How “healthy” confuses people

As a secular retail anthropologist and a farmers market consultant, this article is like a bite of my market vendor’s satsumas right now:

DE-lightful!

 The healthy = expensive intuition is just one of “a universe of mental shortcuts” that we rely on to choose food, and many of those shortcuts also appear to be flawed. Previous research has described a “supersize bias,” for instance, in which consumers ignore calorie counts and other health information when presented with a meal that seems like a good value. The majority of Americans also embrace what’s called the “unhealthy = tasty intuition” — the belief that food must be unhealthy to taste good.

Obviously, that last line is the one markets should consider and maybe even draw part of their marketing strategy from it. If used properly, a message like “delicious tastes found here” can be an inviting message and could draw a wider audience to markets than the buy local messages that our field has long employed. And clearly better than using “healthy” to entice eaters who are not in the grips of a healthy living focus.

From the report mentioned in the article:

Schulte-Mecklenbeck, M., Sohn, M., de Bellis, E., Martin, N., & Hertwig, R. (2013). A lack of appetite for information and computation. Simple heuristics in food choice:

According to our findings, people are inclined to rely on simple strategies that limit search when making food choices. In addition, our participants paid more attention to the dishes’ image and name at the expense of nutritional information such as caloric and salt content… However, previous investigations (using, for instance, self-reports and eye tracking) have also concluded that many consumers are reluctant to make use of food label information.

I saw this very thing during my days as a buyer at Whole Foods, and as an office building convenience store chain general manager and even before that, when working back in the 1990s on a campaign to increase the number of organic items in Giant Eagle stores. In all of those instances, I noted how people would evaluate the healthy food with a confused look, often moving with almost a sleepwalker’s mien. In contrast, their physical behavior became very purposeful and focused once on aisles with less choice or less scientific data to absorb (like soda or paper goods). That the amount of data to process for many was simply too much was my takeaway. As an example, I remember a farmers market coworker who had come to healthy food late in life told me that “all” he bought was organic produce and since Whole Foods “only carried organic” he bought all of the produce he could not get from farmers at that store only. I shared the news that no, Whole Foods didn’t ONLY carry organic produce and that the pricing signs were color coded as to whether they were organic or not (and that most was not organic).  He was in shock to find that out; turns out he had never noticed the color coding or the words organic or conventional on the signs, probably because there was so much for him to learn as he began to shop there.

So that was a good example of shopper overwhelm. And from someone who was savvy enough to work at a market too.

So this is the type of aha that I wish for each of you. I also suggest that spending some time on research like this will be helpful to understanding what and how to dole out the info that is vital to any successful marketing/outreach campaign.

The Washington Post

Helen Hill

Today is the sad anniversary of organizer/writer/filmmaker Helen Hill’s murder. New Orleanians, Canadians, South Carolinians, Californians and a slew of other oddballs and creative types are thinking of our dear Helen today.

Helen was daughter, sister,  mother, wife, friend. Her murder sent shock waves through dozens of communities that many will never recover from, partly because there was not a more loving or angelic human (although with a sensible streak of mischief when needed) than Helen. Partly because in true New Orleans fashion, the police never even turned up a suspect. Partly because her work was stopped, work so important that it has since been added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

Helen and her husband Paul came to me because of food, so that’s why this is here. I became active in the local Food Not Bombs actions which they had helped to “organize” or more appropriately, to encourage.  I had many fascinating conversations with them about tactics we might employ to be able to wrest food scraps from stores, including from Whole Foods. That conversation was ongoing because I worked there part-time, along with my other then part-time job at the farmers market. (That’s not as odd as it seems now because that WF location’s beginning actually predates the Austin behemeth’s ownership, back when it had been a New Orleans-only coop called Whole Foods Company. Even after the corporation bought it, it remained a funky local treasure, so my working there and at the market at the same time for a short time was not that farfetched.)

Their vegan potlucks were legendary, as were her vegan tea parties. Paul and Helen also knew my market boss, fellow vegetarian activist Richard McCarthy, and through him had begun to bring their pig Rosie to our market events. I remember once Helen called me before a scheduled visit to ask details as to where Rosie would be set up; turns out she was worried that Rosie would be within sight of meat vendors and would be distressed. I was at first amused, thinking she was slightly joking, but of course she was not. Sobering up, I assured her that every precaution would be taken for Rosie to be happy and comfortable that day. Forever after, Helen treated me as Rosie’s protector.

I was thrilled like many others when news came of their return to New Orleans after Katrina. Helen had asked many to send postcards to Paul to convince him to return. Happily, he did; sadly, that return was so very short.

This link is to a film Helen made for Rosie about her genealogy. This one is about the life of chickens, a motif  she often used  in her art.

From her award-winning film Scratch and Crow:

HelenHillDustyAngels.png

There are dozens and dozens of tributes to Helen, but viewing her films and hearing about her Poppy growing up under the wise and gentle hand of his father is the tribute she’d like  most of all. So please enjoy and share her lovely films whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

Winter/Spring 2017 FM Conferences

This is the best list that I could muster from researching online for a few hours. It only includes published events that have a specific farmers market management track or focus as described in their materials.  If your meeting meets that criteria,  is not listed and will be held before May 2017, email me at dar wolnik at gmail.

Missouri FM Association: January 20, 21 • St. Louis
Arkansas Farmers Market Association 2017 Annual Meeting:  January 20 • Little Rock
Wisconsin Farmers Market Association Conference: Jan 22 – Jan 24: Wisconsin Dells
Maine Farmers’ Market Convention: January 29 •Hinckley
Washington State FM Association: Feb 2-4 • Blaine
Pick TN: February 16 – 18 • Franklin Tennessee
Oregon Small Farms Conference: Saturday, February 18 • Corvallis
Oklahoma FM and Agritourism Conference: February 23 • Oklahoma City
2017 Alaska FM Conference: MARCH 2-4 • Homer
2017 Ohio Farmers’ Market Conference: March 2 and 3 • Dublin

British Columbia FM Association: March 3-5 • New Westminster

2017 Michigan Farmers Market Conference: March 7 and March 8 • East Lansing

2017 KANSAS :Farmers’ Market Conference: March 16 and March 17 • Wichita
Colorado FM Association Annual Meeting: MARCH 17 and MARCH 18• Longmont

One business shares a gratitude index

In what has to be the most common topic in this blog for 2016, I offer another illustration of how data collection can be simply managed, yet offer meaningful data for a wide variety of audiences.
The elegant metrics from a small value-added business in Charlottesville VA are below. It seems important to note that Stacy was my comrade for the original creation of the FMC Farmers Market Metrics work (and FMC’s founding executive director before our current excellent Jen Cheek) , and did a incredible consulting  job in 2016 assisting FMC with metric refinement, data collection research and devising the workbooks that are at the core of the FMM program. Those tasks are in addition to what the output shows in the metrics below, her devotion to fitness as a student and a leader and (along with her ever cheerful husband Joe) raising their energetic son.

2016 was good phyte foods’ first full calendar year of operation, after our first humble sale at Charlottesville City Market in May 2015. Since January this year, the business has made from scratch and sold 57,024 crackers, 1,003 bars, 157 pounds of granola, 978 pumpkin muffins, 533 kale cookies, and a motley assortment of odd-looking experimental snacks. In so doing, we have bought sustainably grown (and often certified organic) vegetables and herbs from at least twelve farms² in Central Virginia. We are grateful not only to our loyal and patient customers at City Market, but to our enduring local partners at The Juice Laundry, Random Row Brewing, Blue Ridge Country Store, and ACAC Downtown. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It is a humbling honor to be part of this evolving local food economy.

And for those who think cottage industry producers only care about their own cash flow:

In the coming year, we want to expand our reach to more retail partners, reinvest in new equipment, train some cracker apprentices, experiment with early summer cracker flavors, and give back to community organizations that are helping kids eat more vegetables. I have recently been appointed to the Advisory Council of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville, which, among other things, teaches children of limited economic means how to grow, use, and appreciate fresh organic vegetables.

Go Stacy Miller; Keep the goodphyte going.

Source: getting specific: gratitude counts in our 2016 index

Health issues topped the list of scientific studies reaching wide audiences in 2016

In general, health-related studies… had more reach on social media and other online platforms than other scientific studies. Seven of the top 11 most-discussed scientific studies for the year focused on health, as did fully 59 of the top 100. Together, these studies covered a wide spectrum of health-related subjects.

The second-most-discussed health article after the one by Obama was about the prevalence of hospital medical errors, a problem the authors determined was the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

The fifth ranked article was a historical analysis claiming the sugar industry had sponsored research dating back to the 1950s aimed at downplaying the possible links between sucrose and coronary heart disease.

 ft_most-read-journal

Hark!

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Dear Market community,

The work that all of you do to offer physical comfort as well to create deeper connections may not be noted every week but I hope that you are sure that it results in great things. Those great things revolve around the market’s vital role as the town square which we talk about often on this blog but still may take in stride too easily. No matter how you feel about recent events, it is clear that democracy is in fragile shape. What too many Americans think of as their only duty as citizens begins and ends on election day; After that is done, the other activity is focused on name-calling and silly memes on social media. If that is the sum of one’s civic engagement, the result is often naive cynicism, an unhealthy view of others and a further tearing of the fabric of democracy.

How else can we help democracy prosper but by thoroughly shaking out and airing ones citizenship in public regularly? And when we talk about doing this in public, we cannot mean those narrow retail aisles where one or two corporations have decided that only some are welcome,  valued mostly by the largeness of their purchases. In these restricted places, too many of our neighbors are left out. Those neighbors need to be allowed in AND allowed to find real ways to engage as citizens too.

Because citizenship is not the same as consumerism, even though many confuse the two.

Or as Wendell Berry says, “I think an economy should be based on thrift, on taking care of things, not on theft, usury, seduction, waste, and ruin.”

In answer to that, you’ve designed markets to not only be about the buying and selling of well-made thrifty items, but also about the sharing of ideas and talents used for the safeguarding of our shared and precious resources; an economy of taking care of things and of each other.

That makes you the mayors and leading citizens of your village, creating an town square of good, busily entertaining strangers who may be some of those angels unaware.

So here’s to your health in the New Year to able to do even more of it.