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The Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation Launch Event

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

By Kim Niewolny, and Harvest-RCN

On September 16, 2019, the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation hosted its launch event on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, VA. The Center was established by a group of partners across Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, and the Commonwealth to explore partnership, solidarity, and possibility for social equity and sustainability in our food and farming systems. With explicit outreach and Extension goals, the Center also aligns its efforts to address engaged teaching and research aims. The HARVEST network aims to contribute to this center through its focus on the related issues of technology, sustainability, and the small farm experience.

The launch event for the Center, in which HARVEST members participated, consisted of three parts. First, Dr. Niewolny spoke about the background and aims of the Center (as mentioned above). Next, there was a panel discussion with a community garden worker, a graduate student in the department, and a VA Cooperative Extension specialist. They discussed questions relating to food systems and transforming the community, what they would like to see from university partnership, and what they think of the new Center and it's capacity to help address food issues in the community.

Panel discussion on food systems and community transformation

The final part featured keynote speaker, Dr. Alice Julier, Associate Professor of Food Studies at Chatham University. Dr. Julier spoke about the Center for Regional Agriculture, Food, and Transformation (CRAFT); a program she directs at Chatham University in Pennsylvania. The program seeks to educate the community about farming now and in the past, map regional food capacity, hold community workshops to teach culinary and other food production skills, as well as provide resources to help food entrepreneurs thrive through the Food and Agricultural Innovation Lab.

Dr. Alice Julier discussing CRAFT

Beginning in fall 2019, the Center will start facilitating community dialogue in the form of Story Circles, which will provide an open space for community-university discussion around healthy food access, farm system viability, ecological sustainability, community engagement, and social equity in our food and farming systems, an activity in which HARVEST hopes to participate closely.

In the future, the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation also aims to partner with community and university organizations to develop new and foster existing food system facilitation praxis, research opportunities, co-learning initiatives, guest speakers, and social equity training.

To see a full press release of the event on their website, click here.

To learn more about the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation, or for more information about the September 16th launch event, visit the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation website at:

To learn more about the CRAFT project, visit

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