Tom Spicer, the man who taught Dallas how to eat better, has died

Met him once and had a fascinating conversation on food and New Orleans and markets and restaurants and a few other topics. He was a true New Orleanian: engaging, voluble, opinionated and talented at a wide range of crafts.
People like this are necessary to those of us waging the often-solitary fight to build a sustainable food system piece by piece, person by person: they inspire and challenge us with their words and their actions. Thank you Spiceman. Tom Spicer, the man who taught Dallas how to eat better, has died | Dallas Morning News.

2009 Profile

an example of the type of comments left on Dallas sites upon news of his passing:
Tom Spicer meant more to me being in business than anyone. He was one of my first customers and he encouraged me from the very beginning. Tom gave me a list of my best accounts to this day! Tom was so passionate and fun to speak with , he started me off on my food journey in life and was essential in helping my company get started. Fennel and dill pollen spice would never be here today without Tom Spicer.

Has farm-to-table helped the actual farmer yet? – LA Times

The solution for rural economies and small-scale agriculture is not to DIY everything but to build a multifaceted, participatory food system of fully employed food producers, not hobbyists.

Great piece but make sure that you also read the comments attached to see how many people have either “campaign fatigue” about local food or are attached to that trope about how local food can’t feed the world. My comment on there attempts to address that.
Has farm-to-table helped the actual farmer yet? – LA Times.

Mo’ Money? No Problem.

IMG_1536

The picture is from my regular weekly, year-round Saturday market, founded in 1996 in the small town of Covington Louisiana, which is only 40 miles north of New Orleans but separated from it by Lake Pontchartrain and its 24 mile-long bridge.

The market is very ably run by sisters Jan and Ann, using very minimum staff hours but with enormous amounts of community buy-in. They have music scheduled every week, often have food trucks and during holidays have author signings or tasting events. The market has loads of seating, a permanent welcome structure with donated coffee and branded merchandise for sale. I tell you all of that to show how they balance the needs of the shoppers (by adding amenities that cannot be offered by the vendors) and the needs of their vendors (they keep the fees low by having less staff hours and carefully curate the products to showcase only high-quality regionally produced items), but also do their very best in their estimation to reduce their own wear and tear as staff.

To that end, they decided long ago to not participate in the same farmers market wireless machine/token system that we had in New Orleans; I had been the Deputy Director of that market organization and in 2006 or so had shared news of our emerging token and benefit program system with nearby markets in case they wanted to add the same; Covington told me then they didn’t see the need in their small town, even though they know and care about the large number of low-income people on benefit programs living nearby and do their best to offer a wide variety of price points and goods. I must confess that after our initial chat I was a bit disappointed by the lack of interest in expanding the reach, but soon realized this was an example of a particular type of market (rural niche) and the leadership was comfortable with the middle-class vibe they had certainly attracted. And I also realized a few years later that if they had been influenced by our complex system, it would have probably been a wrong move for the market at that time (more on that later.)

They knew, however, they at least needed the access for shoppers to get more cash and had asked the bank (a market sponsor) to have an ATM, and had also asked the municipality to add one (the market space is on city hall property), but couldn’t get anyone to move on the request. Finally, a 3rd party entrepreneur approached them to put one in and ta-daa, they finally have their ATM. It is moved in on Saturday morning and out again when the market is done, but the market will have a conversation soon with the mayor (a strong market supporter) about getting it there permanently. I was thrilled to see even that machine, as the nearest bank is blocks away and on far too many days I have grumpily got BACK in my truck to get more cash.

And in the days since those early rounds of proselytizing for (only) a centralized token/EBT/Debit system at every market, my own work has led me to the conclusion that instead there needs to be a suite of systems for markets to choose the appropriate version to process cards, rather than just the one system for everyone. Some markets can serve their shoppers with an ATM (some can own it, some can lease theirs and some can have a 3rd party offer the service like Covington), with some farmers having EBT/debit access on their own; some markets can use a phone-in system for EBT and have a Square on a smart phone at the market or farmer-level; some need the centralized system, but are figuring out electronic token systems; and yes, some do still need to bells and whistles of the centralized token system; and some markets need that system that is still developing, as technology continues to change to add more options for these systems.

What will help this multi-tiered system to happen is for markets to keep on sharing their ideas with each other and to gather data on why their system works for their community. That may be as simple as doing a regular Dot Survey/Bean Poll to ask shoppers about the interest in card use, or doing an annual economic survey like SEED, or asking their vendors on their annual renewal/application form about their use or projected use of card technology (you’d be surprised how many vendors already have Square or another version of it). And markets and vendors that do have the technology need to track the time and effort it takes to process cards and to build the entire system, which includes some outreach and marketing, and a significant amount of bookkeeping and share that information.

I keep gathering examples of innovation among markets and hope that sooner or later I (or other more able researchers) can be tasked with conducting in-depth research about those ideas to offer the market field a more comprehensive and dynamic view of all of the great ideas managed by our market systems. In the meantime, if you come to Covington your pajeon (warm Korean pancake) is on me; after all, I’ve got the cash.

FMC’s Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program is Open

As you may have heard, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) partnered with the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment necessary to process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

WHAT


FMC will cover the costs of purchasing or renting SNAP EBT equipment and services (set-up costs, monthly service fees, and wireless fees) for up to three years. After their application has been approved, eligible farmers and farmers markets will choose their own SNAP EBT service provider from a list of participating companies. Transaction fees (for SNAP EBT, credit, and debit payments) will not be covered.

WHEN


The application period will open at 9:00am EST Tuesday, February 17th, 2015. This is a first-come, first-serve opportunity, which will be over when all the funds have been allocated. Don’t wait!

WHO


SNAP-authorized farmers markets and direct marketing farmers (who sell at one or more farmers markets) are eligible for funding if they became authorized before Nov. 18, 2011, AND fall into one of the following categories:

A. They do not currently possess functioning EBT equipment; OR

B. They currently possess functioning EBT equipment, but received
that equipment before May 2, 2012.

Wondering what qualifies as ‘not currently possessing functioning EBT equipment?

Markets and farmers do not currently possess functioning EBT equipment if:

They currently rely on manual/paper vouchers to accept SNAP,
They do not currently accept SNAP and have never possessed functioning SNAP EBT equipment, or
They do not currently accept SNAP because their EBT equipment is
:
Damaged beyond repair.
Non-operational because their SNAP EBT service provider no longer offers SNAP EBT processing in their state.
Stolen or lost.
For more information on the program, including frequently asked questions, an eligibility chart, background information and application instructions, visit them at farmersmarketcoalition.org/programs/freesnapebt
found here.

CSA FARMS CELEBRATE NATIONAL CSA SIGN-UP DAY FEBRUARY 28

(By the way, brilliant marketing idea to explain that this CSA “event” is scheduled on what has been the most popular CSA sign up day of the year in the past. What similar idea could the farmers market field adopt I wonder?)

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 23, 2015): Farms from around the country are celebrating National CSA Sign-Up Day on February 28. The day encourages food consumers to buy a share of their local farm’s harvest for the 2015 season, a buying model known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.

CSA has become an important model to support local agriculture since it was introduced to the United States in the 1980s and since grown to over 6,000 farms across the country. To join a CSA, members buy a share of the harvest in the Winter and Spring and then get a box of local produce each week throughout the growing season.

“CSAs are the most authentic connection between a farmer and eater available. CSA members get the freshest, high quality, seasonal local produce, but they also get a direct connection to their farmer. This model is economically important to farmers, especially small and beginning farmers, because they can grow with confidence knowing that they have a market for their produce ahead of time.”, says Simon Huntley from Small Farm Central, a technology company that works with CSA farms across the country, and the creator of National CSA Sign-up Day.

February 28th was chosen as National CSA Sign-up Day because this day is the most popular day to sign up for CSA shares according to the 2014 CSA Farming Report. Buying a CSA share in late winter is important because farmers are making the capital investments for this year’s harvest now and the CSA model means they do not need to finance these costs with costly credit.

“The CSA model was what allowed me to start my own farm business at age 23. Without the sale of CSA shares, I would not have been able to buy seeds, potting soil, fertilizer, or anything else. Six years later, my business is still going strong, and it’s because of the CSA. Access to capital in the off-season; the meaningful connections between farmers and CSA members; the sense of ownership and pride members feel about their CSA farms–all these things add up to healthy farms, businesses, and communities. The CSA model is good for everybody,” says Laura Olive Sackton, owner of First Root Farm in Concord, Massachusetts.

For eaters looking to join a CSA, a searchable database of CSA farms is available at localharvest.org.

To learn more about National CSA Sign-Up Day and the CSA model, visit http://www.csasignupday.com.

For more information, please contact:

Small Farm Central
Simon Huntley
simon@smallfarmcentral.com

http://www.smallfarmcentral.com

412-567-3864

###

S.F. property owners to get tax break from creating urban farms

Under the new law, the five-year contract stays with the property even if it’s sold, but if an owner wants to get out of it they can pay back taxes and interest. San Francisco’s ordinance limits the tax savings of individual property owners to $25,000 per year; if the savings are higher, an official review is necessary. City officials in Sacramento, Fresno, San Jose and San Diego have expressed interest, but haven’t yet passed the necessary local legislation.

Los Angeles is close to doing that, and Clare Fox of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council estimates there are 8,600 parcels within Los Angeles city limits that qualify.

How nice to see so many benefits listed for growing food:
“It’s about food security and food access, but it’s also about transforming blighted vacant places that are prone to illegal dumping into community places,” she said.
“It’s a way to beautify the neighborhood and stabilize real estate values. Plus, there are the environmental benefits.”

S.F. property owners to get tax break from creating urban farms – SFGate.

Protestors rally in support of Golden Gate farmers market

FYI- this is Florida and not northern California..

A few issues that I would like more information about from this story: one, if the market and the county had communicated in the past and two, how many local people think that flea market goods have too much room at this market and if they agree that a farmers market should not contain those goods. I’m not advocating for flea market goods at markets (my own markets were very strict about any non-food goods) but whether it is true that flea market goods are taking up most of the space in this market and whether those flea market goods have a place in farmers markets should be up to the local community, which certainly includes the municipality in question, but doesn’t mean the commissioners should decide these issues alone. It is important to note that in many cases across the Americas, staple markets have a place in many communities and can be a very useful type of market for small rural communities or for immigrant communities.

Lastly, the rule to only allow open-air markets to operate only 28 days per year seems awfully restrictive. I wonder when that was passed in Florida and how many counties have that rule? And is it to restrict flea markets but ends up restricting farmers markets too? I do know from my pals in farmers markets in Florida that the use of the term farmers market is all over the place across the state; resellers use the term in normal practice and of course, in a state like Florida that has massive agricultural exports, small farms and direct marketing are not likely to be valued as highly as in other states. Of course, California does have a thriving farmers market system, but also has a very different political climate and history.

For all of these issues, this is why I advocate for formal rules that allow for constant transparency and clarity in market governance. Rules that explain why, when, how and for whom a market operates can help reduce these issues before they get to crisis stage. In addition, this is also why I hope Farmers Market Coalition and their partners are successful in building a simple and usable data collection system; If all markets could gather a few comparable metrics each year, these issues might be more easily diverted or at least, add facts to lessen a charged situation.

The controversy started when Collier County commissioner Tom Henning used the word “gypsy” to describe vendors at the Golden Gate Community Center market. Commissioner Henning wanted to protect a business that complained the farmers market shoppers were taking up his parking spots….
While county commission retracted their initial vote to shut the market down, their problems aren’t over.

County laws say open-air markets can only operate 28 days a year. But vendors at the farmers market want to stay open all year. A petition with 1,300 signatures will be presented at a county commission meeting on Tuesday.
this from another
Taylor said the county’s issue is that it’s not a farmer’s market, but more of a flea market and it appears to be disrupting local businesses.

Protestors rally in support of Golden Gate farmers market – NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida.