Green Pave: Tulane’s New Food Truck | NOLA DEFENDER

I wonder what spurred Sodexho to do this? And how about that language in the press release “will not be denied the opportunity to indulge”?

Tulane students are often accused of an ivory tower lifestyle removed from the actual City of New Orleans. However, today international food services giant Sodexo announced that Tulane kids will not be denied the opportunity to indulge in the food truck trend. On Monday (8.31), the University is rolling their own food truck, only for meal plan subscribers.

Source: Green Pave: Tulane’s New Food Truck | NOLA DEFENDER

CSAs/Mix and Matches, Mobile Markets/Pop Ups and Market Boxes..oh my…

I just chatted with a market rock star in Virginia (think of a very historic town with one of the oldest universities in the US)  about  their interest in exploring a market box program. Here is a snippet of their thinking:

Many farms do not accept SNAP. The reason I really want to do a multi-vendor market box is because we have the ability to accept SNAP. Our SNAP customers are unlikely to travel to a farm that does a CSA because transportation is a real problem. If we offered a CSA-like experience for those unable to travel, we could support our local farmers, and take the burden of having to staff a farm stand, advertise, etc. We would also be helping our lower-income neighbors increase the fruits and veggies in their diets.
The leaders in the community are considering a mobile market or pop up market in the areas identified as food deserts. The problem is, farmers won’t make enough money to make it worth their time, and the business model  brings little money to the farmer if they have a 3rd party selling. I know with the non-profit status and mission statement supporting small farmers, the farmers will keep a higher percentage of their money if it is managed by the market.

Couldn’t have said it better.

This led to a discussion on the difference between Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and a market box program and so I thought I’d expand on it here.

I am so glad to see markets testing different models of getting more local goods from their vendors to more people. If so, it is time for markets to clearly define their terms. This will avoid confusion, which might cause damage to the original and still thriving CSA movement.
From the USDA site (this definition is from 1993* but it is still in force at this point):
In basic terms, CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

I think the distinction of pledging early and direct support to the farm(s) is key: to me, the term CSA means that money (or labor) is given directly to the farmer(s) as an investment made by the shopper in that farmer or that cooperative’s capacity for that year. It allows farmers to have the cash up front to invest in their crops and to have steady customers who do not have to be enticed back weekly with expensive or time-consuming marketing.
The other key characteristic is the shared risk: if the crop fails, the original share is not normally returned to the shopper, although many farmers offer credit for future years or just offer smaller amounts of products in the same year.

On a side note, I was lucky enough to tour and to hear the story of one of the very first CSAs in the U.S. started in 1985: Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, MA, created by farmer Robyn Van En and her community. When Robyn died tragically young only a few years later, the community (assisted by the EF Schumacher Society, now called the New Economics Institute) helped to convert it to a community land trust in order for farming to continue on the property. Through the land trust, the buildings to the farmers. The reason for that is in land trusts, any and all of the improvements can be owned and sold, including soil improvements, which is a fascinating idea. The land trust then put a 99-year lease in place for the use of the land for farming. Robyn was later honored by the same community when her image was used for the ten dollar bill for the beautiful Berkshare (Massachusetts) currency:

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CSA farms use a mix of direct marketing and farm-based services which create profound and deep relationships with their members as described in the example above. Many CSAs have even added ways for more shoppers to gain membership, including asking members to underwrite the costs of membership to low-income neighbors, or offering  shares in exchange for help in picking, boxing or delivering. In some other cases, volunteer hours are expected as a member requirement to assist the farmer and to expand the human capital (knowledge transferred, skills gained) benefits of seeing how a farm works.

Part of the issue may very well be that the term CSA is quite general. Truly, even a market could be construed as community supported agriculture if one expects the term to include its meaning, which we have conditioned farmers market shoppers to do! In response, it may be time for CSAs to define their own terms more closely and create a schematic to offer clarity among the versions used. I might suggest Farm Share Program or Farm Membership or even Community Farming…

• Of course, there are multiple farm CSAs that combine their efforts to offer one share and split the production and profits. In these cases, the money is still going directly to the producer.

Mix and Match
•The market-style CSA is still member-based but allows shoppers to choose their products from among the bunches while attending a market. Here is how Local Harvest describes these:

..”increasingly common one is the “mix and match,” or “market-style” CSA. Here, rather than making up a standard box of vegetables for every member each week, the members load their own boxes with some degree of personal choice. The farmer lays out baskets of the week’s vegetables. Some farmers encourage members to take a prescribed amount of what’s available, leaving behind just what their families do not care for. Some CSA farmers donate this extra produce to a food bank. In other CSAs, the members have wider choice to fill their box with whatever appeals to them, within certain limitations. e.g. “Just one basket of strawberries per family, please…”

I see an excellent version of this when I return to my original hometown of Lakewood, Ohio. The farm that offers this service at this market (there are other vendors stalls as well) previously posted a share amount AND a dollar amount for each of the goods on display, but now that the farm has enough subscribers, they do not sell to non-subscribers at the market any longer. The market is used as a share pick up spot with their subscribers able to choose the bunch they would like and to barter away what they do not want in their share. It also ostensibly helps the other vendors by bringing traffic to the market. It’s possible they had one up and I just missed it on my visit. The market is managed by the entirely volunteer LEAf organization; the pics are from my last visit in July:

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• CSA farms may simply offer share pickup at a farmers market when the farm also sells directly to shoppers there. Some markets ask for an added fee or percentage of sales from vendors who also do CSA pickups, some do not.

Market Box Programs
•In the market box programs some third-party, whether a market organization or a distributor business, makes up a box of goods from local producers, adds a fee or a surcharge for one easy pickup at market, at a separate drop off site or even delivers in some cases. In the case of third-party market box or aggregate programs, some markets are asking for a fee for using the market for the staging and collection of goods.

I saw a version of this supporting a “food security” market some years back where a local corporation bought up to a dozen market bags each week. The market packed those up at the start of the market and so those guaranteed sales for the vendors meant they could stay profitable at this very small market and still serve the small community nearby.

Pop Up Market

Interestingly, this has become the new way to describe projects for getting food to many locations rather than using the term mobile market. I sense that the term shift is partly because of the lack of sustainability (both in program and in funding terms) reported by many organizations running mobile markets. I couldn’t find a definition on the USDA site for mobile markets but found this example on their site on the mobile markets page:

Beans & Greens, which operates in the Kansas City metropolitan area, was created specifically to address the issue of food insecurity and food deserts on the local level. The organization uses a truck to visit various areas in the region and sells fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Customers on the SNAP program are able to double their benefits on items purchased at the mobile market.

However, when you go to their site, Beans and Greens is now explained as an incentive program operating at area farmers markets. That very shift – if indeed they have stopped using the truck – may illustrate why the the term “pop up” is being used in the place of the old term of mobile market.

In my estimation, the market box and matching incentives are a better fit for small/family-farm market vendors than sales to a mobile market and certainly more cost-effective for the organization to manage. My old organization in New Orleans thought long about doing a mobile market in the months after Hurricane Katrina, but as described in the Greenpaper that I wrote, decided that it lacked a cohesive long-term strategy and was likely to pull our NGO into mission drift. And we felt strongly that we could stretch the farmers market mechanism much more than had been done so far: that we could serve low-income communities with a type of a farmers market that offered civic engagement and business sustainability to the vendors if we kept at it.

I am sure that examples of successful** truck mobile markets exist and i hope to hear of them as well in response to this post. I did recently hear of one in Oregon run by Gorge Grown that was discussed with other markets at the Washington Farmers Market Association 2015 meeting.  If my memory serves me well (and I will expect to be corrected by them if necessary), the focus for the truck was in anchoring small rural markets with goods bought by regional farmers, but with other vendors in attendance. The truck reduces its offering or leave entirely if enough goods were offered by those other vendors. The organization estimated the costs run in the thousands each year and relies on donations and sponsors.

So, I’d love to hear about examples of any and all kinds of purchasing programs done at or through markets. I think markets are just beginning to discover the power of the farmers market model by creating new models and I am glad to see so many new strategies being tested at them.It has long been a goal of mine to find the funding to study all of these kinds of programs used in direct marketing channels and publish their unique and shared characteristics. Maybe with enough examples from the field, that research can begin.

•This description or definition of Community Supported Agriculture is excerpted from 1993 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): An Annotated Bibliography and Resource Guide (DeMuth, Suzanne. Agri-topics no. 93-01. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, September 1993).

**The definition of success in any food system initiative is, of course, fascinating to me as someone who is deeply involved in the creation of the FMC-led Farmers Market Metrics Program. Like any farmers market, I’d hope for mobile and market box programs to adopt the same multiple impact set of metrics that we are developing for markets. Certainly, the FMM work can be easily applied to these efforts with only slight tweaking.

Technology for markets and farmers: EMV (or chip and pin technology) for cards

*This is a reposting to remind markets to check in with vendors and with your own credit card processor to ensure your readers are up to date. NOFA-VT leader Erin Buckwalter asked me about Square readers on a call today which reminded me to repost this information. And so yes, Square has an updated version as well, so make sure anyone using that or any other older card processing technology for credit cards is updating it!
*original post*
Was fortunate to be on a call with market state and network leaders today and to hear speakers including Kim Lyons, a long time supporter of small retailers at MerchantSource®; she gave us a great overview today of the chip and pin enabled devices/aka EMV devices/aka smart card technology that is coming down the pike. Here is what I heard, and as I get updates I’ll post them here and if what I wrote here needs to be corrected by my more able colleagues, I’ll also update. But since I know many markets don’t have state or network support systems, I felt it was necessary to get this on radar screens asap.And do remember, this is also important for market vendors that have their own credit card machine to address, so feel to print this out and share widely.

Chip and pin technology has existed for many years in Europe but had not been pushed in the US market- that was, until some of the worst security breaches of cards seen happened in the past year, including the Home Depot and Target breaches. So, whether or not those issues would be solved by it, chip and pin technology is coming and coming soon.

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This technology means credit and debit cards contain an embedded microchip and are authenticated automatically using a PIN. When a customer uses a card, it is placed into a “Point of Sale” (POS) terminal, which connects to the chip on the card. To complete the transaction, the customer enters a 4-digit PIN. These new technologies are meant to reduce the likelihood of breaches, especially at the merchant level. This is also true of new app-based systems (also called “contactless systems”) like Apple Pay which allow a user to upload credit cards to their iPhone 6 and use encrypted “near-field technology” to just tap or wave the smart phone at the merchant pad. The card itself never leaves ones wallet in those cases.

This chip and pin technology directly relates to all debit and credit but not to EBT only technology because EBT uses a different software kernel (system). However, many expect FNS to address this issue with changes in their technology sooner or later.
Important to note: This technology is for “card present” (CP) transactions and so internet or phone based transactions aka card not present (CNP) transactions will need their own version of chip and pin; some exist already. Of course, markets are not usually running CNP transactions so this is less of an issue right now for physical farmers markets.

There is a great deal left to learn about these issues as markets move into the next generation of technology. What is crucial to understand right now is the expected deadline of October 2015 for having this emv/pci compliant technology will shift liability of any breach on to merchant’s shoulders rather than the merchant providers of Mastercard/Visa etc. After that expected date of October 2015, in order for liability of any breach to stay with the merchant service providers, it will be necessary for any retailer to have these integrated pin pads or systems at that point. That means either adopting brand new card technology or app-based services like Apple Pay or upgrading their existing magnetic stripe only capabilities.
Once again, this technology is not directly related to EBT right now as a different type of technology so EBT only machines are not affected at this time but rumors abound of possible changes…

A recap of what is written above: Markets or state associations need to know if their merchant service providers or app-based solutions are emv/pci/contactless compliant. This new technology needs to be embedded into their pin pads or new technology by October of 2015 or the liability for any breach shifts to the merchant (read market). That entering into any lease system for readers at this point may mean getting technology that is “end of life” and cannot be upgraded or may mean paying for equipment after its technology is outdated. (Leasing versus renting contract language also needs to be understood by the buyer!) So, state associations, national partners and advocates for farmers and markets are working hard to understand these issues and to find resources for markets and farmers to understand the issues that will arise.

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What was also raised on this call was Farmers Market Coalition’s new contract with FNS to administer 3.3 million in support grants to markets for EBT systems and 700,000 in replacement equipment. I am sure that system along with the existing Marketlink system (which is an entirely separate program from FMC’s contract and supports NEW EBT systems for markets and for market farmers) are both going to work diligently on making sure these new systems are addressed.
Start reading up, folks.

10 Year Anniversary

I don’t want to dwell on August 29, 2005, because

a) the disaster here was much longer than that one day with the levee breaks flooding the city for days and weeks after, followed by  decade-long paternalistic and corporate disaster capitalism that defies easy description that we are still battling and

b) the decade so far of work to rebuild has been alternatively so exuberant and dismal that it cannot be remembered without sudden and troubling mood changes.

My old Market Umbrella boss wrote a 3-part piece on it for National Geographic , which may be useful for many to see what the market did to recover, although I find the outline of his recollections different enough from mine as to not represent my reality entirely. Still, he traces the decision-making that he and the Board had to do (for the systems and tactics he and I then designed and that I managed on the ground) so very well and offers some first-rate political and social perspective which is no surprise to those who know him.

The video we made as part of the Go Fish series that I produced and edited for Market Umbrella and is a small visual slice of that exuberant return. Since the market world represents the town square for most of us, it is no surprise that it served that purpose admirably well even in those dark days of 2005.
I watched this video again a few years back when showing it in Toronto for my farmers market colleagues and was surprised at the overwhelming emotion that welled up even then. I remembered the preparation for the market return as an exhausting month of work but a sweet one; one with a lot of heartbreak behind it and still in front of us to go through. Still, I love this video and all of the Go Fish/Go Market series on YT and hope you do too.
The disaster our region suffered was more widespread than usually reported, and so I ask that you reach out to any Mississippians or coastal Louisiana folks that you know and remember them as well this week. The destruction of the Gulf Coast was directly related to the hurricane and so this day is particularly difficult for them, even more than for most New Orleanians as our big disaster really started on Monday. Their recovery was not reported on by many or funded by Hollywood stars or rock musicians or held together by hundreds of thousands of volunteers as ours has been; additionally, the rebuilding there was delayed by the impact of the 2010 BP oil spill which was as devastating to the communities bound by coastal waters as any storm. Those of us in New Orleans love and admire our coastal communities and remain ready to do whatever needs must be done to repair all of it, not just our city streets and homes.

Lastly, let me say thank you once again to my food and farming friends and colleagues who have offered every kind of support over the last 10 years. As our founding Slow Food Leader and food maven Poppy Tooker told us then,”By being part of the food community, you are guaranteed help.” She was so right.

Expo Milano 2015

US food rocks the Expo
Visitors enter the 42,000-square-foot barn-like structure on a wide ramp built from the reclaimed Coney Island boardwalk, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. One side of the building is a living vertical farm the length of a football field which is harvested daily. Inside, a self-guided tour of interactive kiosks features videos of farmers, chef activists, research scientists and policy makers all speaking to the Expo’s theme of how it’s going to be possible to safely feed a population of 9 billion in the year 2050.

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Milan Southern Agricultural Park

During the Milan Expo 2015 the attention will be mainly focused on the Milan Southern Agricultural Park (Parco Agricolo Sud Milano), the “park of Expo 2015”, featuring 47 thousand hectares and representing one of the biggest areas aimed at feeding itself and the planet. An amazing space that coverss almost fifty per cent of the provincial area around Milan where historical farms, agricultural productions, natural, cultural and environmental resources are gathered and they might become the Biosphere’s Reserve. That means being awarded with the International praise from UNESCO for the keeping and protection of the environment within the program “Man and Biosphere”.

USA rocks Expo Milano 2015.

How Farmer Vendors Say Markets Can Help Them-AFT/FMC survey

To echo what my colleagues at FMC said in their original post accompanying the survey results, I recommend that you click through the answers below to our website and read the comments from the respondents. Do remember that the answers may not be drawn from a truly representative group of vendors and are a very small sample, but still, it is likely that each market has vendors that would agree with the majority of the statements.

Most of their comments have to do with the writing and enforcement of rules, the request for governance to be stable and for market managers having skills related to retail management, such as advertising know-how, location management expertise and product awareness. In all cases, these skills are possible for market staff to acquire, but won’t necessarily come from experience. In other words, it is time that professional development becomes a benefit/requirement of market management.

In order for markets to thrive in a competitive world full of external pressures and internal tensions, it is my contention that market managers (and boards!) who ask in other professionals to assist the market, who reach out to their peers regularly and who work constantly to balance between the vendors, the visitors/shoppers and the larger food/civic community’s needs are more likely to succeed. Professional development may mean attending a conference, taking a class on marketing, or researching product reach. However it is done, it should be built into the market managers year, even if it is only an hour or two a month.

I fully expect to get replies from managers telling me that they already work hours and hours without pay, have a list of to-dos longer than their product list or have a board that doesn’t care about their development. My reply is I know that all of these issues truly exist in real time for managers; I was one of those hard-working managers at one time and finding time to increase my skills was very difficult, but I did it. I did it partly by spending the time to find more volunteers, training them to do important work and at times, even writing my own job review in order to indicate where I needed help. I also built systems so that I didn’t have to explain how to do something each time or have to spend time recreating each time what needed to be done (designing a system for setting up the Welcome Booth that included lists of what and where items went out is an example of that as was a map of where to do outreach when flyers or postcards were ready to go). I  wanted to stay in the field and so I looked for ways to become better at what I did and to become a professional market leader.

In turn, boards have to add benefits or a living wage so that they can retain trained market managers. As many experts have noted, what employees truly want is some autonomy, flexibility and appreciation.They want to feel that they are part of a purposeful place and that innovation is allowed, even encouraged and rewarded. Where better to build all of that in then a market?

I’ll also say that many advocates for markets (like FMC and AFT) also understand that the capacity of markets must be increased and that means that the job of market manager has to become a respected and long-term job. Check out this webinar about a wonderful survey of market vendors done by Colleen Donovan of Washington State University, Small Farms Program that gave excellent input on how to use the data to increase market expertise. It is also a big reason why FMC is investing in the Farmers Market Metrics project, so that good data about markets impacts can be shared and will encourage more investment.

What we know is that the number of volunteers and part-time staff must increase to assist managers and that the best way for a board to help management is to write and enforce clear and fair rules and to raise and manage money. We want markets to keep growing and to do that, management has to understand every nuance of their market and of the larger system to make their market resilient.

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“To better understand the evolving needs of farmers markets and the farmers who sell at them, American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition teamed up with C2It Marketing to complete a national survey of farmers who sell at farmers markets.  Read the FMC posts here.

Over 550 farmers who sell at farmers markets nationwide responded to the survey, providing valuable feedback and ideas that should help farmers markets improve their operations. Despite the large number of responses, keep in mind these responses may not be representative of vendors from your local farmers market.

FMC recommends that markets review the issues farmers highlight in this survey, and then ask their own vendors about what would make the market more successful. Please also note that the views expressed by the survey responses do not necessarily reflect the views of FMC.

What Respondents Requested from Markets

When asked, “What could be done to help you and your farmers market be more successful?”, many farmers noted several areas where markets and supporting organizations could make improvements. The following answers provide a snapshot of the prevailing issues. Click on the links to view details on each suggestion: