Our History

A timeline highlighting our three decades of work on sustainable food issues in the Carolinas

1979 – Small group of farmers, gardeners, and consumers from North and South Carolina come together to found CFSA.

1982 – CFSA incorporated as a North Carolina not-for-profit organization.

1986 – CFSA hosts first Alternative Farming Field Day, which eventually becomes the annual CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference.

1987 – CFSA develops an Organic Certification program. Building upon these three decades of expertise, CFSA has developed extensive resources to support organic and transitioning-to-organic growers.

1988 – Received first grant from USDA to conduct on-farm organic research.

1989 – Received federal 501c3 tax exempt status.

1989 – Received second organic farming research grant from USDA.

1990 – CFSA member Ken Dawson testifies in Washington, DC on organic agriculture in the Farm Bill.

1991 – CFSA opens first official office in Carrboro, NC.

1992 – CFSA hires first full-time Executive Director.

1994 – A Kellogg Partners in Agriculture grant allows CFSA and sister organizations to create Mountain Partners in Agriculture (MPIA). MPIA was later instrumental in creating the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP).

1995 – First Piedmont Farm Tour, sponsored by Weaver Street Market, and Mountain Farm Tour. Farm Tours have since become signature, annual events.

2000 – CFSA publishes the “Carolina Guide to Local & Organic Food”, a consumer resource guide listing farms, markets, and restaurants organized by region.

2002 – USDA establishes National Organic Program, which requires farms and businesses receive third-party certification to use the term “organic”.

2003 – CFSA launches Saving Our Seed project with grant funding from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

2004 – CFSA incubates Eastern Carolina Organics with funding support from the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to help market Carolina organic produce; ECO later becomes a separate, farmer-owned company.

2005 – Saving Our Seed project creates the One Seed at a Time seed bank of Southeastern heirloom legume and vegetable seeds.


  • CFSA instrumental in defeating a bill in the NC Legislature that would have robbed NC municipalities of the power to ban genetically modified plants
  • First annual Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, sponsored by Whole Foods Market.


  • CFSA launches a Farm Incubator program with support from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to advance local food systems and support beginning farmers.
  • CFSA hosts first annual Organic Agriculture Breakfast at the NC General Assembly.
  • First annual Upstate Farm Tour, sponsored by Whole Foods Market.
  • CFSA membership grows to 1,000 farms, families and business.

2008 – CFSA launches the Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project with support from the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company to create Carolina Ground, a small-scale mill to assist the growing and processing of Carolina-grown organic wheat for use in local bakeries.


  • With funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation CFSA serves as the fiscal sponsor for a Sustainable Food NC, which provides training and capacity-building to North Carolina organizations that support the development of a local, sustainable food system.
  • NC Legislature establishes the state’s Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council to make recommendations about how to support local food and sustainable farmers.  CFSA appointed to serve on the Council.


  • CFSA hosts the first Organic Commodities & Livestock Conference.
  • CFSA converts the Carolina Local & Organic Food Guide to a free searchable online database, becoming the CFSA Local Food Finder.
  • CFSA launches the Organic Carolinas Initiative, a comprehensive program to build the organic agriculture community in the Carolinas.
  • Carolina Ground becomes NC’s first L3C.
  • CFSA partners with NCAT and Clemson University, as part of the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, to launch its Growing Green Farmers initiative.
  • CFSA instrumental in winning protections for small farms and local food entrepreneurs, known at the Tester-Hagan Amendment, in a massive new federal food safety law.


  • CFSA helped lead the successful effort to protect small farms and businesses serving local food markets from new federal authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
  • CFSA launches the Local Produce Safety Initiative to help small farms ensure produce safety and meet federal standards with funding from an NC Specialty Crops Block Grant.
  • CFSA launches project to help the South Carolina’s organic farmers access the federal conservation program, EQIP-OI, with support from the SC Specialty Crops Block Grant program.
  • With support from the Winston-Salem Foundation, CFSA launches a program to establish a sustainable, farmers-only market in Winston-Salem and conduct community outreach on local, organic foods. Cobblestone Farmers’ Market is born.
  • CFSA launches the Local Food Marketing program to help farmers use social media to market their products, with support from the Golden LEAF Foundation.
  • CFSA wins an NC Specialty Crops Block Grant to conduct an Organic Produce Marketing Survey as part of the Organic Carolinas Initiative to assess the scope and market potential for NC-grown organic produce and provide direct assistance to organic/transitioning farmers.


  • CFSA’s Organic Produce Marketing Survey finds a $7 million gap between supply and demand of key organic crops in the Carolinas.
  • CFSA goes on the Barn Storm Tour, criss-crossing North and South Carolina to raise awareness about the Farm Bill.


  • The FDA published proposed rules for implementing FSMA. These rules were badly flawed and threatened to put many small, sustainable farmers out of business.  CFSA and our allies rallied farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers nation-wide to protest these bad proposals.  In another huge victory for our movement, the FDA went back to the drawing board to re-write the rules.
  • NC Legislature sunsets the Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council.  CFSA and our allies work to provide support for Local Food Councils across NC and SC.
  • CFSA hires first technical service provider certified to draft Conservation Activity Plans, which allow us to work directly with NC and SC farmers to identify conservation practices that address site-specific natural resource needs.
  • Over 1,300 people attend the 28th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference.  The first class of William W. Dow scholarship recipients attend the Conference.


  • CFSA and our allies lead another grassroots effort to compel the FDA to include more protections for small farmers and food businesses in the FSMA rules.
  • CFSA hires first Local Produce Safety Coordinator. CFSA offers several Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) workshops in conjunction with CEFS’s NC Growing Together, as well as one-on-one training to help farmers pass their GAPs audit.
  • CFSA steps in to save the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm after funding was cut by Cabarrus County.
  • CFSA launches our Food Systems Consulting Services, selecting eight sustainable food businesses – four in NC and four in SC – to receive consulting services to develop and launch their businesses.
  • First annual Triad Farm Tour, sponsored by the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

And, with your support, we can do even more to help people in the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic food! 


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