Sustainable Agriculture: Municipal Food System Toolkit

Project Background

Farmers Market

What is a food system? At what scale does it operate? How can I improve my local food system?

The Municipal Food System Toolkit for MAPC Communities was created by CLF Ventures (CLFV), Conservation Law Foundation’s consulting affiliate, in partnership with MAPC, to answer these types of questions and provide resources for municipalities to support their important role in sustaining the Massachusetts food system.

The Massachusetts Food Policy Council defines a food system as “a complex, adaptive network with the flow of food products through production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management,” as shown in the diagram below.

Food System Diagram

Essentially, a food system includes every part of the process that puts food on our tables—from seed to plate. The Massachusetts food system includes locally produced foods, as well as imported foods that supplement our supply.

MAPC’s Role

MAPC’s Sustainable Communities Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, supported CLFV’s development of the Toolkit. The Toolkit includes tools and resources designed to guide municipal officials through the process of improving their local food systems.

The project supports the following MetroFuture goals:

  • # 42: The region’s agricultural economy will grow through a focus on sustainable farming and by bringing more locally produced foods to the market.
  • #65: A robust network of protected open spaces, farms, parks, and greenways will provide wildlife habitat, ecological benefits, recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty.

Why it’s Important

Food system activities create economic value; residents and communities benefit from access to affordable, safe, fresh, and healthy food; and locally grown food can reduce the environmental impacts associated with mono-cropping and long distance transport. In addition, supporting agriculture-related enterprises, such as composting and related food service businesses, in Massachusetts communities can create jobs, expand the market for locally grown and processed food, and keep food dollars in the local economy.


Project Resources

Municipal officials should use this Toolkit as they work with agricultural producers, residents, and other stakeholders to identify their food system priorities, assess the current state of their local system, and implement projects that will improve the quality of life in their communities.

The Toolkit is divided into seven chapters:

  • Chapters 1 and 2 – Food System Education
  • Chapter 3 – Connecting Food System Issues to Municipal Priorities.
  • Chapter 4 – Creating a Food System Group and Conducting a Local Food System Assessment
  • Chapter 5 – Community Engagement and Stakeholder Analysis
  • Chapter 6 – Tools
  • Chapter 7 – Case Studies/Projects

The full Toolkit can be accessed below.

Additional Resources

MAPC Resources:

  • Massachusetts Food System Plan project
  • Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination Agricultural Planning Program

External Resources:

  • Massachusetts Department of Agriculture
  • Municipal Assoc. of Agricultural Commissions
  • UMass Extension Center for Agriculture


For more information, please contact Heidi Stucker, Regional and Food System Planner (617-933-0739 or or Jasmine Tanguay, CLFV Managing Director, (617-850-1787 or