It’s a Make, Break, or Take set of moments. Get ready.

Dear Colleagues,

I am thinking of each of you,  your teams, and communities as you make decisions and adapt your Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) channels. If I can help, I hope you know you can contact me and also access our FMC resources,  and any updates.

Once we get get to the healing side of this pandemic, there are many things that markets may have to operationalize into best practices. Some of those we have noted already:

changing markets designation from special events to essential food and social space services.

writing rules for vendor food handling during outbreaks

having emergency layouts for smaller-than-usual markets

plans for fast pick up for items that don’t penalize the vendor with massive added fees or convert markets into something it cannot return from

communication plans for media

communication plans for vendors

          partnerships for emergency situations

and of course much more to come. And as always, those ideas and solutions will come from you and your community leaders, and mostly not from an academic or government partner or from other “experts.” At FMC, our team continues to scour the internet, participate on our listservs, answer emails, and be ready to pick up the phone to learn what is going on.


 

 

This moment is reminiscent of the disasters that we worked through here in New Orleans while I was Deputy Director of Market Umbrella, and is also reminiscent of so many of our peers work on their own emergency situations. It is similar, and yet it has new wrinkles that most of us have not had to address.

That is something that I dread will be the new normal: cycles of disasters that remind us of previous examples and that we can draw from, but that bring brand-new challenges that we need to quickly assess and master too.

And as important as it is as to bravely and clearly react to the moment, how we protect our fragile community from profiteers and bureaucrats and how we prepare to share any learning for the next one is equally as important.

Make moment examples

Of course, José Andrés World Central Kitchen team is already out there. Not only is WCK  immediately ready to deploy healthy food and community at the first moment necessary, the entity illustrates Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” model that is as crucial during emergencies as in everyday life. Because they are there and attract media attention, they are able to call out the policy changes that have to be made, especially challenging those that push aside local knowledge or responses.  Our DTC channel organizations can clearly learn from that approach in getting media attention during these events.

“In emergencies, locals know best how to take care of their own,” Andrés said as he decried the tendency of government personnel to tell locals “how you should run your lives” when they enter disaster zones. “We need to achieve a better moment where those organizations come in to help people in America or around the world, listen to the locals more and bring them into the solution.”

Beyond the famous chefs, there are so many of these types of interveners that come to us during these moments. In New Orleans we had tens of thousands of respondents over the decade of recovery: everyone from the Rainbow Family setting up a wonderful emergency camp and doing soil mitigation right after the levee breaks to massive numbers of faith-based volunteers that came for years every summer to build houses. Be ready to spot those for this emergency: it may be someone with a better temporary space for your pop up market, a policymaker willing to suspend rules that limit the exchange of healthy foods,  a school bus driver to deliver food,  a fellow NGO leader with an idea for getting healthy food to more communities, or a farmer able to deliver to a multiplicity of neighborhoods or towns.

Also crucial to remind ourselves is that any make moment uses the assets and goodwill of the local community to respond, but also accounts for the length of the disaster. Some  of these last days, some weeks, some months or years. COVID19’s length is still undetermined, which is deeply frightening  especially as this timeline relies on a the response level of a weak medical system and a lack of a concerted response from our national government.

What those of us who have been through an emergency know is that it is vital to recognize the different phases as stages, each of which may require different responses and partners. The GoFish YouTube videos we did at MU with support from Kellogg Foundation helped us capture some of what our markets and small businesses came up with as responses and allowed us to record them across the length of that response – and not least, get those businesses money for those innovations over the long official response to Katrina.

Break moment examples

Cities closing down open-air food markets because they are viewed as events rather than as essential services are the main break moment we have to prepare to meet in this moment. In the weeks after Katrina, I was called into New Orleans City Hall (which was still set up in an eerie, blackout curtain-covered, borrowed hotel space) to defend the idea of selling food from what had been flood-covered land. What was interesting about this question from City Hall was they were unaware that most of our vendors came from the surrounding parishes outside of the levee breaks that had inundated New Orleans with water.  Only three vendors were growing food in the city, and all had already sent in soil tests to LSU. So, by sharing that information and plan, we were able to move quickly past that question. And since we operated in parking lots, building renovation – which slowed other retailers down for months or for years – was not an issue that we had to deal with. The open-air and transient nature of our design absolutely helped us, taking what would have  been a break moment into a make moment for our small market organization in the months and years after 2005. We never forgot that lesson for our emergency-prone area.


And we also learned that adaptation is the key.  As described again by Andrés:

“If we plan too much, chances are that things are gonna be completely wrong. And once you have a plan, and everybody agrees on the plan, if the plan goes out of line, people freeze,” Andrés admitted. “Adapting always in these scenarios is gonna be more important than planning.”

So don’t let the urge to make each moment the exact right response break you.

In other words, do what market organizations do best:  pilot something, learn from it quickly, adapt from its lessons and regroup. 

Take moment examples

There are also what we’d down here call “carpetbaggers” in every disaster situation. Already the NYT had a story of someone hoarding tens of thousands of hand sanitizers hoping to profit from this pandemic. Luckily, online stores shut him down, although he made plenty before it happened, and there will be others who will not caught or penalized.

I have already been contacted by many online stores and developers about aiding DTC channels. Now some of them are absolutely dedicated to helping and not hurting and offering their expertise- but some are not. The wrong ones can break our small businesses with hidden fees and bad design. Good, indifferent, or bad, don’t let them take our value proposition or our message for theirs. They are still two different business models and even if we borrow from each other, we have to remind our shoppers that we will return to our model because our DTC farmers and vendors are still not able to benefit from most of those models. Use your peers to ask about these opportunities, and ask them a lot of questions too. Yes, take advantage of the right opportunity, but don’t make a good idea into a bad situation by not being careful.


Another important point is to be ready and open enough to take the gifts that will come your or your community’s way.  Whether it is a a friend offering to make dinner for you, a market shopper willing to help with social media,  asking a peer to get on a webinar on your market’s behalf, or stopping for a moment for a walk or to close your eyes even on a busy busy day, take it. Being givers, market leaders and vendors are loathe to take their share, but for this moment, it is vital that you do. 

I just dropped some juice off to local culture bearers and small business owners who have been feeding me this week with their art and with healthy food. That was my gift to them; the fruit I used was a gift to me from neighbors and friends.

the bit I left at my pals door, photographer Cheryl and musician Mark.

And I was able to harvest so much this last week due to a gift of time and help by my Vermont food system pal Jean Hamilton who was in town for the National Good Food Network meeting.

Jean up in that tree!

I’ll add more examples here as they come to me through the extraordinary, creative community of food and civic activists that make up my world. I know we will grow stronger through this trial, and hopefully rebound by reminding even more people and community leaders why local farmers and businesses and their markets, farm stands, and CSAs are vital to a resilient, healthy place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monica White receives two awards for her research on Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

January 16, 2020

Nelson Institute professor of Environmental Justice, Monica White has been awarded both the 2019 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity (REI) Fellowship for her research relating to Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement.

White received the 2019 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award for her book, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2018. The award is presented by the Division of Race and Ethnic Minorities Section of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, which includes a committee of academics and professionals. In selecting White for this award, the 2019 committee said, “[White] deftly blends the past and present through her methodological techniques of archive work, semi structured interviews, informal meetings, and more to provide a strong picture of how the resistance of black farmers in the past is being channeled in the present in contemporary black agriculture and food justice and sovereignty movements in places like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and New York City.”

As a part of the award, White also received a monetary donation, which she gifted to the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives. This organization, which “provides assistance and advocates for the needs of its members in the areas of cooperative development and networking, sustainable production, marketing and community food security,” provided White with editorial support and feedback.

“I’m very grateful to have been selected for this award,” said White.

In addition to the 2019 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award, White has also been selected for the Institute for Research in the Humanities University of Wisconsin-Madison Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity (REI) Fellowship. This award allows tenure or tenure-track faculty to be released from teaching and service duties for up to two semesters so that they can focus full-time on their research. In this case, White will be working on her next book which will focus on the individuals who stayed in the south and did not participate in the Great Migration.

“There is a lot of material on the Great Migration from the south to the north but nothing concentrates on those Black families who stayed,” said White. “I want to concentrate on the cost of the migration in terms of fractured families, and for those who stayed, how they held onto institutions, land, and how they created survival strategies. Millions stayed and those stories have been overlooked, so I’m beside myself with excitement to have the opportunity to dive into my new book.”

As a part of the fellowship, White will participate in weekly meetings with other fellows where they will present their work and share their ideas.

“This is one of the many gifts I’ve had working here at UW-Madison,” said White. “My work is better because of the collaborative intelligence and the way colleagues freely give and share here. I feel fortunate to have a chance to collaborate with other fellows.”

The Farmer

From Dr. John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri, Columbia on the passing of his brother, a farmer. So beautiful.

The Farmer

My brother Don, the farmer, died last Sunday morning—in his home on the family farm. He was born on the farm, lived his whole life on the farm, and died on the farm—the same farm. I have just returned from attending his memorial services. This meant a trip to some of the places where I grew up in southwest Missouri. His burial was in the cemetery at Eureka Church, a small country church that my family attended while I was growing up. I completed grade school in the two-room schoolhouse that once stood near the cemetery. There were five kids in our family, three boys and two girls. Our older sister died in her early 30s. Don was in his early 20s when he took over the home farm after the death of my Dad. The rest of us all had other things we wanted to do with our lives. Don never wanted to do anything other than be a family farmer. He succeeded, both as a dedicated family man and as a farmer.

I was always proud of Don. He was actually able to do the things I wrote and talked about as the challenges and opportunities for small family farmers. I knew it was possible to have a good life on a small farm because he was doing it. I knew him and I knew the farm—personally. The farm was about 200 acres in total. Only about half of that was cropland, which he eventually transitioned into pasture for rotational grazing. The rest was timbered hill sides. It had been a dairy farm since the 1950s. He had once tried to feed and milk something close to 100 cows, but eventually concluded he could do better milking less than 50 on grass. Don knew that cows were simply a means of turning sunshine and grass into a marketable commodity. He also knew that family farming is more than a way to make a living; it’s a way to make a life. He lived and died on the farm that he loved with the people he loved. Who could ask for more from life?

I won’t attempt to tell any more of Don’s story. His wife, Sue, wrote a poem about him that does much better that I could hope to do.

The Farmer

He has been a farmer all of his life,
Long before he took a wife,
He knew he was meant to work the soil.
His days on this earth would be spent in toil,
Planting the crops and clearing the land.
This was all part of the Master’s Plan.
As in his father’s and grandfather’s days,
For generations this had been the ways.
In which they would work the land and the sod,
Drawing nearer to nature and communing with God.
To each of his neighbors he lent a hand
They worked together to farm the land,
In autumn when the harvest came,
Each one in turn did the same.
All through the week they labored each day,
But on the Sabbath they gathered to pray.
To thank Him for His blessings and love,
What they gathered on earth had come from above..
When his children were born he watched them grow.
He taught them the lessons so they would know,
And learn the ways of country and farm,
Of love, truth, respect and to do no harm
To creature on land or those in the air,
And to be good stewards of the land in their care,
He watched them ride horses and float down the stream,
But he knew that their future could not be his dream.
This farmer he realizes that he has wealth beyond measure,
Because here on this farm he has found all his treasure,
With his family around him, for wealth there’s no need.
With all of His blessings he’s a rich man indeed.
His breed is a rare one, it’s becoming extinct,
With this world’s busy lifestyle, there’s no time to think.
Life’s becoming too hectic and people miss out,
On all of the beauty that lies roundabout,
This farmer can see it as he goes through his days,
From bird’s nests to sunsets, each free for the gaze.
The path that he’s taken is different than most.
He’s content in his heart and has no need to boast.
His drumbeat is different but he follows its sounds,
With his dog by his side he walks over this ground,
Of the land that he loves, he will do it no harm,
The place of his birth, the old family farm.

Sue Ikerd

Eat with the fullest pleasure this Thanksgiving

People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating….The thought of the good pasture and of the calf contentedly grazing flavors the steak….A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes.

Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

-Wendell Berry

Moving forward with markets

For the better part of the last 20 years, I have devoted my energy to the field of farmers markets, designing and running them, writing and analyzing them with the goal to expand all of its hyperlocal community energy into something that resembles a community of practice that can reduce burnout, increase support, and embed best practices and resources for its organizers. That in turn will help assist meet its true focus: build support for the farmers and small businesses that make up these markets, who are gambling their skills and talents, their bodies, and their futures to ensure their place is still there. If we succeed, we will offer our communities a true alternative to the backwards and crippled dominant systems that are killing this earth and life on it.

So no biggie; it’s just…well, everything.

The first ten years I did this work as Market Umbrella’s Deputy Director and its Marketshare Director. Beginning in 2011, I became a consultant at Helping Public Markets Grow, and then since 2015, a part-time staff person at the only national organization devoted entirely to supporting farmers market operators and networks, Farmers Market Coalition.

I am pleased to announce that I am beginning a new iteration of this work as Farmers Market Coalition’s Training and Technical Assistance Director. This will allow our team to dive much more deeply into the underlying issues that stymie direct-to-consumer channels and also add more components and layers of support for operators within FMC and among market partners. Those partners are increasingly realizing that markets are truly a place for innovation, for incubation of new ideas, and remain the most visible and democratic center of dynamic local and regional food systems. What they may still miss is how much work it takes to make it all add up to system change.

To make all of that balance for everyone’s needs while properly stewarding the resources given to me and use them all in the right order, is the puzzle I am trying to figure out; if you have ideas, feel free to drop me a line.

In this blog, I’ll keep focusing on the big topics and try to use this to continue to inspire but also keep my eye on the local community that I actually live in, where I am constantly inspired by the next generations putting it all out there, even as I am worrying that all of our work will come to naught. Sound familiar?

To keep you entertained, may I send you to my farmers market book group? It has been dormant for some time, but needs to be revived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg to UN: How Dare You

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.

How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. With today’s emissions levels, our remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years

You say you “hear” us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that. The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. Maybe 50% is acceptable to you. But those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equity. They also rely on my and my children’s generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences. To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5C global temperature rise – the best odds given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the world had 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left to emit back on 1 January 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatonnes.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone in less than eight and a half years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today. Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. 

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”