. Defined as: movement of products, including the gathering and delivery, to markets and buyers.
Purchasing and Nourishment icon of two individuals sitting at a table while eating and chatting. Defined as: use of foods including individual purchase, culinary activities, and programming for personal and community sustenance.
Conservation and stewardship icon of a hand holding out a leaf. Defined as: care of natural resources to ensure continuation of energy, food, and water.

Food System Assets

We recognize seven food system assets ranging from built infrastructure to natural environment.

Built Infrastructure icon of a road in green hills leading in to a city with skyscrapers and windmills. Defined as: developed buildings, roadways, and systems.
Culture and Wellness icon of three individuals standing with leaves above their heads. Defined as: individual and population health through traditional and western practices.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion icon of three individuals of varying heights each standing on a block that places them at equal heights with a tree branch above them. Defined as: same status and equal access to goods, services, and power.
Economy and Finance icon with a house whose roof turns into an arrow point upward to the right representing a bar chart and growth. Defined as: community and individual wealth, finances, and resources.
Governance and policy icon of a gavel and a bill with a checkmark. Defined as: democratic practices and principles or actions adopted by groups, communities, and government.
Knowledge and Wisdom icon of a book laying open with a lightbulb, science beaker, and magnifying glass coming out of it. Defined as: experiences, formal education, and historical knowledge.
Natural Environment icon of sun shining over land and water. Defined as: interactions of climate, living species, weather, and our natural resources.

Extension Areas

Our team has a unique placement in ISU Extension and Outreach, working in both Agriculture and Natural Resources and Community and Economic Development Extension.


Learn more about how each of these areas are Building a #StrongIowa.

Contact Info

The Food Systems Team is managed by Courtney Long

(515) 461-3227

Food Systems Team

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Food Systems Program Manager
(515) 460-3227
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Education Extension Specialist II
(515) 294-0648
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Education Extension Specialist
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Education Extension Specialist
(515) 294-1854
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Communications Specialist II
(515) 294-3086
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Business Administrator I - Agriculture
(515) 294-8946
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Farm to Early Care and Education Coordinator
(515) 491-6740
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Data Analyst I - Community and Economic Development
(515) 294-8397