Local Foods Glossary

Local Foods Glossary


Aquaculture can also be thought of as ‘aquafarming’ and refers to the practice of farming water-based organisms such as fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Aquaculture involves raising these organisms under controlled conditions which can be on-land (in tanks or other systems) or in their natural habitats


Aquaponics is most easily understood as the marriage of aquaculture and hydroponics (see definition below) to grow plants and raise fish together in one integrated system. The waste produced by the fish provides an organic food source for the plants and the plants naturally filter the water the fish live in creating a symbiotic environment for both organisms. 


Biodynamic farm systems emphasize biodiversity organized in such a way that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another. This results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable. Biodynamic farming is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in a similar manner to organic farming. (See Understanding Farm and Food Certifications). 

Cage Free

A Cage Free label indicates that the animals were uncaged and able to freely roam a barn or other facility. Cage Free does not indicate that the animals have access to outdoors. 

Chemical-Free or Spray-Free

Growers practicing chemical free farming aim to restore soil health and viability by eliminating the use of chemical pesticides. 

Community Food Assessment

A community food assessment engages an entire community in investigating access to healthy, fresh food within its various populations by identifying who has access to what kind of food and through what channels. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a community-based food system that increases access to local, healthy, and fresh food.

Community Garden

A designated plot of land that is tended to by members of the community to grow and raise fruits, vegetables and other farm fresh products. Community gardens are structured in a number of different ways. Food can be grown communally or individuals and families may have their own garden plots or beds. Some community gardens offer educational programming for children and adults. Community gardens are found in schools, cities, vacant lots, community centers and many other convenient locations.


Conventional farming refers to standard agricultural practices where food products generally do not undergo any special certification processes. Conventional farming is a generic term that varies from farm to farm however, an emphasis is generally placed on productivity and efficiency. These techniques may include the use of pesticides, fertilizers and high-yield hybrid crops. 


An agricultural cooperative is a group of growers or producers who pool their resources in certain areas of activity to achieve a shared goal. This can include the sharing of labor, machinery, land, distribution costs and more to achieve positive and profitable outcomes. 

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a progressive purchasing model whereby community members have access to fresh, seasonal food of the highest quality while providing increased market opportunities for local farms. When you become a member of a CSA, you purchase a ‘share’ of vegetables (and/or other products) grown and/or raised by local farmers. A share generally consists of 7-12 different items that reflect the seasonality of the region. Consumers pay for share in advance of the growing season enabling the farmer to purchase seed and other inputs necessary to begin the season. A CSA typically operates on a weekly basis for a 20-24 week period during the height of the growing season, although some farms also offer fall and winter programs. In some cases, the farm will offer opportunities to add specialty items to you share such as jam, cheese, honey, or meat. The cost of a CSA share depends on the duration of the season and the variety and quantity of products. 

Farm Hub

A farm hub is a regional center that serves as a multi-faceted resource for local farmers. Farm hubs provide access to training, education, business development, research and other services designed to strengthen farming in local community. 

Farmers Market

A common area where farmers and producers gather on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, etc) to sell their products directly to consumers. A wide variety of products can be found at farmers markets such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, jam, sauce, baked goods, honey, wine and more. Many farmers markets accept payment assistance programs such as EBT and SNAP. 

Food Hub

Food hubs are organizational structures designed to address the challenges of our modern day food system. Food hubs facilitate relationships and activities along the value chain to bring added value to farmers and local communities as well as providing broader access to institutional and retail markets for small and mid-sized producers. Food hubs generally manage the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of products from local and regional producers. 

Food Miles

The distance food travels between where it was grown and where it is eventually purchased or consumed. 

Food Security

Food security indicates reliable access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food to maintain an active and healthy life. 

Food Shed

A foodshed encompasses the area that food is produced, transported and where it is consumed. This includes the land the food is grown on, the distribution routes it travels, the markets where it’s sold, and the homes where it is finally consumed. 


Foraging is the practice of searching, identifying, and harvesting wild food resources. Many local foragers sell their harvests to local chefs and restaurants. Responsible foragers are careful to harvest in such a way that the plant can continue to produce edible material. Commonly foraged items include greens, mushrooms, berries, roots and edible flowers. 

Free Range

A Free Range label indicates the animals are kept in a natural condition, are cage-free and have access to the outdoors. 


GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. A GMO is a living organism that has been artificially engineered to achieve desirable characteristics such as drought-resistance or extended shelf-life. Recent concerns over GMOs include related health problems, environmental damage, and the rights of farmers and consumers. 


A grass-fed label indicates the animals were fed a 100% grass diet of fresh pasture and dried forages (such as hay). Animals are not fed supplementary grains and have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. A number of third-party agencies have developed their own set of standards and guidelines for certification, such as Food Alliance and American Grassfed. 


A Grass Finished meat label indicates the animals are fed a grass-based diet in the period prior to processing. 


The term heirloom refers to a plant variety that has resulted in desirable qualities through natural selection, rather than a controlled hybridization process. Heirloom seeds are largely open-pollinated—meaning that plants will reflect the same characteristics as the parents—and are genetically distinct from the commercial varieties used in industrial agriculture. Heirloom varieties also have a reputation for being rare, unique, high-quality and flavorful. Local seed libraries seek to preserve genetic diversity by producing, saving, and distributing heirloom varieties. 

Heritage Breed

Heritage Breed animals are traditional livestock breeds that were bred over time to develop traits making them well-adapted to local environmental conditions. There is no official definition of the term but heritage breed generally indicates a breed of livestock that has been bred over time and retained a number of biological attributes for survival and self-sufficiency. Heritage breeds often have slow growth rates and long productive lifespans outdoors. 

High Tunnel

Also known as a hoophouse or greenhouse, a high tunnel is an a large, plastic-coated structure that helps farmers extend their growing season by providing protection from natural elements and a more stable environment. High tunnels result in higher productivity, less crop failure, and greater profitability for the farm. 


Homogenization is a mechanical process (no additives) used to break down fat molecules in milk to a very small size so they remain suspended evenly throughout the milk and do not separate. Milk that has not been homogenized will generally have a thick layer of cream at the top of the container. Both homogenized and non-homogenized milk are safe for human consumption. 


Hydroponic is a highly technical growing method where plants are grown without the use of soil but rather using an inert growing medium such as perlite, gravel, sand, vermiculite and more. The medium does not supply any nutrients to the plants so all nutrition must come from a nutrient solution. Growers adjust the strength and pH of the nutrient solution so the plants are receiving the correct amount of food and nutrition. Without soil, the plant is able to absorb its food with very little effort, thus preserving more energy for vegetative growth and fruit production. 


A person who is dedicated to supporting local farms and primarily consumes food that is grown, raised, or produced locally is called a ‘locavore.’ 


Organically grown or raised products are produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, antibiotics or growth hormones. Some farms may wish to pursue certification (See Understanding Farm and Food Certifications). 


Pasteurization is the process of heating a liquid or food to eliminate pathogenic bacteria that may be harmful for human consumption. 

Pasture Raised

Pasture Raised generally indicates that the animals have had continuous and unconfined access to pasture throughout their life. Animals may receive supplemental grain rations. 


Permaculture is an approach to landscape design that employs principles of ecology, design, and sustainability to create an integrated system of food production. Permaculture methods are modeled after natural ecosystems and include aspects of organic farming, agroforestry, integrated farming, sustainable development and applied ecology in order to provide maximum benefit to the local environment. 

Seed Library

A seed library is a depository of seeds where members can purchase or borrow seeds for use in their garden or farm. Many seed libraries seek to preserve agricultural biodiversity by saving rare, local, and heirloom seed varieties. 

Slow Food

Slow Food refers to food that is healthy, consciously sourced, good for the environment and economically viable for the farmer. The Slow Food movement began in Italy in the late 1980s in an effort to preserve cultural cuisine. The Slow Food movement advocates for the consumption healthy and wholesome, local food. 

Supply Chain

Supply Chain refers to the complex systems and processes that link farm to table. This includes production, processing, distribution, retailing, consumption, disposal, and everything in between. Farmers, equipment dealers, seed suppliers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are all members of the food supply chain. 


A transitional farm refers to land that has been conventionally farmed and is now undergoing the transition to organic. It may also refer to transitioning one farm enterprise to another more lucrative model (such as dairy to beef). 

U-Pick or PYO (Pick-Your-Own)

Many local farms offer their customers the opportunity to harvest their own produce. Common U-Pick crops include apples, berries and pumpkins. This is a fun experience for all ages and a great way to meet your local farmer. 

Urban Farming

Urban farming refers to the practice of farming within an urban environment or heavily populated town or municipality. Due to environmental limitations, many urban farms adopt creative farming methods including rooftop or vertical farming. Urban farming can involve everything from animal husbandry to aquaculture and beekeeping. Urban farming is often accompanied by other complementary activities such as processing, waste reduction, education, and improved access for low-income families. 

Value Added Product

Value-added refers to a raw agricultural product that has been enhanced to increase its value. This includes turning milk into cheese or yogurt, wheat into flour, fruit into jam, cabbage into kimchi and much, much more. Value-added products offer farmers a great opportunity to expand their market population and extend their growing season by offering shelf-stable or frozen products. 

Value Chain

The term ‘value chain’ refers to the collaborative relationship between each link in the food supply chain whereby all members of the chain are interested and invested developing sustainable business strategies and solutions that benefit each participant in the system. The term comes from “values-based food supply chain” which describes how shifts in consumer and community values drive changes in food supply chains.