Toronto: More than a charitable event for gourmands, the Night Market is a true mesh of the design and food communities: each of the chef’s carts is crafted from upcycled materials by a mix of established and burgeoning designers. So impressive are these carts that The Stop invited Designlines to judge them for design excellence, creativity and effective representation of The Stop’s mission.
(from the organizer): …”adds a list of products that can be produced under the cottage food law including pies, breads, candies,syrups, etc. All regulation has been removed from the bill. A simple label affixed stating made in a home kitchen and income cap stays at $20,000.”
Original post on the subject in 2013
I found a great piece on LinkedIn by Wolfram Alderson, Founding Executive Director at Institute for Responsible Nutrition on the excellent return on investment in farmers markets. His call for infrastructure is spot on, although we need to counsel our stakeholders that their money will not always best used for permanent market structures or cooperative kitchens (see a link below to one story that is about a permanent market structure).
However, when our community food system does need permanent infrastructure, we want to make sure that direct marketing producers are welcomed inside along with their intermediate and wholesale producers brethren and sistren. All sizes of family and community farms will be more profitable if they don’t each need to build processing plants or storage facilities and having those facilities between the farm and the market city (rather than always in it!) would help market, intermediate and wholesale sellers and buyers alike.
This has been one of the issues facing open-air markets seeking lasting financial support; if the investor can’t see a building being built or rehabbed with their money, how can we offer a return on their investment? I suggest that we need to refine and expand our language on the measurable benefits that these markets provide to investors such as investments in new businesses, deepening awareness of the value of regional goods to family table and intermediate buyers, an open laboratory for piloting innovative ideas around food access and other civic ideas.
Let’s start to get smarter about how to ask for strategic investments that allow our organizations and businesses to keep doing the unique and important work of direct sales that lead to these other investments without always adding more projects to our to-do list. That way when those food hubs and kitchens are built when and where needed, we will still have a public place for shoppers and sellers to meet directly.
The article also links to a story of an exciting ballot measure in Marin County to support a 20 million dollar permanent market to replace the parking lot market that has been there over 30 years and run by the Agricultural Institute of Marin,a non-profit led by long time Farmers Market Coalition board member Brigitte Moran:
“The building will be funded privately by the Agricultural Institute of Marin, the nonprofit that runs the Civic Center market as well as six other Bay Area farmers’ markets. Taxpayers will pay $2 million to upgrade the vacant lot and make other infrastructure improvements, as part of a broader overhaul of the Civic Center campus.
The Board of Supervisors is solidly supportive of the measure.
“It’s part of our continued commitment to local agriculture,” said Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who represents West Marin. “Plus it’ll help us launch the renaissance of the entire campus.”
As a member of this team, I’m pleased to share the news of this project being funded:
The Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems received funding to develop a Farmers Market Legal Toolkit (FMLT) and educate market leaders on various legal topics that affect them. The project will be conducted in partnership with NOFA- VT, who will assist them in collecting data on area farmer’s markets. The legal toolkit will include resources in three major areas: governance structure of farmer’s markets, liabilities related to use of EBT/SNAP systems, and general risk management.
(USDA Editor’s Note: The USDA press release mistakenly identified this project as the University of Vermont and the USDA research summary system mistakenly identified it as the University of Arizona, but it is in fact Vermont Law School.)
I remember when some NGOs involved in farmers markets begin to use the term social capital a decade or more back to describe the benefits that markets extend to their community. Some partners raised their eyebrows when we used it, while others enthusiastically agreed and assisted markets in describing it and measuring it. Florida’s work was extremely helpful in that process.
Increasingly, the research shows that understanding and growing social capital is vital for entrepreneurial activity to flourish in lieu of a defined network. For rural and/or new farmers, this may be why the farmers market movement is necessary to their business planning, even with food hubs and other outlets wanting their products.
But new research shows there’s clearly more to the story than just individual skill, pluck, and ambition. The study, by Temple University’s Seok-Woo Kwon, the University of Missouri’s Colleen Heflin, and Duke University’s Martin Ruef, examines the relationship between self-employment levels and community support structures across America’s metro areas. Published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, the authors argue that the strength of local social networks and trust — using the term “social capital,” popularized by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam — plays a major role in whether a city is able to foster a culture of self-employment and entrepreneurship.
This is an exciting piece on the explosion of farmers markets, but I must confess that based on my own knowledge, I find the data to be less than precise. The USDA list of markets is not checked for accuracy and as it is up to market organizers to list and to de-list their own markets, most estimations believe that the list is far from accurate, even though the USDA does everything within its (limited) time to make it right. Even the definition of what can be listed as a market is loose; this may seem like nitpicking (after all more “markets” is good news isn’t it?) but since we know how the capacity of markets remains low partly because of low support among funders and policy makers, the lack of clarity may hurt chances to expand well-managed farmers markets or public markets that support local entrepreneurs.
What is also true is that many retail operations masquerade as farmers markets without directly supporting farmers or managing those involved in direct sales; regular operation, transparent governance and some direct sales for regional producers should at least be the minimum to being listed on this list. Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of auxiliary and ancillary food initiatives that get regional food into more communities being listed somewhere and to be tied to efforts at flagship or sister market organizations, but we should get better at describing each of them with their own type so we can allow more to flourish.
I am honored to be a member of this roundtable, and to be a new contributor to The Nature of Cities site. This topic is a bit difficult for me as I believe in cities and in their need to expand every type of good health and wealth creation – which certainly includes agriculture – but I worry about the obsession with what is called urban agriculture. In my city, talking about the corner garden or the delivery system for food into “food swamps” often takes every bit of the conversation and efforts of many urban food organizations, and so as a result, I find that few of them understand the challenges and successes of farming and harvesting past the city limits.
I believe that farmers markets missions are often about connecting the rural and the urban, and that was certainly true in the founding markets of our city, the Crescent City Farmers Markets. And so the fact that my city has not seen a large increase in the number of markets or in farmer/vendors bringing goods in tells me that this gap is growing, rather than shrinking. Rather, the city advocates for food have focused almost entirely on “demand” solutions that do not spend any time on linking new urban growers with the experienced rural farmer, or in curating any new or ongoing conversations about price, seasonality and sustainability.
And having said all of that, I also see innovation happening in many areas of urban food and believe that those activists can positively influence rural growers delaying a push to resilient, sustainable agriculture. My only question is, who will start the conversation?
The Nature of Cities Roundtable