Best Practice

GreenStep City Best Practices: Resilient Economic and Community Development
Local Food {BP No. 27}

Strengthen local food and fiber production and access.

Best Practice Actions

a. An agriculture and forest protection district.
b. A local food production district.
c. Performance standards for minor and major agricultural retail.

a. A farmer's market or co-op buying club.
b. An urban agriculture business or a community-supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement between farmers and community members/employees.
c. A community or school garden, orchard or forest.

a. Purchasing of local/organic/humane/equitable foods by schools, hospitals, nursing homes and event centers.
b. Sales of local/organic/humane/equitable food in markets, retail food co-ops, rural grocery stores, urban convenience stores, food carts/trucks, hotels and restaurants.

Optional Best Practice for Step 3 Recognition

Category A, B and C cities: implement this best practice by completing any one action.

Optional Metric for Step 4 Recognition

Metric # 15: Local Food


The goals of this best practice are to:

  • Protect and expand food- and fiber-producing land within and near the city.
  • Increase the availability of locally produced food, and culturally relevant food, for residents and food businesses.

Depending on the specific action(s) taken, benefits of implementing this best practice include increased food security for residents, more healthful food and improved human health, food reflective of residents' cultural heritage, enhanced soil and water quality, reductions in energy use and CO2 emissions, improved wildlife habitat, enhanced community livability and vitality, creation of green jobs, and stronger local economies. For farmers markets alone, of each $100 spent by community members, $62 stays in the local economy and $99 stays in Minnesota's economy. And for farm-to-school programs, every $1 invested in them generates $2.16 back to the local economy according to the National Farm to School Network.

Greenstep Advisor

Helen Schnoes headshot

Helen Schnoes, Regional Marketing Specialist, MN Department of Agriculture: 651/201-6184, 

Connection to State Policy

The MN Department of Health's Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funds community health boards and tribal governments across Minnesota to increase access to healthy foods.


Major Benefit

  • Providing city residents with regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables (stores with an NAICS code of 445110 or 445230) within a mile of their home (a 20-min. walk), or within a half-mile of a transit line, has documented health benefits and mitigates what are described as food deserts. See the Minnesota Food Charter Food Access Planning Guide, a resource for planners and community food advocates, making the case for local food to ensure all Minnesota communities have reliable access to healthy, safe, affordable food. See also the Design for Health food access page and a 2016 report to the MN Legislature on Urban Agriculture in Minnesota.
  • Local Food Systems as Regional Economic Drivers In Southern Minnesota (McKnight Foundation: 2012) provides an overview of the fast-growing, complex and dynamic local food system in Minnesota. The Multiple Benefits of Agriculture Initiative of the MN-based Land Stewardship Project quantified the benefits from diversifying the agricultural landscape in watershed settings.
  • Exploring Markets for Local Foods provides economic data from University Extension efforts to connect local growers to local institutional foods buyers such as schools, nursing homes.
  • The Climate-Friendly Gardener: A Guide to Combating Global Warming from the Ground Up (Union for Concerned Scientists: 2010) summarizes the science linking plants, soil, carbon dioxide, and other heat-trapping gases, and offers tips for planning a garden that takes advantage of these connections.
  • The Food and Farming Transition: Toward a Post-Carbon Food System (Post Carbon Institute: 2009). There are multiple benefits of supporting local and organic food systems, and climate benefits of eating lower on the food chain (Weber & Matthews: 2008). Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food. The path to supporting the anticipated 10 billion people expected to populate the earth by 2050 [up from 7.7 billion in 2019) is increasing the amount of food produced per acre, followed by reducing red meat consumption and eliminating the wasting of one-third of food produced.
  • Low Carbon Diet Calculator from Bon Appetit Management Company. Note also that preventing food waste is a substantial action to lower the total carbon footprint of food.