Food System Planning

By shaping how food is produced, processed, distributed, consumed and disposed, food system planning has widespread impacts for communities just beginning to explore local foods and those with thriving local food economies alike.

Downstream Strategies has a successful track record of leveraging county, state, and federal partners to design and implement food system projects at community and regional scales.

Feasibility assessments

Feasibility assessments are critical for determining the viability of food and agriculture projects. Assessments examine the technical feasibility and economic justification for businesses and projects, giving decision makers and industry leaders the information necessary to refine and implement successful projects, seek appropriate investment, and develop partnerships. Feasibility assessments also provide a blueprint for the future by assessing the economic, health, and ecological impacts of proposed projects. Our experience ranges from community-level garden projects to regional training and sales programming.

  • Market barrier assessments
  • Consumer/stakeholder outreach and data collection
  • Literature reviews and concept research
  • Technical feasibility assessments
  • Evaluation of alternatives
  • Economic impact assessments

Food system assessments

Local and regional food system assessment and mapping can be an important tool for policy makers, nonprofits, foundations, and community leaders in determining the current state of the agricultural ecosystem. Downstream Strategies has completed a number of food system assessments at the local community, state, and regional levels. Our team is skilled at evaluating food production capacity and market needs and offers expertise related to food hubs, food system infrastructure, food equity and access, farm-to-institution, agricultural production, agriculture training and support services, and local food culture.

  • Mapping supply and demand
  • Identification of existing assets (cultural, infrastructure, production)
  • Gap analysis of missing assets
  • Identification of food system improvement opportunities

Business planning

Building upon feasibility assessments and market analysis, business plans provide strategic frameworks for successful enterprises. Downstream Strategies writes business plans and helps guide clients through the planning process.

  • Feasibility and demand assessments
  • Market analyses
  • Business coaching

Market analyses

A thorough understanding of current markets allows business owners, foundations, state and local governments, community leaders, and nonprofits to see the actual demands and needs for products or services. Market analysis can be used to determine viability and interest in training and educational services and identify specific markets available for food products. Our experience ranges from broad programming analysis to exploration of specific food sectors.

  • Wholesale market assessments
  • Educational/training programming
  • Food industry sector analysis

Food System Planning Contact


Phase I and II Food Systems Assessments

Downstream Strategies authored several reports as part of a statewide study to examine how increased vegetable and fruit production could benefit West Virginia in terms of food security, local economies, and increased revenue for farmers. Produced for the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition and West Virginia Community Development Hub, these reports explored the existing local food supply chain infrastructure in the state, including processors, aggregators, distributors, and retail markets. Project tasks included agricultural and natural resource research and analysis, market analysis and synthesis, data collection and stakeholder outreach, development of business directories, and mapping.

Hub Connectivity Feasibility Assessment

West Virginia has made great strides in redeveloping the local food economy over the past decade. Locally grown food is now available in most counties and there are over 25 food hub and aggregation projects devoted to connecting West Virginia products to consumers. Questions that remain include: How can partnerships be supported within the existing food infrastructure? What are the opportunities for creating potential consortia and efficiencies in local food distribution? This study builds on existing research and a distributor survey to provide an overview of relationships among food hubs and distributors. It identifies communities with a high probability for success in ongoing and future local food development efforts and includes a case study that explains how a new strategy for local food consortia could work.