Food Systems Research

Because they are so complex and multi-faceted, food systems research can draw upon a wide variety of disciplines and resources. Systems based approaches are also sometimes used to model the complex social, economic and environmental dynamics of food systems.

The focus or perspective of inquiry can sometimes dictate the type of information or data needed. Narrowing your area of research may help guide the process. A number of subject specific Library Guides have been created by Cornell Library that may also be useful, including Agricultural Economics, Business Resources, Environmental SciencesHuman Ecology, International Agriculture & Rural Development, Nutrition & Food Science, Regional Economic Development and Social Sciences Resources. Mann Library also has a wider list of subject specific guides. Specific department liaisons from Mann Library are available for departmental assistance.

Information and data relating to local food systems can be gathered from a number of sources, including published journal articles, books, white papers, and government databases. Several of these sources are suggested below. Less scholarly sources such as blogs/web sites, newspapers, and popular magazines may also be useful. Resources related to assessing food security/food systems and spatial analysis & mapping can be found on the Community Development page, including those that engage stakeholders themselves as sources of knowledge and expertise.

To request further assistance related to local food systems research, please feel free to contact us at See our email reference policy for eligibility. Help is also available to Cornell patrons remotely or in person via the Ask a Librarian service.



Here are some possible sources of literature related to local food systems, with links to Cornell catalog records or licensed databases provided for Cornell patrons. See the Cornell Library research help page for additional research assistance, including how to use the Cornell Library catalog to search for literature. To learn about our services & resources specifically available to Cornell Cooperative Extension staff, please visit our Information Portal for CCE.

Mann Library's borrowing page has information on borrowing policies and procedures, including those for Cornell alumni, NYS residents and Cooperative extension staff. Non-cornell researchers are encouraged to use their local public or university library for assistance. In many cases they may be able to acquire and provide materials for free through interlibrary loan services.


Articles are best found using a database which can search several sources at once (several are listed below in the database section), but these are some of the journals which frequently publish articles related to local food systems:

  • Agriculture and Human Values Journal of Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. Promotes interdisciplinary research and scholarship in the broad areas of agriculture and rural studies. Encourages participation by the growing community of researchers and professionals exploring alternative visions of the food system, including regional food policies, community supported agriculture, and issues of local and global food security. 

  • Choices An online peer-reviewed magazine published by the AAEA (Agricultural & Applied Economics Association) for readers interested in the policy and management of agriculture, the food industry, natural resources, rural communities, and the environment.

  • Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD) Online publication focused on the practice and applied research interests of agriculture and food systems development professionals and scholars.

  • Journal of Extension Official refereed journal of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System.

  • Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems Original research and review articles on the economic, ecological, and environmental impacts of agriculture; the effective use of renewable resources and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems; and the technological and sociological implications of sustainable food systems.

  • Sociologia Ruralis Covers a wide range of subjects, ranging from farming, natural resources and food systems to rural communities, rural identities and the restructuring of rurality.


Cornell subscribes to several databases for finding articles useful for your research. Here are some that are particularly relevant:

  • Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) Multi-disciplinary database provides full text for more than 4,600 journals, including full text for nearly 3,900 peer-reviewed titles. The same EBSCOhost interface can be used to search several other useful databases simultaneously, including Business Source Complete, Business Source Premier, Environment Index, GreenFILE, Historical Abstracts, Hospitality & Tourism Complete, Left Index, MEDLINE, Regional Business News, SocINDEX, and Urban Studies Abstracts.

  • AgEcon Search: Research in Agricultural and Applied Economics A database that indexes and electronically distributes full text reports of scholarly research in the field of agricultural and applied economics.

  • Agricola The AGRICOLA (Agricultural Online Access) database contains bibliographic records of materials acquired by the National Agricultural Library (NAL) and cooperating institutions in the agricultural and related sciences.
  • Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) AgNIC facilitates and participates in partnerships and cooperation among institutions and organizations world-wide committed to the identification, delivery and preservation of reliable, freely-available, evaluated, digital content and quality services for agriculture, food, and natural resources information.
  • EconLit Produced by the American Economic Association, EconLit indexes books, journal articles, dissertations, and articles in books published since 1969. Subjects covered in EconLit include economic theory and history, fiscal theory, econometrics, agricultural economics, public finance, demography, monetary theory, international economics and others.

  • ERIC A Web-based digital library of free education-related sources of interest to educators, researchers, and the general public. Consists primarily of electronic bibliographic records describing journal and non-journal (whitepaper) literature .

  • Factiva Business related news & analysis

  • FAOSTAT Multilingual database currently containing over 1 million time-series and cross sectional data (numerical and graphical) relating to food and agriculture for some 200 countries. Provides international statistics in the following areas: Production, Trade, Food Balance Sheets, Food Aid Shipments, Fertilizer and Pesticides, and Land Use.

  • Proquest Research Library Offers citation abstracts and full text scholarly articles in a arts, humanities and social sciences. Search multiple databases/sources at once, including ABI/INFORM, AMA, dissertations and newspapers. "Food System" theses quick links: Cornell theses, or all Proquest theses.

  • USDA Economics and Statistics System The USDA Economics, Statistics and Market Information System (ESMIS) is a collaborative project between Albert R. Mann Library at Cornell University and several agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The system contains nearly 2500 reports and datasets. These materials cover U.S. and international agriculture and related topics.

  • Web of Knowledge Versatile database for finding, analyzing, and managing information from the world’s leading scholarly literature in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. Simultaneous access to Food & Science Technology Abstracts, Biosis, CAB Abstracts, Medline and Web of Science.


Proquest Research Library can be used to find dissertations. A guide to finding theses at Cornell is available here:, and a list of the classification numbers for theses by department at:

Other Publications

Here is a list of materials that deal directly with local food systems from a variety of perspectives. Doing a Cornell Library catalog search will provide a wider offering of relevant books, including those that can be requested from other institutions via Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan.

Data Sources & Tools

This section provides a broad range of agriculture and food related data sources. The Ag & Food Data Users Guide provides more information related to finding and using data, including assessing needs and assets, and program evaluation. Refer to the Spatial Analysis & Mapping section for more specialized resources related to those needs. Search other Cornell LibGuides for additional sources of guidance in finding and using data related to agriculture, food and development.

New York State Data

  • Appalachian Regional Commission compiles data, creates maps, and conducts research and evaluations on key economic, demographic, and quality of life factors that affect the current and future development prospects of the Appalachian Region. The most frequently requested reports, maps, and data are available online. Includes data for Southern Tier of NYS.
  • Cornell Program on Applied Demographics, (PAD) offers a variety of resources based on demographic, social, economic and agricultural data, including maps, charts, and webinars.
    • New York Agricultural and Food System Data -includes county and sub-county profiles providing details on current conditions, trends and projections. Profiles include agricultural information on Number of farms and land in farms, Farm Operator Characteristics, Types of crop, and Estimated acreage by crop.
  • Cornell University Geospatial Information Repository (CUGIR) CUGIR provides geospatial data and metadata for New York State, with a special emphasis on agriculture, ecology, natural resources, and human-environment interactions. Includes Ag district, soils and demographic data. Most data requires the use of specialized GIS software (find more info on the Data Tools and Guide pages)
  • Health Statistics -Wide range of data relating to health and disease in New York State.
  • Kids’ Well-being Indicators Clearinghouse (KWIC) gather, plot, map and monitor New York State children’s health, education and well-being indicator data in order to improve outcomes for children and families.
  • NYS Data Center -Source of economic and demographic data, tracking the trends of NY state, its businesses and people.
  • NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets
  • NYS Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Clearinghouse, operated by the NYS ITS GIS Program Office, was established to disseminate information about New York's Statewide GIS Coordination Program and to provide access to the New York State GIS Data and Metadata Repository.
  • NY MarketMaker Interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in New York, providing an important link between producers and consumers.
  • NYS Open Data Portal provides an extensive index of local, state and federal data in one place. Search for NYS datasets, charts, maps and other resources by location or keyword, including NYS "food", NYS "agriculture" or category, e.g. economic development.
  • Producer/Market Listings in Mann Library's Food System guide.
  • Statistical Yearbook (only available up to 2011) -Organized into chapters focusing on specific governmental functions or subjects, such as Business & Economic Indicators, Health & Human Services, and Agriculture. Each section includes “Highlight” information along with detailed tables. Most tables present data for the five boroughs of New York City and 57 counties outside NYC.
  • VIEW - Vital Indicators for Enhancing Well-Being in NYS. Provides practical approach to thinking about data and indicators, where to find useful data in various subject areas, how to interpret data and change over time, and how to use this information strategically for decision-making purposes, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the well-being of New York State people and communities

United States

  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is the nation’s premier system of health-related telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services.
  • Business Data Resources recommended by Mann Library (Cornell users only)
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics, including diabetes and obesity
  • Community Food Projects (CFP) Database -Maintained by WhyHunger, this database profiles all of the community-based organizations and projects supported through the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture since 2000.
  • Community Food Security Coalition sources of data for Community Food Assessments (CFA). Defunct site -archived page link provided.
  • Community Profiles Offers tools for using community indicators to understand and tell stories about communities. Provides meaningful data and analysis on a wide range of topics
  • County Health Rankings County-level data, including healthy food outlets. This database ranks each county within the 50 states according to its health outcomes and the multiple health factors that determine a county’s health. The county health rankings have an indicator under the “physical environment” section called access to healthy food. Links to other national and state level data are also provided.
  • Cropland Data Layer (CDL) Crop specific digital data layers, suitable for use in geographic information systems (GIS) applications. Downloadable data sets from the USDA Geospatial Data Gateway. Interactive online CropScape mapping/query tool includes ability to analyze/extract county production acreage by year and crop, and export as spreadsheet.
  • Databib is a tool for helping people identify and locate online repositories of research data. Users and bibliographers create and curate records that describe data repositories that users can search.
  • DataFerrett -Developed and supported by the US Census Bureau, DataFerrett is a data analysis and extraction tool, allowing users to locate and repurpose federal, state, and local data to suit their requirements, including the creation of graphs or maps.
  • Economic Profile System –Human Dimensions Toolkit Made freely available by Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group, EPS-HDT is a free, easy-to-use software application that runs in Excel and produces detailed socioeconomic reports of communities, counties, states, and regions. It uses published statistics from a variety of U.S. federal data sources.
  • Feeding America Food Bank Locator  Use this tool to locate food banks by state and region
  • Farmers Markets Geographic Coordinates (U.S.) USDA created Excel spreadsheet containing names, addresses and latitude and longitude coordinates for Farmers Markets in US.
  • Food Policy Resource Database available from the Food Policy Networks Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF). Includes policies, how-to guides, case studies and more, as well as a directory of food policy councils (FPCs) in the U.S., Canada, and First Nations.
  • GIS Data Sources List of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) data sources, for spatial visualization and analysis. The Spatial Analysis section of this guide offers several examples of this type of application
  • Growing Food Connections Policy Database A searchable collection of local public policies that explicitly support community food systems. Provides policymakers, government staff, and others interested in food policy with concrete examples of local public policies that have been adopted to address a range of food systems issues
  • National Center for Health Statistics offers a variety of data by topic or geography.
  • Progressive Agricultural Rankings New Leaf Associates [publishers of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD)], has created a tool for agriculture and food system practitioners to gauge how progressive their agricultural community is.
  • SimplyMap Create maps using consumer demographics and market research (Cornell users only).
  • SoilWeb: An Online Soil Survey Browser Online soil survey data services from UC Davis, including phone apps. Can be used to access NRCS-NCSS 1:24,000 scale detailed soil survey data (SSURGO) in many parts of the lower 48 states.
  • US Bureau of Economic Analysis Data such as personal income for select counties/regions available, including:
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics Statistics such as food consumption estimates for the county/region giving a basic food budget for residents of a county/region.
  • US Census
    • American Factfinder Variety of demographic and some geographic data from the US Census.
    • Bureau County Business Patterns Provides the number of establishments, number of employees, and payroll data by industry, (according to the 2007 North American Industry Classification System) within specific ZIP codes, metropolitan areas, and counties. This can be used to track the number of food retailers within specific geographic areas.
  • USDA
    • Agricultural Research Service - ARS datasets.
    • Census of Agriculture Farm and production characteristics data, including acreage devoted to agricultural, organic food production, value of commodities produced, and value of direct sales from farms to consumers. 2012 Census Ag Atlas Maps, NYS Census of Agriculture Data. 
    • Economic Research Service (ERS) Data Sets Primary source of economic information and research in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ERS conducts a research program to inform public and private decision making on economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development. 
      • Mapping formats available on this site range from snapshot images to interactive mapping programs to downloadable spatial data in standard GIS file formats. Includes:
        • Farm Program Atlas - Map county-level farm program and planted acreage data
        • Food Access Research Atlas: Presents a spatial overview of food access indicators for low-income and other census tracts using different measures of supermarket accessibility; provides food access data for populations within census tracts; and offers census-tract-level data on food access that can be downloaded for community planning or research purposes.
        • Food Environment Atlas -From ERS, assembles statistics on three broad categories of food environment factors: food choices, health and well-being and community characteristics. They can be queried and mapped interactively, for the US as a whole or for specific states/counties.
        • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Data System Maps - Map selected variables from time-series data on county-level estimates of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation and benefit levels
    • Economics, Statistics and Market Information System reports and datasets from the economics agencies of the USDA. Materials cover U.S. and international agriculture and related topics.
    • Farm to School Census offers data at the national, state, and school district level
    • Farmers Market Directory Designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information, including: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.
    • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Public health agency responsible for ensuring nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe and correctly labeled and packaged. Provides Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory, a listing of establishments (with address and other contact information) that produce meat, poultry, and/or egg products regulated by FSIS, including slaughter facilities.
    • Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass Map and data shows efforts supported by USDA and other federal partners, as well as related information on local and regional food systems for the years 2009-2012.
    • National Agricultural Library
    • National Agricultural Statistics Service  Statistics and reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture, including production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, and changes in the demographics of U.S. producers.


  • agINFRA is a European Commission funded initiative that aims to design infrastructure facilitating the management and access to agricultural data of various types, from a variety of sources, enabling existing search tools and data collections to better connect their data.
  • AgriProfiles (formerly known as AgriVIVO) is a search portal giving access to profiles of experts and organizations in the field of agriculture, bridging across separately hosted directories and online communities. .
  • CEIC Data provides access to 1.2 million macro-economic time series and statistics from over 50 countries. The number and historical depth vary by country for the employment and labor-related series, but this is an incredibly rich database. In-depth data is available for China, India, and Russia. (Cornell Library Resource)
  • CIARD Routemap to Information Nodes and Gateways (RING) is a global directory of web-based information services and datasets for agricultural research for development (ARD)
  • Databib A tool for locating online repositories of research data
  • EIU Data Services a comprehensive database of economic indicators with historical series, estimates and forecasts, covering 278 series for 117 countries, as well as 40 regional aggregates, over the period 1980 - 2005+ (Cornell Library Resource)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) FAO has a decentralized statistical system and statistical activities (outlined here) cover the areas of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, land and water resources and use, climate, environment, population, gender, nutrition, poverty, rural development, education and health as well as many others. The Databases and Software page lists several resources, including CLIMWAT a climatic database to be used in combination with the computer program CROPWAT, allowing the calculation of crop water requirements, irrigation supply and irrigation scheduling for various crops. Other specialized resources include:
    • Agricultural Development Assistance Mapping (ADAM) is a platform that gathers information from diverse databases about agricultural development needs, objectives, in-country activities, and funding modalities, and aggregates the data to generate customizable maps, matrices and charts.
    • AGRIS a collaborative network of more than 150 institutions from 65 countries, maintained by FAO, promoting free access to agricultural information, including papers, data, statistics, and multimedia material.
    • FAOSTAT provides time-series and cross sectional data relating to food and agriculture for some 200 countries. A national version, CountrySTAT, is being developed offering a facility to store data at the national and sub-national levels, and supporting two-way data exchange between countries and FAO.
    • Global Agro-Ecological Zones (GAEZ) Data Portal has been designed to support sustainable management of natural resources for food and agriculture. It contains many features and capabilities including the ability to browse, query, visualize and download tabular and spatial datasets.
  • Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) AR4D Information Gateway provides access to resources developed and maintained by Forum stakeholders and partners.
  • Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition Though not a data source in itself, the GODAN initiative seeks to support global efforts to make agricultural and nutritionally relevant data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide. It focuses on building high-level policy and public and private institutional support for open data.
  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) datasets
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compiles a variety of statistical data.
    • OECD iLibrary featuring its books, papers and statistics and is the gateway to OECD’s analysis and data.
    • OECD data portal provides tools for finding, comparing and sharing OECD data, including charts, maps, tables and related publications.
  • United Nations databases, including
    • UN Comtrade allows tracking of various commodities across the world
    • UNdata - provides access UN databases through a single entry point.
  • World Bank Research and Data National and international statistics, analysis, and advice on global trends in the world economy.
  • World Bank Development Indicators Comprehensive database including 1,600 time series indicators for 217 economies and more than 40 country groups, with data for many indicators going back more than 50 years.

Climate Data

Agriculture & Food Policy Related Information Sources

Funding Sources

Online Discovery Tools & Digital Repositories

Find other online documents by browsing by subject or other user in this Libguide.

Curriculum/Educational Materials

Food and agricultural systems, and the movements which arise around them related to issues such as health, justice, security, and sustainability, represent a rich area of inquiry and insight. The following links provide resources for incorporating these topics into learning and discussion activities.

Training Programs

ListServs and RSS Feeds

Email listservs are a great way to follow and engage in discussions focused on a particular topic. They generally offer options for receiving postings as individuals messages or compiled daily/weekly "digests". The following listservs offer food systems related information (please note that not all of these may still be active at this time):

  • Buy Local NY Yahoo Group Group for anyone interested in growing, processing, distributing, selling, promoting or enjoying New York foods.
  • Comfood/Comfood Jobs  Email lists created to link individuals and organizations across the US involved with or interested in community food security.
  • Cornell Small Ruminant Marketing Listserv aims to assist in the marketing of sheep and goats and the discussion of marketing topics and events. Join by sending email to with a subject of “JOIN”.
  • Groundswell  News about groups activities helping youth and adult learners develop the skills and knowledge they need to build sustainable local food systems.
  • LivestockProcessing-L Facilitating communication among interested livestock farmers, small scale processors, extension staff, and agency representatives in New York and bordering states. Join by sending email to with a subject of “JOIN”.
  • NEFOOD sponsored by NESAWG Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.
  • New World Agriculture & Ecology Group A Cornell organization that analyzes the problems of contemporary agriculture and ecology in order to develop and implement alternatives.
  • NNY Local and Regional Foods Regional list serve designed to help producers, consumers, and communities across northern NY work together to achieve local and regional food goals.
  • NY Farm to School Listserv dedicated to facilitating communication among those working on Farm to School in New York State. Regular postings include policy updates, funding opportunities, publication announcements, news articles, upcoming events, and requests for information/assistance.
  • Rochester Farm Connection Yahoo Group Online community of consumers and local/sustainable farmers within 100 miles of Rochester NY.
  • Small Farms News Resource for farmers and agricultural service providers in New York, provided by Cornell’s Small Farms Program.

Subscribing to RSS Feeds is another convenient way to get updates from websites, twitter feeds and Facebook pages.