About Us


Helping You Grow as a Professional!

Folks in a fieldThe North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN) was founded in 2015 to offer leadership and technical skills training, networking, and other professional development opportunities for the growing group of individuals supporting the development of equitable and sustainable local and regional food systems.

Members range from farm educators and community nutritionists to planners, activists, and scholars. The mission of this community of practice is to coalesce the current disparate group of practitioners, and build individual and collective capacity to solve pressing food and agriculture issues on the continent. Presently there are many innovative solutions and pioneering organizations working to address and understand the complex issues of food systems−for example, working to eliminate causes of food deserts, obesity, hunger, and other food-related human health issues as well as working to increase sustainable farming practices, ecological and economic health of farms and rural areas, and creating viable markets.

There is a need for holistic collaboration and coordination between and among these efforts. Leaders are needed to guide and propel all these efforts, and NAFSN aims to provide the tools to build the necessary human capital and create a place for sharing and collective learning. NAFSN expects to see a growth in competencies, increased best practices, and more effective targeting of resources as outcomes of its efforts.

NAFSN's History

The impetus for NAFSN (presently a project of the Center for Transformative Action, a nonprofit affiliated with Cornell University) was a survey conducted in 2012 in which 1,300 respondents across North America, who identified as working in food systems, reported concerns about the viability of the projects they work on as well as their own livelihoods. Citing the need for training in asset inventorying, economic impacts, and project evaluation, an overwhelming majority of the respondents expressed interest in joining an organization that would cater to their professional development needs. Some professional development training is currently available but not widely accessible, especially for those with limited time and/or resources. Download the NAFSN White Paper to learn more about the survey results and development of NAFSN.


To guide the development of NAFSN, a Working Group of over 100 individuals was initially formed, along with a smaller NAFSN Steering Committee to explore the options for structuring the network and advancing the vision. Today NAFSN is led by a volunteer Leadership Circle and uses a modified form of sociocracy, in which decisions are made by consent.

NAFSN also has memoranda of understanding with 12 national partner organizations. These partners have ex-officio representation on the Leadership Circle and advise on network programs and policies.

For more information, contact NAFSN Leadership Circle Chair This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contacting NAFSN

NAFSN is facilitated by the Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems, a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Transformative Action (CTA), an affiliate of Cornell University. CTA, an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is legally and financially responsible for all our project activities.

Lyson Center office address: 295 Hook Place, Ithaca, New York 14850 USA

CTA address: Mailing: P.O. Box 760, Ithaca, NY 14851 USA | Physical: 119 Anabel Taylor Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA

Customer service: For questions or technical issues with joining NAFSN, contact Amy Christian