Food System Assessments and Toolkits

eOrganic authors:

Garry Stephenson, Oregon State University

Debra Sohm-Lawson

Food System Assessments

  • The report Supply Chain Basics: The Dynamics of Change in the U.S. Food Marketing Environment from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service focuses on helping small- and medium-sized farmers take advantage of the shifts in today's retail food marketplace.
  • The Dynamics of Change is the latest link in the Supply Chain Basics series of reports that help farmers understand the changing nature of today's food marketing environment. Other reports in the series focus on logistical technology (Technology: How Much-How Soon) and niche marketing (The Logistics of Niche Agricultural Marketing).

    This report examines the changes in the retail marketing environment, especially as it affects the relationship between grocery stores and their vendors. It covers such areas as consolidation in the retail food marketing sector, increases in direct collaboration between retailers and vendors, and the ways retailers can differentiate themselves from their competitors by featuring greater varieties of specialty or locally produced or manufactured items. This evolving marketing environment, combined with the increasing flexibility of individual stores to make procurement decisions, offers new opportunities to smaller-scale growers and processors. The report discusses ways to highlight their unique product offerings and geographic proximity to retail buyers as a competitive advantage.

    "Small farmers who are seeking alternative ways to market their products will find this report extremely useful," said AMS Administrator Lloyd Day. The report brings food producers up to speed on the evolving nature of the food marketing environment.

  • The paper Comparing apples to apples: An Iowa perspective on apples and local food systems by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture contrasts and discusses two representative apple food systems and examine their implications for other local food systems.
  • Many consumers do not understand the current national and global food production system, where much of the food production and processing takes place far away from where consumers live and buy their groceries. Several recent market studies, however, have described a market segment of 25 percent of the U.S. population whose purchasing decisions are increasingly guided by their social and environmental values. Many farmers want to better understand the current food system and modify it so they can receive more of the consumer dollar for the food they produce. Local food systems provide an opportunity for farmers and consumers to build mutually beneficial relationships around food.


Food System Evaluation Toolkit

  • The expanded and comprehensive third editions of the Community Food Project Evaluation Handbook and The Community Food Project Evaluation Toolkit from the Community Food Security Coalition are packed with detailed information and worksheets. The CFP Evaluation Handbook will walk the reader through all stages of developing and implementing outcome based program evaluation, specific to community food security projects. The Toolkit includes evaluation protocols and template surveys for program satisfaction, training and technical assistance, focus groups, farmers' markets, community gardens, community support agriculture projects, farm to school projects, coalitions and the Common Output Tracking Form.


  • Supply chain basics: The dynamics of change in the U.S. food marketing environment. D.Tropp, E. Ragland, and J. Barham. 2008. Agricultural Marketing Service, United States Department of Agriculture. (Available online at: (verified 5 Mar 2010).
  • Comparing apples to apples: An Iowa perspective on apples and local food systems. R. Priog and J. Tyndall. Undated. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Iowa State University. Ames, IA. (Available online at: (verified 5 Mar 2010).
  • Community food project evaluation handbook and the community food project evaluation toolkit. Community Food Security Coalition. Portland, OR.


Published January 19, 2009

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.