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Local food

Definition and scope

"Local food" commonly describes food that has been produced, processed, and distributed within a particular geographic boundary or is associated with a particular geographic region…. The term "local" has been contested and debated, but is largely defined by the particular context in which it is being used, often defined and redefined to meet the needs of the retailer, producer, or organization in each situation. For the most part, definitions of "local" tend to be associated with issues such as sustainability, quality, authenticity, and community. Consumers often define local food in a geographic sense, but don't necessarily assign a minimum distance. They are more likely to buy from the closest possible source for each food item.
-- From the Encyclopedia of Organic, Sustainable, and Local Food

This research guide offers a starting point for locating resources and information related to "local food" in the context of the definition above. The concept of "local food" can be viewed through a variety of filters: food production and quality, food security, food policy, nutrition, ecology, agriculture, environmentalism, politics, business/marketing, food industry, and community. For more information about these various aspects of local food, consult related subject guides (e.g., Agriculture and Applied Economics or Sustainable Agriculture; Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise; Business; Marketing; Environmental Sciences; or Political Science, Government, and International Affairs). All subject guides can be found on the main Subject guides page.

Synonyms or alternative search terms

  • Alternative agriculture
  • Carbon footprint
  • Community gardens
  • Community-based agriculture
  • Community-based economics
  • Community-supported agriculture (CSA)
  • Direct agricultural markets
  • Family farms
  • Farmers markets
  • Food consumption
  • Food cooperatives (coops)
  • Food miles
  • Food patriotism
  • Food policy
  • Green politics
  • Local food movement
  • Local independent processors
  • Localist agriculture
  • Regional food
  • Rural sustainability
  • Seed savers
  • Slow food
  • Urban agriculture

Addison and Summon

In addition to the keywords/search terms listed above, use the following phrases as a subject search within Addison or Summon. To do this, select the Subject Search and this will refine results to items only related to the subject you've entered.

To achieve a narrower set of results, try using the Addison Advanced Search screen. Enter the following terms as "Subject"—a drop-down choice in the search boxes provided—with additional keywords (cities, states, countries, programs, etc.) in the following search box(es) with "Any Field" selected in the drop-box.

  • Agricultural ecology
  • Agriculture
  • Alternative agriculture
  • Community life
  • Community-supported agriculture
  • Family farms
  • Farmers' markets
  • Farms, small
  • Food habits
  • Food security
  • Food supply
  • Human ecology
  • Local foods
  • Organic farming
  • Sustainable agriculture

Selected library resources

Many items found within Newman Library specifically address the issue of local food. Locate the following items in the library, and browse around in the general area where they are found for other, related resources. Note that the first resource listed is Virginia Tech's 2010-11 Common Book.


The databases described below are good places to begin looking for literature about local foods and related topics. When searching through these databases, use the keywords, synonyms, or Addison subject terms listed above. With many of these databases, remember that it is possible to limit results to literature published within a certain time frame, in a certain language, or by a certain author. For help with effectively searching these databases, view the University Libraries' Screencasts (tutorials).

AGRICOLA from ProQuest

    ProQuest search screen
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Sponsored by VIVA, the Virtual Library of Virginia Screencast tutorials available for this resource Contents of this resource available through Summon database provides Get VText links

AGRICOLA from ProQuest

AGRICOLA indexes citations for journal articles, books, proceedings, theses, patents, translations, audiovisual materials, computer software, and technical reports pertaining to all aspects of agriculture, life sciences, nutrition, and environmental science. This database provides selective worldwide coverage of primary information sources in agriculture and related fields. You can limit to peer-reviewed sources. 1970-present.  

Full record

CAB Abstracts from CABDirect

This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Screencast tutorials available for this resource database provides Get VText links

CAB Abstracts from CABDirect

CAB Abstracts indexes citations and abstracts from journals, books, reports, handbooks, conference proceedings, field notes, and theses in agriculture, life sciences, natural resources, veterinary sciences, applied economics, nutrition, tourism, and the environment. Includes the CAB Abstracts Archive. Some full text available as PDFs. 1910s-present.  

Full record

FSTA - Food Science and Technology Abstracts from EBSCOhost

    EBSCOhost interface
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only This resource provides a mobile interface; see description for link Screencast tutorials available for this resource database provides Get VText links

FSTA - Food Science and Technology Abstracts from EBSCOhost

Food Science and Technology Abstracts indexes citations, abstracts, and full text from journal articles, conference proceedings, books, legislation, patents, reports, and theses and dissertations on the medical and biological aspects of food and nutrition. Full text is available as HTML and PDF. Coverage includes human and pet foods. 1969-present. Limited to   simultaneous users.  

Full record

PubMed/MEDLINE from the NLM

    National Library of Medicine
This resource is freely accessible This resource provides a mobile interface; see description for link Screencast tutorials available for this resource Contents of this resource available through Summon database provides Get VText links

PubMed/MEDLINE from the NLM

PubMed indexes citations, abstracts, and some full text for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books in the life sciences, including the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and preclinical sciences. Advanced search limits include types of articles (such as clinical trial, case reports, or review), human or animal studies, and age of subjects. Full text provided as HTML and PDF. 1947-present.  

Full record


Alternative Farming Systems Information Center from the National Agricultural Library
The AFSIC specializes in identifying resources about sustainable food systems and practices, supporting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's effort to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and farmers throughout the world. This regularly updated website includes a feed of the most recent news relating to sustainable agriculture and local food and points its visitors to related pages from the USDA and the National Agricultural Library. Related sources found on this page reflect the most recent information about organic food and farming, local farmers, community supported agriculture, and government offices and projects related to sustainable agriculture.
Farmland Information Center
The Farmland Information Center represents a partnership between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and American Farmland Trust. This site incorporates articles, books, fact sheets, technical memos, and reports relating to farming, conservation, local resources, and more. Additionally, the statistics area of the FIC offers frequently requested data from the Natural Resources Inventory such as the Census of Agriculture.
Community Supported Agriculture from the National Agricultural Library
This NAL publication provides a working definition of community supported agriculture while offering an updated, national directory of CSA farms, surveys, statistics, and resources for more information related to community supported agriculture. Nearly all of the information provided on this page comes from federal and state government resources or university studies.
Farm to School
The National Farm to School Network is a collaborative project of the Center for Food & Justice, which is a division of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, and the Community Food Security Coalition. It aims to bring healthy food from local farms to schoolchildren throughout the nation, teaching children about the path from “farm to fork” and instilling healthy eating habits. The program also strives to support local farms and communities. The Farm to School website offers detailed information about all of the existing Farm to School programs, case studies, evaluations, curricular resources, and funding opportunities related to local foods.
Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing from the United States Department of Agriculture
This USDA publication offers national farmers market facts, statistics, developments, trends, and promotions relating to local food vendors. Information about funding opportunities, starting a farmers market, and locating a farmers market can also be found on this page.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food from the United States Department of Agriculture
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food is a USDA initiative that promotes sustainable local and regional food systems that has the combined mission of: supporting local farmers, strengthening communities, promoting healthy eating, and protecting natural resources. The website serves as a portal of information on the USDA's efforts revolving around each part of this mission to reinvigorate the nation's local and regional food systems.
Nutrition Assistance Programs & Community Food Systems from the National Agricultural Library
This NAL publication makes the connection between nutrition and community food systems. It provides a general overview of community food systems, a list of resources on sustainable agriculture, information on farmers markets and food entrepreneurship, and links to related, nongovernmental organizations such as the FoodRoutes Network, FoodShare, the Food Circles Networking Project and the Food Trust.

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