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CEFS 20th anniversary logo

It began with a farm...

In 1994, a small circle of leaders in sustainable agriculture came together with a single vision: to create a center for the study of environmentally sustainable farming practices in North Carolina.

A task force of university faculty and administrators, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, farmers, and citizens was charged with developing strategies to build a strong sustainable agriculture program in North Carolina.

The state’s two land-grant universities, North Carolina State University (NC State) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) formed a groundbreaking partnership, creating an institutional “home” for the new endeavor.  A third key partner, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), provided a physical base for research and demonstration projects at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, North Carolina: two thousand acres of land, along with personnel and equipment. 

Small Farm UnitThe farm became home to CEFS' core research programs and units. The Farming Systems Research Unit, Pasture-Based Dairy and Beef Units, Alternative Swine Unit, Organic Research Unit, and Small Farm Unit all provide research opportunities for faculty, graduate students and visiting scientists, and educational opportunities for farmers, extension agents and students.

Thriving apprenticeship and internship programs grew to attract students from across North Carolina and around the globe, training the farmers who will feed future generations and the students who will become tomorrow's food system leaders.

CalvesBuilding on its initial successes, CEFS broadened its focus to include community-based food systems and local food supply chain development. CEFS formed NC Choices to promote the advancement of local, niche and pasture-based meat supply chains. CEFS partnered with community organizations to support youth engagement and leadership development initiatives in areas most affected by food system inequities. New educational programs – including NC A&T's Discover Ag and NC State's Agroecology Program – were developed to reach students from elementary school through college. SOSA logo

Extension and outreach programs – including the Seasons of Sustainable Agriculture workshop series, Farm to Fork picnic, and Annual Sustainable Agriculture Lecture – were designed to engage the public on a variety of food systems topics, from basic sustainable agriculture practices like cover cropping to ways of addressing inequities in our food system. Now these programs reach over 2,500 people each year.




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