To boil it down, a food system is “the path that food travels from field to fork.” (Learn, Grow, Connect)

The scale of food systems can vary. Our current agriculture policies encourage the growth of large-scale food systems on a globalized scale. However, this large-scale has negatively impacted our environment and our local economies, causing a movement back to a small-scale: food systems within our local communities. (Growing Food Connection)

How does local food reach the consumer? In local community food systems, there are two primary ways that producers get their product in the hands of the consumer. The first is called a Direct-to-Consumer Market, the second a Direct to Retail, Foodservice, and Institution Market.


  • Farmers’ Markets, where farmers may have to pay a vender’s fee to participate and can sell their produce to consumers.
  • Community Supported Agriculture, where a consumer buys a “share” of a local farm’s projected harvest, and shares the risks and rewards of farming between both parties.
  • Other Direct-to-Consumer Programs, such as pick-your-own farms and on-site farm stands that allow consumers to gather crops left in the fields after a harvest.

Direct to Retail, Foodservice, and Institution:

  • Farms provide products directly to retail, foodservice, and institutions. Often these programs cut out the middlemen involved in storing, processing, and transporting the products. Because farmers are local to these businesses, the farmer is able to handle the exchange without a corporate middleman. (Sustainable Table)

With the goal of improving the livelihood of the farmers and the quality of life of the consumers, Local Community Food Systems can be found throughout the nation, including our own Harris County. To find local produce and farmers markets in Houston, check out Houston Local Food.