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Local, Regional & Safe Foods Unit logoSustainable Community and Local Food Systems

The farm to table movement is growing in Arkansas. Many communities have created farmers markets, established community gardens, started serving farm fresh food in school cafeterias and more. Arkansas is seeing an increased interests in sustainable agriculture and locally grown foods. A growing number of farms are producing a wide variety of locally produced vegetables, fruits, grain, nuts, seeds and livestock.  Agritourism, specialty crop farming/specialty food products, and local food retailers are on the rise. And food business entrepreneurs are looking for ways to turn their recipes into successful businesses.

What We Do

Our team strives to build a more resilient and sustainable community food system in Arkansas by providing programs and activities that connect people and communities to research-based resources, timely information, and meaningful connections.

Through our Share Grounds Commercial Kitchens project, we assist those interested in starting a local food business or aggregating local food products with technical assistance, permitted production facilities, and partnership opportunities. Through our Produce Safety program, we assist growers with understanding and applying good agricultural practices on the farm and in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule.

What is a Sustainable Community Food System?

A sustainable food system is one that provides healthy food to meet current needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment.

A sustainable food system encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers and communities.

- American Public Health Association 

What resources do we provide?

Below, you can find events and resources on food systems, food business development, and fresh produce production food safety.

Upcoming Events

Want to start a vegetable based food business? Apply for the Veggie to Value Program!

What is the Veggie to Value Program?Flyer with informaiton on Veggie to Value program.

A food entrepreneur bootcamp for those interested in learning how to create a value-added vegetable product in a certified kitchen. The program will provide the following to you at NO COST:

  • Pounds of FRESH and LOCAL produce supplied by Barnhill Farms
  • Access to a certified commercial food processing facility and equipment
  • Technical and labor assistance on food processing from an expert team
  • Recipe development including ingredient and supply sourcing assistance
  • Training on food safety and regulations

Who is eligible to apply?

Individuals, or existing businesses, located in Central Arkansas who are interested creating a vegetable based value-added product in a commercial kitchen. Applicants must also be able to:

  • Dedicate 1-2 hours a week for technical assistance calls/videos to develop a recipe
  • Dedicate 2-3 days at the Share Grounds kitchen in Rison, AR to develop a product
  • Provide reliable transportation for self and products

Apply Here

Deadline to apply is Tuesday, May 30th. Contact Dr. Amanda Philyaw Perez at with any questions.

This photo list the 2023 Produce Safety Grower Training schedule. March 16 in Eastern Arkansas, May 24 to 25 as a remote training, October 26 in Northwest Arkansas


Registration for the October 2023 In-Person training coming soon!

Contact Gaby Sanders at
or by phone at 501-671-2046 for more information.


Workshop locations. April 24 Don Tyson Center Fayettville, May 10 Cooperative Extension Office Little Rock, May 23 Southwest Research & Extension Center Hope, May 24th Pine Bluff, May 31 Food Bank of NE AR Jonesboro

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Law Center are facilitating a series of workshops called Plan. Produce. Profit. Workshop participants will learn how to operate under the Arkansas Food Freedom Act for selling homemade food items to the public. Attendees will be eligible to receive a free pH meter for producing food products that need pH testing.

For more information contact Rusty Rumley, with The National Agriculture Law Center, at

And be sure to view the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website for more resources on producing food safely in your home. From the website:Glass jars of red, yellow, and purple jams.

"The National Center for Home Food Preservation is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods."

Webinars, Virtual Learning, and Online Discussions

Browse our collection of videos to learn more about creating a food business and about local foods challenges and opportunities in Arkansas.

View Food Business Webinars View Local Foods Discussions