North Market, Columbus OH

This market is one of my favorites as I was a poor community organizer in the 1980s in Columbus while it was being renovated and even then I knew to walk to the market to get healthy food and soak in the lovely vibe. The renovated site also hosts an outdoor farmers market on Saturdays and sits within a revitalized area that encourages visits to this previously barren area. The value of being able to sit in a sunny, bustling place for a leisurely lunch and recharge one’s batteries is something market halls especially can offer their neighbors and they should be celebrated for that.

North Market

Findlay Market pictures

The first of three public markets that I will be visiting this week across Ohio.

Lovely Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, the largest collection of Italianate buildings in the US.

Lovely Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, the largest collection of Italianate buildings in the US.

Belgian brunch restaurant in O-t-R neighborhood, close to the Findlay Market.

brunch restaurant in Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, close to Findlay Market.

Seating at Findlay Market

Seating at Findlay Market

Welcome to Findlay, Ohio's oldest public market.

Welcome to Findlay, Ohio’s oldest public market.

Around the corner from the Findlay Market, Cincinnati's Public Market

Around the corner from the market

Mural at the Findlay Market

Mural at the Market

National 2013 Food Hub Survey-NFGN

Authored by Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems & The Wallace Center at Winrock International
From the Executive Summary:

Findings from the survey showed that food hubs across the country are growing to broaden the distribution infrastructure for local food. From the survey, 62% of food hubs began operations within the last five years, 31% of food hubs had $1,000,000 or more in annual revenue and the majority of food hubs were supporting their businesses with little or no grant assistance—including food hubs that identified as nonprofits. Financially, the most successful food hubs tended to be for-profit and cooperative in structure, in operation for more than 10 years and working with a relatively large number of producers. The values-based nature of food hubs makes it hard to judge many of them solely on their level of financial success.
The survey also revealed a number of persistent challenges and barriers to growth that even the most financially successful food hubs faced.
For example, many food hubs indicated their needs for assistance in managing growth and identifying appropriate staffing levels for their hubs. They also often pointed to their need for capital and other resources to increase their trucking and warehousing capacity.

NFGN Report

Louisiana – New Cottage Food Law (August 2013)

Sales are limited to $20,000 per year

Cottage food operations don’t need to get a license from their health department, but they do need to check with their county to see if any zoning requirements apply to them.

Operations do not need to collect any state sales tax, but they may need to collect local sales taxes (it is different for each city and county).

Only food items in these categories are allowed:

Cakes, Cookies, Honey, Jams & jellies -Preserves.

Unlike most states, Louisiana allows custard and cream-filled bakery products.

Louisiana – Cottage Food Law.

Rules are varied

I think most if not all managers of markets understand that other markets have different rules than theirs, but do your shoppers know? And have you ever updated them, in cooperation with your vendors?
Nearby markets should share rules so that they do not make their farmers follow different sets of rules for little reason. It’s amazing how many markets don’t even attempt to compare rules which makes it quite hard for vendors to remember which of their markets has rules against packing up early or who allows foraged items and who doesn’t. One of the main areas of contention among farmers is the amount of liability insurance that they are required to carry (when a market requires it); a farmer told me about three different levels of insurance that he was asked to carry, all of the markets within a few miles of each other.

On Being a Boss: Kristen Essig Takes Over at Sainte Marie – Eater Interviews – Eater NOLA

Below, is a link to an interview with a New Orleans chef who has embedded local purchasing into the very DNA of her kitchen.

The day I met Kristen was the day (2002? 2003?) that she interviewed to be our Crescent City Farmers Market (CCFM) Tuesday/Thursday market manager. She came to the interview with a slate of ideas and opinions backed up with a vitality that could not be denied. We were surprised that someone with her fine dining experience (and obvious ambition) wanted to work for our little organization, but she explained that she wanted to know all facets of the food system.
During her tenure, she can be credited with building our Green Plate Special program, which allows restaurants to come for a full month of Tuesdays to sell plate lunches to the shoppers at the CCFM and, of course, allows those chefs to understand the farmers and fishers better and to have long stretches to watch market vending in person.

As a chef, she came with a “shoot from the hip” framework and never stopped running the entire time she worked with us. Like anyone who has worked on the line at top restaurants, she was intimidating to some but we knew that she always led with what was in the best interest of our farmers and fishers. Through her, we understood the psyche of the chef better and started to realize that we should get to know the sous chefs and line cooks that were more often at the market and were on their way to the top position. Many of those have now become leaders of their own restaurant (why, like our friend Kristen Essig!) and almost all have become fierce supporters of those markets.

“As a line cook, you develop a relationship with vendors as they come in the back door, but actually working with the vendors at the market was a totally different thing. You’re working, really, with 20 small businesses, and they’re all trying to make certain quotas, and they all have certain amounts of product that they have to move. You develop strong relationships with these people—you learn that they have bills to pay, whose kid needs braces, etc.”

On Being a Boss: Kristen Essig Takes Over at Sainte Marie – Eater Interviews – Eater NOLA.

Ask away…

To follow up on Monday’s post on excellent questions NEVER to ask farmers at a market, here is a great site full of questions once SHOULD ask a farmer. I can envision these on a laminated card at the Welcome Booth or maybe on Facebook with a few listed weekly. Questions for farmers

Vermont Law School Helps Farmers Markets and CSAs

Good overview of the new Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School that Laurie Ristino is heading. I am honored to be part of one of their first grants to help markets, written in partnership with NOFA-VT. If the proposal is successful, legal resources will be written for markets and for CSAs over the next few years.

VT Law

Cleaver & Co. New Orleans

I just visited the newest member of the New Orleans localvore family, Cleaver & Co. a no-frills, full-service butcher shop. The posted educational information at this store is easily understood but when necessary, the staff is quite knowledgeable when it comes to more in-depth questions. It makes me think about how we communicate livestock issues and value within farmers markets; has the consumer education gone as deeply as it has for fruit and vegetable production? Should market managers explain the regulation and production issues in more detail than we have? Really, how much do market managers actually know about what unique issues these producers face, such as amount of land needed for grazing, treating animal illnesses naturally, finding healthy feed, selecting the right USDA processor when applicable and so on…



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Indicating health

Windowsill Pies, New Orleans LA pie makers

Blueberry pie from Windowsill Pies and gluten-free pizza and shrooms from the Rue family, all from Covington Farmers Market..

Take a long look at that picture. To many, it may only show another dang food picture that was posted online but to me it represents something else entirely.
All of those goods came from the Covington Farmers Market, which is a parish (to most of you outside of Louisiana, parish=county) seat market located 40 miles from downtown New Orleans and across Lake Pontchartrain in an area of what used to be called the Ozone Belt for its pine tree greenery.
The gluten-free pizza was sold to me by a teen who was selling them on behalf of her family business and could tell me what was in their pizzas and why, could take my money and offer change with a genuine smile and good wishes. The mushrooms were on their table too and collected as a side option to their prepared food sales, as well as used in their goods.

The pie was sold to me by 2 entrepreneurs that buy their ingredients locally as often as possible (literally pointing to the honey seller that provided the basis of this pie’s lack of refined sugar). This vendor’s artistic tendencies suit their product list well, all of the way to the windowed boxes for their pies and their oil cloth tablecloth and vintage aprons presentation.
What is important to me as a shopper about this picture is that it represents a (still) unusual way of buying food; I can ask each of them exactly what is in their goods and how they were made. They are working to replace industrial ingredients with natural and closer-to-home versions that offer more taste. And of course, not only did I get a chance to talk directly with the makers of these goods and to encourage them further, but that I was able to buy from young women, all just beginning farmers market sales. All of the made goods were delicious and will be bought many times again. I may buy them for myself on a week in which I know I am just not going to feel like cooking or they may be used to share with friends when they come to spend the day at the pool or may even be brought to a party I am invited to as my gift.

Market managers know that farmers markets are THE incubator for businesses that are not ready for or do not want storefronts. The chance to take a small idea and grow it slowly and carefully is a necessary step for any entrepreneur, yet the places one can do this are so limited that markets are among the only ones that regularly offer that opportunity. Many experienced market shoppers know that when they see new goods at markets that are advanced in their ingredients and presentation, they must immediately support them vigorously and talk them up to their friends. In turn, market managers need to monitor these vendors and introduce them to those shoppers (as this market’s manager did to me) as well as search for those vendors’ new shoppers, who may not already be present.
In other words, these vendors often represent a new age in a market. Its important to remember that young vendors trying items that can only be sold at farmers markets are who we want to see more of in markets. These folks cannot (or do not) sell their goods to Whole Foods or ship them worldwide; they design products for the type of person who stops and asks about their ingredients and their process. Therefore, they are an indicator species, which is defined beautifully in the Encyclopædia Brittanica as an organism that serves as a measure of the environmental conditions that exist in a given locale.

If indicator species show the health of an environment, then their low activity can alert to danger in a market’s health or when increasing, can show vitality. Encouragement of diversity of products, gender, age, ethnicity and business goals is exactly what each market must be setting as a goal daily, weekly, monthly and so on. To me, the presence of these indicator vendors and others at this little market show its emerging strength. And offers some damn tasty research at the same time.

Creamery settles dispute with feds

“Randy and Karen Sowers will forfeit $29,500 to the government. U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein accused the couple in mid-April of violating federal currency reporting requirements — known as structuring — by depositing money in increments of less than $10,000 so they would not have to fill out forms required under the Bank Secrecy Act. The statutes are meant to curtail money laundering.
The Sowerses have owned a farm off Bolivar Road in Middletown for more than three decades and have operated it as the South Mountain Creamery since 2001. They have maintained their innocence and said they learned what structuring was only when Treasury Department officials showed up at the farm in late February to question them about the deposits.
The couple deal with a lot of cash at farmers markets, they said, and the deposits totaled similar amounts every time.”

Creamery settles dispute with feds – The Frederick News-Post : Archive.

Vermont Feasibility Report

Very proud to release the Vermont Feasibility Market Currency Report this week. I was contracted last fall to do this work by Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Marketing (VAAFM) in partnership with Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT).

The focus was whether there were opportunities to merge the coupon (FMNP and incentives) and SNAP programs into a universal currency for all of Vermont’s farmers markets (and also ultimately assist CSAs and other direct marketing outlets) in order to streamline the systems now being used.
The final report covers technology issues, market capacity, costs and outreach for the Vermont farmers markets and offers recommendations for streamlining through pilots and policy and further analysis.

This link takes you to my website where the report is listed.

I am happy to talk about the report or to answer any questions.