From field to fork: the six stages of wasting food 

I foresee “Ugly Food” events at farmers markets or even “Ugly Food” sections of vendors tables with people crowding around them. It will certainly be great for markets to lead the way by showing how much food we are wasting or by teaching folks how and when to use bruised or less pretty fruit and veggies.

Americans chuck out two tonnes of food a second – be it at the farm for being ‘ugly’ or at the table because we’re too finicky

Source: From field to fork: the six stages of wasting food | Environment | The Guardian

Structural racism and farmers markets, Part 2

Recently, I wrote the first post of where markets began and some of the barriers we have encountered along the way to healthy food for all. I hope that those who read it understood the distinction I was making between individual, institutional and structural racism.

In it, I gave my version of the chronological history of markets in order to show the intentional and thoughtful work done by leaders so far. One of those milestones was the work with public health advocates, starting in the early 2000s and one of the examples I use of that is Kaiser Permanente’s creation of farmers markets. This began around 2003, when ob/gyn Dr. Preston Manning had an idea to put a farmers market on the Oakland  KP campus and begat a movement of “market champions”around the U.S. during their shift to wellness rather than crisis care. This report on their markets came out a few years ago and has some very interesting analysis of market interventions.  The evolution of the “campus” market in the emerging market typology spectrum linked below is illustrated in there as is some data on the marked increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables among surveyed marketgoers, and (what I remember as the surprising outcome to them ) of the increase in social capital for their staff. (Here is the draft version of the market typology.)

The KP markets marked one of the first long-term partnerships with a health care provider interested in them as interventions for their target audience. In other words, it seems to be the beginning of the era of partners realizing markets were more nimble than they had previously seemed and so could be added into new communities for multiple reasons, including those with complex public health goals. The KP/market relationship seemed strained at times (full disclosure: back then, my organization  was in discussion to help KP with their market strategy, but the New Orleans levee breaks of 2005 took precedence for our time. We did continue to discuss markets with them and even included their staff in some of Market Umbrella’s trans•act research into market evaluation), but  KP remained thoughtful about how they supported markets and constantly offered some good critical thinking about the capacity of markets and what success measures that they thought were appropriate.

I became fond of saying that the relationship was a match made in heaven as (back then) markets were all energy with little discipline and public health collaborations were all discipline with little energy. These health partnerships have led to many things, like the incentive strategy and the expansion of the voucher programs. There is no doubt that market have adopted a wider view of good food  and done an amazing job at encouraging those with benefit program dollars to come to their markets. Most importantly, markets gained a better understanding of the social determinants of health paradigm.

World Health Organization (WHO) offers a two tier view of these factors: the daily physical environment of a person and the distribution of resources and the political power to change the factors. It is important to address the safety, transportation needs, housing etc of a person who is at-risk in order to offer solutions to repair their health, but without also addressing how that environment ended as less safe or without decent places to live, that individual will remain at risk. What is also important to note about these indicators is that they rely on community wealth being available. Before we tied our market balloon to these pillars of health, our initiatives were often seen as elitist and obsessed with a construct of local that had no relevance to the larger world. Now of course, it is clear that addressing inequities cannot be completed by outside funders swooping in, and that entrepreneurial activity is a necessary aspect for empowerment; efforts across the globe in micro-investing or Slow Money here in the U.S. have shown the trend is appealing even to big time money folks. So economic power at the local level is key to this shift and in food systems, no one does that better than farmers markets.

Kellogg Foundation’s shift about the same time to a continuum of health for families  – encapsulated beautifully at one of their conferences as”first food, early food, school food, community food”  – allowed them  to lead the discussion on this overarching strategy. The foundation focuses on “three key factors of success and their intersections: education and learning; food, health and well-being; and family economic security. Lots of good language to seek out as well viewing some of the work from Kellogg and its partners. Check out their resources.

The CDC definition:

“the conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Conditions (e.g., social, economic, and physical) in these various environments and settings (e.g., school, church, workplace, and neighborhood) have been referred to as “place.” In addition to the more material attributes of “place,” the patterns of social engagement and sense of security and well-being are also affected by where people live.

So place and the civic engagement could be the two buckets to consider. How can markets address either of these? Place is pretty simple isn’t it? Let’s say that your market is working to add at-risk shoppers using an incentive and EBT program and finds that one chief barrier is the lack of public transportation options around your location. It may help to advocate for a bus to alter its route for the market day. Or to add more bike parking to encourage non-drivers or to set aside a few parking spaces close to the entrance for drop-offs, shuttles, jitneys or uber. One great way to look at the place around you is to use PPS’ Placemaking audits and tools and see how inviting your area is.

Clearly, civic engagement is another area that markets could do more with. The Power of Produce (POP) program offered by FMC is a lovely way to offer this. Another might be for the market to work with newly arrived citizens through expanding language choices or the market’s products. Shady seating, community information are also good. But how about market leaders showing up to a housing meeting in their city? Or working on a microinvestment strategy with shoppers and local banks to encourage new producers or other community solutions?

I had the good fortune to attend the BALLE’s “The Future of Health is Local” webinar which dove into the structural work around health and wealth, although more at the institutional purchasing power level. What was really great about it was the detailed insight of health care providers like KP. BALLE is an invaluable resource to anyone working on community wealth strategies. I attended a few of their conferences in the past and had some great meet ups with initiatives and researchers who are embedding the farmers market movement and lessons into their work. It is a great and valuable time for those  thinking of attending an added conference. Definitely check out their resources.

So, the work to include all of the social determinants into our food work is not fully realized. That issue is at the heart of these 2 posts and why (I think) the divide between whites and people of color seems wider and deeper than ever. It is commendable for us to rid our language and actions from individual racist attitudes, and to add institutional partners and programs that add access, but we must go beyond that. If we use our power and privilege to explore and address inequities within the larger physical and political environment, we will start to see better outcomes, and the social determinants framework is as good of a way as any to do that in organizing terms.

Star assessment of community health






Kellogg Foundation funds fruits and veggies for FitNOLa participants

The city of New Orleans has received a $700,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to continue supporting the community’s health and wellness, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced July 11, adding that the grant will fund a partnership between the city Health Department’s FIT NOLA initiative, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, the New Orleans Recreation Development Foundation, Market Umbrella, Louisiana Public Health Institute, and community wellness programs through 2018.

Community wellness programs at clinics and other sites will refer patients in disease management groups to Fit NOLA Live Well; participants will get an NORDC key card for free fitness activities at 12 NORDC recreation centers, 12 summer and three year-round pools, and several playgrounds…and can receive vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables (at local farmers markets).

Source: Foundation Extends Community Wellness Grant to New Orleans



Structural racism and farmers markets, Part 1

With the events of the past few weeks, I think it is important to talk about the inequities of our system as well. Those of us working for a just food system for all should be commended for the work we are doing, even as we are reminded of what remains unfair in them.

In my tenure in managing farmers markets in a city that has a majority of people of color, I had to acknowledge that the markets did not always reflected that reality. My organization, then called ECOnomics Institute, was founded on social justice principles and housed at a university center devoted to civil rights work so it was extremely important to advance its values. We certainly spent a great deal of time discussing how to reflect our community and to diversify our producers and were lucky enough to have activist farmers like Ben Burkett of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives as part of the founding group. Even so, we were like many of the older markets largely created and used by middle-class white community members, or by educated back-to-land white farmers, both groups valiantly trying to expand good food and ecological stewardship for everyone but not completely succeeding.

Part of the issue in the early days were the choice of locations. Often market chose (or were given) underused spaces in parts of town without much recent foot traffic or street-level retail, yet soon enough near or at the center of a gentrification push. Was it intentional or coincidental that markets chose gentrifying areas? Hard to know at this late date, but probably the promise of added nearby amenities and retail potential were vital for market organizations with little capital and few partners back then.

In simplest terms, gentrification is renovation and redevelopment of a populated area with one result most often being the displacement of folks from other socioeconomic strata including working-class families and people of color who had been left behind to those neighborhoods when the white flight began in the 1950s. Deindustrialization, decentralized economies and the urge of young people to distance themselves from the values of their suburban parents has led to more urbanites with enormous purchasing power returning to downtown zip codes, summed up in one analysis as: “This permanent tension on two fronts is evident in the architecture of gentrification: in the external restorations of the Victoriana, the middle classes express their candidature for the dominant classes; in its internal renovation work this class signifies its distance from the lower orders.” (Lees, Loretta, Tom Slater, and Elvin K. Wyly. The Gentrification Reader, London: Routledge (April 15, 2010)

The earliest “urban pioneers” of the 1970s may not actually reflect the term gentrifiers as they seemed more interested in living among the existing population and did not have the economic power to submerge what was there previously. Those pioneers include many market leaders who  were able to do good community work around food. There maybe no better example of how that right impulse was later seen as elitism as in and around San Francisco:

The Free Farm Stand was started by Dennis “Tree” Rubenstein. Tree was one of the founders of the Kaliflower Commune and the Free Food Conspiracy of 1968, in Haight-Ashbury. After the Haight became recognized as cool, the area quickly got too rich for conspiracies, and Tree and his Kaliflower communists were pushed out to Shotwell and 23rd.

The Stand is now in the midst of the working poor of San Francisco’s Mission District, a testament to the idea that radical food politics will sprout where they are needed. Much of what we call food politics today—buying local, farming organic, eating vegetarian—originally came from collectives that wanted to raise awareness about industrially produced food. The People’s Food System of the mid-’70s was a network of community food stores and small-scale food collectives that organized to take back control of food from large agricultural and chemical companies; they built direct connections to farmers to establish the first farmers’ markets. Meanwhile, the Black Panthers were hosting free community breakfasts in their neighborhoods, and Alice Walters opened Chez Panisse partly as a space to talk about politics. Various collectives shared the urban farm known as the Crossroads Community (The Farm) on Potrero Avenue at the edge of the Mission.

All this activity resulted in a paradox: as radical food politics succeeded, healthy food became commodified as elite food, proving that successful social movements can be gentrified, just like neighborhoods. The best farmers’ market in San Francisco, at the Ferry Building, is also the least affordable, and Waters’ Chez Panisse, the standard-bearer of locally grown, seasonal food, has become one of the most expensive restaurants in Berkeley.

In recent years, urban farming has undergone a spirited revival in order to approach the issue of food security—the availability and accessibility of food—in its own way. There are five community gardens in the Mission, including one managed by the Free Food Stand, and seven more within walking distance. There are also edible gardens at schools, including Cesar Chavez Elementary School. Still most community garden plots in the Mission are tended by middle-class urbanites, perhaps well-read in food politics, but mostly involved in community food security; and more and more, urban gardening takes place on private plots. So even as radical urban farming resurfaces, a critical piece of the radial community garden or urban farm—people coming together to work in collectives and cooperatives—is lost…

Street Food by Adriana Camarena
March/April 2013

(Alison Hope Alkon’s “Black, White, and Green; Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy” also does an excellent job writing the history of 2 markets in the Northern California area:  one in Berkeley, founded on environmental values and the Oakland market addressing factors of economic apartheid under an authoritative police presence.) 

As evinced in the excerpt above, even though the organizers had not consciously intended to support the gentrification agenda, the majority of users of the farmers market system during the 1980s and 1990s were white urbanists with time on Saturday mornings and cash to spend. As gentrification grew, markets included more younger, more affluent childless couples who did not take active roles in pushing for a broad range of services. Those factors and more led to the conclusion for many that market communities were for those with time and cash and who reflected back the mostly white middle-aged or older vendor base. It is also true that like other movements before it, food has to consciously address the social determinants that encourage or discourage inclusion by those without influence (read money).What is hard about that  of course is that the markets are about money transactions-the producers cannot afford to give away their hard work and the distance traveled to market continues to grow as farmland is gobbled up in expanding layers of gentrification. The delicate balance of creating wealth for the vendors can often feel as if it is in conflict with the needs of the at-risk population. No easy answers to that issue but the incentive programs have begun to add regular shoppers among those who previously were unsure. Still, the number of programs and different currencies are taxing both the market leaders and the vendors; let’s hope the technology gets to the point that it actually reduces the work needed to offer these programs!

As organizers, it is easy to grow impatient with those we serve who do not immediately appreciate the programs we offer and therefore to start to create expectations of failure. We need to devote more time in study of the demographics of our market cities and compare those to shopper zip codes, and to  continue to seek out the generations and neighbors who have not been made comfortable in these new markets.We also need our staff and vendors to reflect the community we serve. I often have market board members or leaders telling me when asked if their market serves the entire community that they aren’t sure, or they recount how they have “tried to reach out to some of those neighbors but they just don’t want to come.” I do not doubt the willingness of the market community to include everyone, but the strategies can be tinged with assumptions that need to be challenged up front. Or to put it another way, to expect that the only way we will gain shoppers of people of color is through benefit or voucher programs is another assumption that we must challenge in ourselves.

Those assumptions are at the heart of the recent activism around the US:  the challenge among people of color to white allies to consider and rid themselves of their privilege. Whether its not having to be taught added steps of how to talk to police when stopped, or not having buzzers and locked doors on our corner stores or even not being a world-class African-American tennis player who has people post about her body shape in ugly, racist terms the day after she achieves a historic win, we do not know about what we have not experienced until we ask and we listen. In order for us to understand the unearned advantage pale skin gives us, we need to examine our place in the world and our blanket statements or fears about those we do not resemble or live among. Challenging privilege does not mean that white organizers or farmers have to feel bad about themselves or their hard work, but that they need to look closely at how their community really operates for others who also work hard and cannot succeed.

I always encourage markets to spend time in strategizing how to attract newly arrived or socially disadvantaged producers as a start; sometimes it is simple as having the application available in more than one language or having paper copies on hand and time for a chat with someone asking. Or through expanding the bylaws of the market to include cooperatives, foraged foods or a wider selection of culturally appropriate items. Sometimes it requires markets find partners to help those new to farming gain advanced knowledge of how to create a crop plan or how to price competitively.

We can help our own cause by remembering that we can choose the values and the community that our markets serve by how we design it or how we choose an inclusive mission or bylaws. This short chronological history below is something I attempt to add to whenever I work with markets and so am glad to hear from any of you on it. What it shows me is the intention of the work that has been done over the last 40 years and that when we expand to new ideas, we  find the right message and partners to make it possible.  As always, this is somewhat off the top of my head so forgive any obvious omissions and feel free to email me directly with additions or corrections. (Exceptions to this timeline are to be found in every era; often those were led by a coalition of local voices who had their act together earlier than the rest of us.)

1970s-1980s: Back-to-land farmers and ecological advocates begin markets. Their organizing principle is “Grow it to sell it” which was a provocative statement at the time, asking for a commitment up front from both the growers and the buyers. These markets opened in places such as Madison WI, Carrboro NC, Athens OH, Berkeley CA, Montpelier VT-a lot of university towns actually.

1990s: Community leaders, aware of the first markets, begin to open markets in cities adding educational programming to the grow it to sell it mandate. Cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland, Cleveland, D.C. were the recipient of this work. Interestingly, many became the founders of larger networks, including Farmers Market Coalition. Social cohesion was an important value beginning in these years, because of these leaders.

1990s-2000s: Main Street markets in smaller towns and in rural communities began to add markets to their revival initiatives in towns like Ocean Springs MS, Natchitoches LA, Durham NC. These markets added value-added items and encouraged new non-farm vendors, focusing on incubating new businesses and supporting nearby Main Street initiatives.

2000s:  As technology advanced to allow at-risk populations to access markets with their EBT card, public health strategies became useful and the field of practioners and agencies in that field began to partner with and sponsor new markets to expand good food by getting markets in new places and adding public health incentives. This certainly includes Kaiser-Permanente’s work to add markets to their own hospital campuses and markets such as Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park MD.

2000s: Deeply embedded organizers add food initiatives to their portfolio of activities, utilizing on the community assets of residents. Markets in and around central Brooklyn NY like Brooklyn Rescue Mission, East New York Farm and Sankofa Market in New Orleans LA  create multi-faceted centers of organizing with embedded markets to offer residents the opportunity to be both the buyers and vendors.

So my (flawed and incomplete) history shows a deep attention to entrepreneurial activity, food sovereignty and to farmland reclamation, and that we are beginning to address how food organizing needs to happen at community/market level and across systems at the very same time.


Today, we are all more conscious about the implication of creating programs that offer the real opportunity for diversity in front of and behind the tables. I have great hope for this work  to be part of the solution and to continue to assist in tearing down the structural elements that divide us.



Update your market

Hopefully, all market leaders know that the USDA directory is the go-to list for farmers markets for those within the department, for market advocates and for researchers and funders. Most media stories about markets use this link to direct shoppers to us. Additionally, all of the evaluation about markets is calculated from this directory and so if your market is not listed, the true impacts of your producers hard work and of your organizational projects cannot be measured.

Do yourself and all of us a favor: take a breather from outside for a few minutes this week and sit down with a cup of coffee or a glass of tea to update the directory for your market. Market vendors: ask your market manager or lead volunteer if they have updated the list recently.


Dear Farmers Market Colleagues, 

Get ready, get listed! National Farmers Market week is coming (Aug 7-13) and you want people to find your market! USDA’s Local Food Directories can help you promote your farmers market. This tool will allow shoppers to quickly identify you as a supplier of the local food. It takes less than 10 minutes to add or update your listing.


USDA will share the number of farmers markets listed in the directory with media and stakeholders across the country during National Farmers Market Week. We want you to be counted! Time is running out!  New listings or updated information must be entered by July 15, 2016, to be included in the national numbers, so don’t delay.


It’s easier than ever to register!  If this is your first time listing your market in the Directory, go to add your market. In less than 10 minutes you’re done.  That’s all it takes.


If you do not know if your farmers market is listed, then you can search the National Farmers Market Directory database to find out. If your market was in the Directory last year, we sent an e-mail during the week of June 27th that has a direct link to update your market listing.


Even if you listed your market last year, you should check the directory again to make sure all your information is still correct.


Here is how the Directory can help you

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory helps you tell customers what they want to know about your market:

  • Where and when your market opens
  • Second and third market locations that you operate
  • What products your market sells
  • If your market  accepts:
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC-FMNP)
    • Women, Infant and Children, Cash Value Vouchers (WIC-CVV)
    • Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
  • Whether or not the market acceptances debit/credit cards
  • Consumers can even get:
    • Driving directions to the market they choose to visit
    • Map markets within a radius of their current location
    • Get a state or national map of farmers markets


The USDA National Farmers Market Directory used by mobile application developers to help consumers find you or other markets across the nation.


The Directory attracted over 400,000 page views from users last year.  It’s the “go-to” resource for consumers, researchers, community planners and more to better understand the size of farmers markets across the nation.


Don’t delay, please be counted by including your market by July 15.


Thank you.

USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory Team

“No Experience Necessary”


This is a sign at a cork goods store near to my apartment in the French Quarter.  It made me think about good customer service and also about how some stores do a better job than others to invite new shoppers in. Of course, it makes me think about farmers markets too in that same manner. It may be even more important to be ready to welcome market shoppers with no experience than other retail shoppers…

The one fact that is undeniable about farmers markets is that the experience is not comparable to how most Americans have regularly shopped for most of their food since before World War II. Therefore, as we work for wider acceptance among food shoppers, we have to constantly be aware of what the scene looks and feels like to most people when they come for the first time:


Okay, maybe not THIS alien, but I’d bet that a fair number of newbies are still baffled by what, how and why the market is about. So if we regularly put out invitations like this, we will need to do our best to prepare the space for them to find their way in (maybe post articles like this on your site? ) so the end result is that we create the environment that tells everyone they are welcome.





Peach festival organizers ignore farmers market held at same time

For those of you who look for the TL;DR: A well-organized peach festival was held with no mention in their materials about the weekly farmers market held in same town. Is this indicative of the relationship between annual events and weekly farmers markets?

As a past Louisiana market manager, Ruston is a farming community I was already familiar with even before I began to work with them on two current projects. (Let me say that I haven’t spoken to the market folks at all about this post or asked for their opinion on the festival; this is my observation alone.)
I know that Ruston-area peaches are synonymous with the highest quality Louisiana peaches. Imagine my surprise that while there last season, I saw few peaches on the vendors’ tables. I asked market board members about the lack and their response was that is quite difficult to find direct marketing farmers with local fruit willing to sell at market, as most of it goes to larger distribution centers. So when I saw news this week of the Louisiana Peach Festival being held on a market day in the very same town, I expected the festival organizers would highlight the local farmers market, and do their level best to encourage residents attending the festival to visit.
That would seem to be incorrect.

Here is the list of events for the Peach Festival:
Contestants vie for Miss Dixie Gem Peach and Princess Peach
Beta Sigma Phi Arts & Crafts Show
Peach Art Exhibit
Peach Hunt
Baby Photo Contest
Peach Cookery
Quilt & Fiber Art Show and Sale
$1000 Prize Cobbler Gobbler Eating Contest
“A Peach of My Heart” Parade
Peach Stops
BMX & Skateboard Show
Lincoln Parish Park Kids’ Fishing Tournament
Games & Rides
Kids’ Activity Tent
Diaper Derby
5K Run/Walk
Tennis Tournament
Bass Tournament

Now some of those events may indirectly include market vendors or even the market area but no direct connection is listed. On the festival’s Facebook page, there is no mention of the market, even of the added peach events listed on the market’s FB page (along with a link to the festival site):

We are having FREE giveaways every hour this Saturday!! Peaches from Thompson’s Farm, more peaches and homemade peach pie from @annayakspies, peach BBQ sauce from @murphysb.b.q , and of course delicious peach goodies from // 8-12 Ruston Farmers Market

This is not that surprising to me, based on experience. My markets were affected by events that we often learned about at the last minute. At times, these events completely surrounded the market, severely limiting the sales for the day. I have also seen this happen at the “country” market that I also frequent which is surrounded by a highly regarded art festival a few times per year and yet is not promoted in the materials.

You might surmise that I am anti-special event and pro-market in all cases, but it is important to note that I also managed events through the market organization, including off-site seafood events (White Boot Brigades) and a holiday market that had some festival qualities held cheek-to-jowl to the Saturday farmers market called “Festivus, the Holiday Market for the Rest of Us.” Festivus began as a way to bolster sagging sales at the farmers market during December and its development was encouraged by the market vendors. However, the market vendors realized after the first year that the Festivus attendees were not also shopping at the market ( how often do you shop for holiday gifts and dairy at the same place and same time?) and by the second year, it was evident to the organization that Festivus could not be held in the adjoining street without severely hampering the market. The third year was 3 months after the 2005 Katrina/levee disaster and since the Saturday market was not yet running, we held Festivus to great success in the market lot.

The final two years of its run, we moved it to Sunday which was a disappointment for the Festivus vendors even though we had great attendance, partly because it was held on “Saints Sundays” in the football-frenzy years directly before the Saints Super Bowl win, and because the vendors were not directly part of the farmers market community which for many was one reason they wanted to vend at Festivus.
I remember one Festivus vendor angrily asking me why we had decided to move Festivus to Sundays. I shared how the farmers market community had been the ones who built this empty parking lot into a vibrant town square year round and their input had to matter (along with the data we collected about sales and shopper type) and all of the input suggested that Festivus did not help the farmers market. The vendor heard me out and replied, “So what? It helps us.” I had no rejoinder to that.
So maybe my story is an example of how festivals and markets cannot work together, but I like to think that if the levee disaster had not happened, I would have continued to figure out Festivus’ sweet spot and turned it into a long term event. (Instead, we stopped it after 5 wildly fun and successful years to focus on post-disaster food production issues.)

What we learned from that was that it was vital that the different characteristics of festivals, fairs and markets (which all are valid and valiant types of activities) are understood by leaders and their attendees. That all of them serve important purposes but not always at the same time or in the same way. That leads to the questions that I continue to raise with markets and other leaders:

Can festivals and markets be held on the same day, in the same area to the success of both?

What is the best way to share the different goals of each with attendees?

How can organizers be sure that their vendors get the results that they need?

Can annual and of weekly events planners measure impact together?

I’d sure like to know.

Ruston Farmers Market

La Peach Festival