Slow Food in a Trump world 

Glad to see Richard’s take on the election and on our food organizing future even if it seems bleak:

I am very much on edge that the hard-fought battles for greater transparency, greater community engagement and shaping local control over foods … could be wiped out….

…there is no longer a consensus about social, economic and political obligations to one another…we need to build mechanisms for social cohesion….

Still, leave it to Richard to find the cracks in the sidewalk for shoots to grow:

While Trump and Brexit signal a “hard-right nationalism,” they also represent “votes against large, faceless, unresponsive institutions or political blocs … a vote against large imperial elites,” McCarthy said from Slow Food’s Brooklyn, New York headquarters.

Trump’s popularity outside cities and the coastal elite, he said, also means a rejection of an “economy that treats rural economies as places that we extract resources from rather than as places where we grow wealth and community….

Other quotes:

…Food continues to be this persistent wormhole in the universe between people who are otherwise divided.

..we still have all of this baggage from the second half of the 20th century; growth-driven economy, globalization, ultra-specialization where we don’t even know or have to know where our food comes from as long as it comes in cheaply. That system is unraveling; in the unraveling, it’s no longer functioning for people.

there is a sense that I want a different kind of relationship in my community with my food…there is an instinct to reach out and there is an instinct to want to withdraw. I can’t do anything about the withdrawing although I fully understand why one would want to…(but) food is a fairly benign gateway for us to forge relationships, connections….







Listen here

27 days…or less

Bloomberg: On average, the companies surveyed have just 27 days worth of cash reserves – or money to cover expenses if inflows suddenly stopped – according to the JPMorgan study, which analyzed 470 million transactions by 570,000 small business last year. Restaurants typically hold the smallest cash buffers, with just 16 days of reserves, while the real-estate sector boasts the biggest, at 47 days.

I’d like to see cash reserves and other business practices as metrics for Farmers Market Metrics in a later iteration. My sense is that the internal data of a market’s (and of its businesses’) bookkeeping and accounting-norm practices can be collected under the term “Resiliency” and offer advocates some wonderful data in order to extend the lifespan and/or decrease the learning curve of new or expanding farmers markets and its businesses.

It has long seemed to me that many small businesses within markets mistake cash flow for profit which often leads to surprising exits from  those markets. Therefore, the more  a market understands the difference between these two for itself and can begin to assist its types of business with establishing baselines for this data, the more that the USDA and other supporters can be encouraged to offer even more detailed assistance.


Land & Power, Cultivating Food Justice

Panel at MSAN Ag Revival meeting

Ben Burkett Indian Springs Farmer, Federation of Southern Cooperatives leader

“Without owning land, we cannot have much justice. Yet, so many barriers to using that land remain.”

I was in a room recently with the Cargill boss and others like him. They think they make the wheels turn, but we make the wheels turn.”

Rukia Lumumba  Lawyer, back in state after being in NYC working with incarcerated youth. Daughter of late mayor of Jackson MS.  Leader of Cooperation Jackson. 

“The food justice movement cannot be separated from mass incarceration movement.We need good food to retain information, to think critically.”

If you eat healthier, you act healthier.”

“Question the fear we have for people of color, for poor people.”

Nia Umoja  Registered nurse by training. Leader of Cooperative Community of Near West Jackson

“If we are what we eat, what are you?”

We all have a equal right to a healthy diet. (We need a) backyard garden at every home.

I just want gardens everywhere.”

Patricia Cipolitti and Lupe Gonzalo, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Most here are talking about small farming, but the part of the food business we work in is the huge agri-businesses part. We don’t even have access to land to grow food for ourselves.  We live with modern day slavery in the fields of Florida.We began to organize in the 1990s to force growers to take responsibility for the abuses we faced as farmworkers. To show growers that we had power. Yet, growers were saying that they had no power to change the conditions; therefore the organizing changed in 2000 to call on huge retailers who purchased those goods to make these changes. Taco Bell was the first retailer called on; many ridiculed our efforts, but the organizing grew and helped consumers understand their role in building power and making real changes in the lives of farmworkers. We now know we have the power of people, especially when collaborating with others like consumers.

We had 3 demands:

pay a penny more a pound for tomatoes to get more money back to farmworkers;

respect a human rights  code of conduct for farmworkers;

that the voice of workers would be respected in the field and retaliation against those who spoke out would not be allowed.

Fair Food agreement: 14 corporations are now on board; 90% of the Florida tomatoes picked are now part of that agreement.

Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

500,000 members who advocate for the issues you have heard this morning. My team is 15 people and works in coalition to have impact on the research we do. (We call that the the Inside DC game.)

The outside DC game is  embodied in out HEAL Food Alliance, a social justice initiative.

We operate on the idea that there is a “Not a lack of food; there is a lack of democracy” (Lappe)

Lappe also points out that one can get lost in argument of which is more effective: To give a man to fish or teach a man to fish when the real issue is who owns the damn pond.

“US History is based on the destruction of the people who were here. The founders were hoping to establish a nice economic niche based on the extraction of resources. That is what we are facing today that use of someone else’s land and someone else’s labor to create wealth for only a few, rather than something for all of us.”

Facilitator: When we fight power, power changes and adapts. If we’re not vigilant, we will miss that adaptation. Be aware.

No Piece of the Pie

From ACORN International organizer Wade Rathke:

The Food Chain Workers’ Alliance released an updated state of the industry report entitled “No Piece of the Pie,” and it’s not just sobering, it’s depressing, because even as employment is soaring in this critical industry, the workers are falling farther and farther behind. There is no way to separate the precariousness of the workforce from any final conclusions about food quality and safety.

The report’s executive summary speaks for itself and includes the following findings:

· Fourteen percent of the nation’s workforce is employed in the food chain, over one in seven of all workers in the U.S. The number of food chain workers grew by 13 percent from 2010 to 2016.
· The food chain pays the lowest hourly median wage to frontline workers compared to workers in all other industries. The annual median wage for food chain workers is $16,000 and the hourly median wage is $10, well below the median wages across all industries of $36,468 and $17.53.
· Thirteen percent of all food workers, nearly 2.8 million workers, relied on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) to feed their household in 2016.
· Eight-two percent of food chain workers are in frontline positions with few opportunities at the top.
· For every dollar earned by white men working in the food chain, Latino men earn 76 cents, Black men 60 cents, Asian men 81 cents, and Native men 44 cents.1 White women earn less than half of their white male counterparts, at 47 cents to every dollar. Women of color face both a racial and a gender penalty: Black women earn 42 cents, Latina women 45 cents, Asian women 58 cents, and Native women 36 cents for every dollar earned by white men.
· Injuries are up and union protection is down.


The work continues

Dear fellow activists and entrepreneurs.

If you read this blog, you are actively engaged in the growth of the alternative food system either by interest or by work. It means that you know the reality of small businesses and the struggle for long-term success by those businesses. It also means you are aware of the divide between rural and urban, of small and large population centers  in terms of access to resources and in understanding by the media or policy makers. Hopefully, everyone who reads this blog also agrees on the need for more places to discuss and work on those issues and others.

For me, the first place is public markets. That is because it is the best place to offer small businesses space, face-to-face peer time, and access to a wide variety of people to grow their ideas to fruition. Issues like resource depletion, social isolation and economic sovereignty are also on the minds of those who use markets as organizing tools.

As for those visitors, no purchase is necessary to attend a market. No one will be required to fill out an online database request to read our market materials or have to sign up for a time-share condo to have access to our market experts. Education is constant and it is offered to anyone who asks and offered not only by those with a long group of letters after their name. In markets, experience is seen as a better teacher.

Those principles were given to us by the founders of our movement, based on their strong conviction that the only way to rescue family farming and public space was to put them together. Those ideas have been exposed to the air of thousands of places since the rebirth of the farmers market movement in the 1970s and successfully connected unlikely collaborators, created safe space for diversity and championed innovation.

We have done amazing things with our markets in the last 40+ years. Thousands of pilots have shown the way to finding new businesses to vend their products, engaging people through inclusive outreach, marketing open-air or shed market culture to shoppers unfamiliar with them, and adding new appropriate technology when necessary. Yet, we are all aware that we still have a lot to do. That we had only reached a tiny percentage. That as more places are hollowed out economically, our work becomes ever more important and even more difficult.

So, no matter which candidate was yours, my hope is that you remain committed to the goals we have worked on together. That we agree that the combative nature of a national campaign cannot continue indefinitely or it will be absorbed by its citizens and become the culture of the times. Division is the enemy, because our work relies on finding the best way to include each person as and when they enter, whether they are a newly arrived resident, a suburbanite, a small town grandmother, a rural father or an urbanite. Therefore, we need to redouble our efforts to make markets the civic centers for everyone. Let’s make a pact to double the number of markets in all areas, extend seasonal markets to year-round (and if your response to that is we can’t grow year-round in our area, do remember that your region used to do just that) and triple the number of small producers by the time of the next election. In order to do that, we will need to lose more of the assumptions that we all make about those different from us and to work harder to find common ground. I’m more than ready to continue this work during this new administration and will be open to participating in any conversation in which I can be helpful. I look forward to hearing from many of you about how your work will evolve and grow. And I’ll see you at the market.