NC State Extension Publications

Engaging Volunteers to Develop a Local Food Directory

Skip to Engaging Volunteers to Develop a Local Food Directory

A local food directory is a listing of farms and food businesses where customers can find local food. Directories are a tool to connect consumers and producers. People who want to buy local food have to know where to find it. Many Extension offices across the state either generate their own directory or provide support for one. Volunteers, such as Extension Master Food Volunteers can help by helping to gather information about farms and food businesses. This guide outlines a process on how to engage volunteers in building a local food directory.

NC Cooperative Extension Local Food Program Logo

How to Develop a Local Food Directory

Skip to How to Develop a Local Food Directory

Steps one and two should be completed by the County Extension Office before engaging volunteers for Steps three through five.

Step 1: Decide whether a directory is needed.

These decisions should be made by County Extension Staff who will ensure the sustainability of the directory. Some questions to consider include:

  1. Does a local food directory exist in your county or region?
  2. Is there interest in maintaining one? What is the plan to maintain it?
  3. What efforts to connect consumers and producers are taking place?
  4. How do people in your community like to receive information?
  5. What role can you play in the process?

Step 2: Decide which format you want to publish the directory.

  • Local food directories may be print and/or online resources. Online resources are cheaper to produce and easier to maintain and update.
  • Tip: Pages on Extension websites are free and simple to set up. Talk to your Director about setting up a page on your county website.

Step 3: Collect information.

  • Once you decide what you are creating, engage volunteers in collecting information. This is a great opportunity for volunteers to connect with farmers and learn more about their local food system.
  • See the example form below for the types of information to collect. You need to collect enough information to let people know what a producer sells and how they can purchase it.
  • You can decide how many categories you want to have, but focus on producers who sell directly to consumers. You can include farm to table restaurants or other businesses that source local if you’d like, but consider asking how much local food they purchase.
  • Include links to social media and websites in your directory. These resources stay up to date and give consumers more information.
  • Gather information from as many producers and businesses as you can. Reach outside of your existing network to be inclusive of all local food producers and businesses. Pay attention to diversity of products and demographics such as race and gender. You can find local producers on the Visit NC Farms App, at farmers markets, from Agriculture Agents, from state and federal directories, or other local networks (see below).
    • Tip: Consider working with a community partner such as a farmers market or even a neighboring county to gather businesses and for help with publishing and distribution.
    • Tip: It’s easier to get information from farmers through a phone call or visit than an email. Use the language at the top of the form (see below) as an introduction.

Step 4: Aggregate information and organize directory. Get creative!

  • Consider aggregating responses in a Google Sheet that is easy to share and can be used to sort information and create maps. A spreadsheet may be more flexible than a document.
  • Sort businesses by what people will be looking for (produce, seafood, agritourism, etc.) See the examples listed above for ideas.
  • If creating a print resource, graphic design becomes a big part of the work.
    • Tip: Google Maps are free and easy to create.

Step 5: Publicize.

  • Consider publicizing through multiple channels. Examples include social media, local publications (newspapers, magazines, etc), newsletters, audiofiles, and others. Get creative!
  • Good designs make the directory more eye-catching. Consider using something like Canva to design posts or logos.

Example Local Food Directories

Skip to Example Local Food Directories

For inspiration, here are some examples of directories:

Example Form for Collecting Directory Information

Skip to Example Form for Collecting Directory Information

A Note for Extension Agents & Volunteers

This document provides an example of the types of information you can gather while creating or updating a local food directory for your area. You can download this document to edit it. Editing the fields to fit your needs will help guide your searches and conversations with businesses and farmers. Putting this information in a tool such as a Google Form will help build a spreadsheet with all of the information. You will get the best response if you fill out the form while talking to businesses. Use the About description as an introduction in conversations.


In an effort to connect customers with food, Extension is looking to compile a list of where consumers can purchase local food. Your farm name, website, social media, product information, and delivery options will be listed [enter where the local food directory will be available]. The local food directory is a marketing tool to help promote your business.


  1. Business Type: (select one) Farmers Market; CSA; Farm Store or Stand; Other: ______________
    1. a. This list will depend on what you want to include in your directory. Other options may include agritourism operations and restaurants. For these businesses consider asking how much of their product is local.
  2. Products Available: (check all that apply)Produce; Eggs; Dairy; Meat; Seafood; Transplants; Other: _____________________
  3. Delivery or Pick Up Options: (check all that apply) Home delivery; Pre-Order and Pick Up; Farm Store or Stand; U-Pick; Farmers Market; Other: ___________________________________

  4. Delivery or Pick Up Days and Times: (open answer; get days and times, there may be multiple options): ________________________________________________________________________________

  5. Business Name: (open answer) ______________________________________

  6. Street Address: (open answer) _______________________________________

  7. City: (open answer) ____________________

  8. Zip Code: (open answer)___________________

  9. County: (open answer) ________________________

  10. What other counties do you distribute to: (open answer) ___________________________________

  11. Phone Number: (open answer; consider making this optional) ___________________________

  12. Website: (open answer) _____________________________________________________

  13. Social Media (select all that apply): Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Other: _________________________________

  14. Social Media Links: (open answer): _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  15. Comments: (open answer): _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  16. Photos: Ask for a photo or permission to use social media photos for the directory or for social media posts.


Local Food Program Manager
Extension Local Foods Specialist & Associate Professor
Agricultural & Human Sciences
NC 10% Campaign State Program Coordinator
Horticultural Science

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Oct. 20, 2021

N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.

N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.