Updated Information Regarding Novo Dia Group Shutdown 

I have a lot to tell you about my trip to Denver for the Slow Food Nations event, and to share ideas and research about vendor development at markets, and talk about the upcoming Direct Marketing Ag Summit in mid September, but instead of that, this post will focus on the immediate crisis in front of us: the recent news about the shutdown of the Novo Dia Group, which effectively will cease card processing for 1700 farmers markets and farmers during (most of the) country’s busiest market season. Since the news broke, my FMC colleagues have worked day and night listening to market leaders, asking questions of all of the players involved, explaining the problem to media and to our elected officials and strategizing with markets, farmers and partners about solutions. Now there is a single place to find all of the information and FMC will continue to update that page with the latest information.

Source: Information Regarding Novo Dia Group Shutdown – Farmers Market Coalition


Sustainable Cities and Social Capital

Any reader of this blog has seen a bit about social capital and markets. Many of the issues that we struggle with in the U.S. have to do with the lack of a shared social fabric and healthy living opportunities for all;  markets (and their surrounding food and civic systems) can alleviate some of those. As for their placement, when social capital is properly understood, the host cities would support markets getting long-term space in Main Street corridors or in historic downtowns. Finally, when markets struggle with adding benefit programs or attracting users of their other educational programming, it can be often traced back to the type or quantity of social capital present in their market. This study linked below has descriptions of how this works.

It was clear from presenters and participants alike that it is very difficult to make progress on aspirations and change when the social fabric is thin or doesn’t exist. When we don’t have sufficient trust or relational connection as individuals or organizations (among and across our differences), we become preoccupied with identifying who (other than us) is responsible for our various messes. If you are a municipality, it’s the province or the federal government. If you’re a business owner, it’s all of government. If you’re a citizen, it’s business and government, and so on. We do need greater clarity on responsibility and with it, more effective ways of identifying if we have the resources to deliver what we’ve been asked to shoulder. Without that, frustration will increase as the dreams of the future get bigger.

Source: Sustainable Cities and Social Capital: Common Dilemmas and Hopes | Cardus Blog


This story in NYT today about how the Parisian government is attempting to fix the place where Les Halles once was illustrates this as well.

In a morbid spasm of 1970s urban renewal, the soaring 19th-century, Liberty-style, glass-and-steel food market — once the pulsating heart of the city — gave way to a claustrophobic underground shopping mall and flimsy street-level pavilions….

…Three weeks after the anxious official unveiling — “we had to fix this broken place,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris said — and five years after construction began, the appraisal of skeptical Parisians, it seems, is like the face the city presents to the world: reserved and critical, but not unwelcoming.


Carnival food 101

The post below was from 2014 but is reposted for the kickoff today of Carnival 2016 in New Orleans. Our holiday season really begins today and runs through the first weekend of May when JazzFest ends.  It includes St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day in mid March so it is a ongoing parade route season! What that means is friends visiting, parties at various homes and listening to music and dancing and eating are on our schedule for the next few months. Don’t be fooled by the media’s focus on Bourbon Street or on bead-throwers: Carnival is a street celebration that allows citizens the chance to gather and offer satirical pokes at the powers that be. It even includes a demand by Rex on Mardi Gras Day that the city cease functions on its day:

“I do hereby ordain decree the following,” Rex says, “that during the great celebration all commercial endeavors be suspended. That the children of the realm be freed from their studies and be permitted to participate in the pageantry.”
And to the city’s political leaders, he adds:
“That the mayor and City Council cease and desist from governance.”

The mayor responds: “We will fulfill the will of the people and turn over the key to the city to you, so that tomorrow in New Orleans will be a day of abandon; Happy Mardi Gras.”

The Carnival season ends on Mardi Gras Day, February 9,  which is a very early end to Carnival this year.

We have officially begun the 2014 Carnival season in Louisiana. The season starts on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan 6th and runs through Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday,

Interestingly, January 6th is also the birthday of the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc who is honored in New Orleans with a startlingly gold statue and her own lovely parade today. That parade along with the Phunny Phorty Phellows parade held on the St. Charles streetcar line tonight are the first parades of our season. As you probably can tell, all of this is closely linked to the Catholic tradition deeply embedded in French Louisiana.

The link to the video shows how a commercial king cake is made, which is the cake we eat throughout the season. The tradition is explained well in the video, so I’ll just add that with the surge in local and artisanal foods, many more types of king cake are now available in the area. Whole wheat cakes, french-style Galette des Rois cakes and more can be found at markets, at stores and bakeries. Happy Carnival!

The best ones ( I think) are made of brioche and have a cinnamon flavor, but there are so many kinds to choose from these days

The best ones ( I think) are made of brioche and have a cinnamon flavor, but there are so many kinds to choose from these days

Yes that is a plastic baby in there- If you get that in your piece of cake, you buy the next.

Yes that is a plastic baby in there- If you get that in your piece of cake, you buy the next.

Galete des Rois

Galete des Rois

How a king cake is made

Louisiana updates its cottage law on labels for raw honey, state sales tax

June 2015: The update means no label is required to sell raw honey and deletes the earlier need for registering at the state for sales tax collection. However, if there is local (parish or municipality) sales tax registration and collection  required, it does not lift that requirement.

The following foods were specifically listed:

  • Baked goods, including breads, cakes, cookies and pies
  • Candies
  • Dried mixes
  • Honey and honeycomb products
  • Jams, jellies, and preserves
  • Pickles and acidified foods
  • Sauces and syrups
  • Spices

My original post on the subject in 2013

2014 revisions to cottage food law

New for 2015: no label required for sales of raw honey


Good site for the cottage food community which includes some interpretation of laws.

More detail from the sales tax issue. The original article from TP overstates the sales tax issue a bit. I asked for a clarification from the sponsor and this is what I was sent:

The pertinent information is in the bill itself on page 1, line 19 through page 2, line 5 of HB 79 Enrolled – which provides as follows:

“No individual who prepares low-risk foods in the home shall sell such foods unless he is registered to collect any local sales and use taxes that are applicable to the sale of such foods, as evidenced by a current sales tax certificate issued to the seller by the sales and use tax collector for the parish in which the sales occur.”

This means that if any local sales taxes are applicable to the sale of the food, then the seller must be registered to collect that tax in order to sell his home-produced food legally. If no local sales taxes are applicable to the sale of the food, then the seller doesn’t need to be registered to collect taxes on the sale of the food.

The main purpose of this particular amendment that HB 79 makes to the cottage law is to strike the reference requiring sellers to register to collect state sales tax. This correction was necessary as state sales tax does not apply to food for home consumption

Hope this helps,

Brandy Pearce
Legislative Assistant to
Representative Richard Burford



The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials on cottage food laws

FINI programs funded for FY 2015/2016


USDA is funding projects in 26 states for up to 4 years, using funds from FY2014 and FY2015. USDA will issue a separate request for applications in FY16, and in subsequent years. Fiscal year 2014 and 2015 awards are:

Pilot projects (up to $100,000, not to exceed 1 year):

Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services, Woodland, Calif., $100,000
Heritage Ranch, Inc., Honaunau, Hawaii, $100,000
Backyard Harvest, Inc., Moscow, Idaho, $10,695
City of Aurora, Aurora, Ill., $30,000
Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Inc., Savannah, Ga., $50,000
Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, Ky., $47,250
Lower Phalen Creek Project, Saint Paul, Minn., $45,230
Vermont Farm-to-School, Inc., Newport, V.T., $93,750
New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, Santa Fe, N.M., $99,999
Santa Fe Community Foundation, Santa Fe, N.M., $100,000
Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services, Greensboro, N.C., $99,987
Chester County Food Bank, Exton, Pa., $76,543
Nurture Nature Center, Easton, Pa., $56,918
Rodale Institute, Kutztown, Pa., $46,442
Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Providence, R.I., $100,000
San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio, Texas, $100,000
Multi-year community-based projects (up to $500,000, not to exceed 4 years):

Mandela Marketplace, Inc., Oakland, Calif., $422,500
Market Umbrella, New Orleans, La., $378,326
Maine Farmland Trust, Belfast, Maine, $249,816
Farmers Market Fund, Portland, Ore., $499,172
The Food Trust, Philadelphia, Pa., $500,000
Utahns Against Hunger, Salt Lake City, Utah, $247,038
Opportunity Council, Bellingham, Wash., $301,658
Multi-year large-scale projects ($500,000 or greater, not to exceed 4 years):

Ecology Center, Berkeley, Calif., $3,704,287
Wholesome Wave Foundation Charitable Ventures, Inc., Bridgeport, Conn., $3,775,700
AARP Foundation, Washington, D.C., $3,306,224
Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Gainesville, Fla., $1,937,179
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Boston, Mass., $3,401,384
Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, Mich., $5,171,779
International Rescue Committee, Inc., New York, N.Y., $564,231
Washington State Department of Health, Tumwater, Wash., $5,859,307
Descriptions of the funded projects are available on the NIFA website.

Farmers Market Metrics May Be Coming To Your Town

This is a reprint of a blog that I wrote for the Farmers Market Metrics page on Farmers Market Coalition’s site. There is a growing need for food and civic systems evaluation that is designed and implemented in partnership with the grassroots organization and uses contextual and disciplined metrics that are useful to that organization and to their partners. The new pilots and research happening at FMC and their partners, such as University of Wisconsin-Madison, are hoping to address that need.
ecocities emerging

Big data, little farmers markets Part 2: The minefield of analyzing Big Data

In the first installment of this series, I introduced the idea of Big Data, the Internet of things (IoT) and what social media has promised and what it has delivered. I promised some thoughts on analysis next. here goes:

•Big Data is partly defined by its resistance to analysis. The volume, velocity and variety of Big Data makes problems for easy collection and analysis. This story on the struggle among safe street advocates to find good data speaks to that issue.

•Big Data is probably more appealing to advertisers than to our often shadowy government at this point but still, we should keep an eye on both of them and their analysis/use of Big Data.

•Lastly, as put so well by the author of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One is Looking), much of behavioral science research is based on WEIRD research: White, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic nation’s subjects. Big Data may help to offset that issue.

Markets already intersect with Big Data across many different sectors, such as health care, the public sector, agriculture and retail. So let’s think about how this could play out for markets:
What if a researcher used the total dollars spent at markets on SNAP and compared it to grocery store SNAP sales on a map, not adjusting for hours open or the number of goods or markets available or fixed costs to offer those goods? Or how about the decrease in certification for organic farmers among market vendors – What if that was just a graph showing the decrease year after year, without the analysis that many farmers stated that they feel they do not need certification while they sell directly to shoppers and are therefore able to explain their practices? What if those maps/graphs were what influenced policymakers?

Some scenarios to ponder:

    •Market A (which runs on Saturday morning downtown) is asked by its city to participate in a traffic planning project that will offer recommendations for car-free weekend days in the city center. The city will also review the requirement for parking lots in every new downtown development and possibly recalibrate where parking meters are located. To do this, the city will add driving strips to the areas around the market to count the auto traffic and will monitor the meters and parking lot uses over the weekend. The market is being asked for its farmers to track their driving for all trips to the city and ask shoppers to do Dot Surveys on their driving experiences to the market on the weekend. Public transportation use will be gathered by university students.

    •Market B is partnering with an agricultural organization and other environmental organizations to measure the level of knowledge and awareness about farming in the greater metropolitan area. For one summer month, the market and other organizations will ask their supporters and farmers to use the hashtag #Junefarminfo on social media to share any news about markets, farm visits, gardening data or any other seasonal agricultural news.

    •Market C is working with its Main Street stores to understand shopping patterns by gathering data on average sales for credit and debit users. The Chamber of Commerce will also set up observation stations at key intersections to capture visual data on visitor behavior.

    •Market D has a grant with a health care corporation to offer incentives and will ask those voucher users to track their personal health care stats and their purchase and consumption of fresh foods. The users will get digital tools such as cameras to record their meals, voice recorders to record their children’s opinions about the menus (to upload on an online log) with their health stats such as BP, exercise regimen. That data will be compared to the larger Census population.

In all of these cases, the data to be collected crosses sectors and systems, meaning that no one entity has all of the raw data at their disposal at all times. That boils down into Analysis Issue #1

In all of these cases, the data to be collected has many ways to be interpreted, based on which entity is interpreting the data. Analysis Issue #2

In most of these cases, the data collected requires some self-reporting. Analysis Issue #3

In some of these cases, privacy controls must be strictly managed and will affect how much analysis can be done. Analysis Issue #4

from the New York Times:
“The first thing to note is that although big data is very good at detecting correlations, especially subtle correlations that an analysis of smaller data sets might miss, it never tells us which correlations are meaningful (italics added). Analysis Issue #5

Check out this site for fun examples of how matching correlations doesn’t always add up to good conclusions.

The thing we should be able to agree on: all partners should be involved with the analysis and should receive access to the raw data. That means markets participating in just the data collection piece is not enough. They need to be involved in the analysis because if not, the context of markets will be lost.
Yet we know that just collecting the data is be a massive undertaking for low-capacity markets (even assume some funding is offered in all of these cases for the partners to staff the collection of the data), not even adding in the time and effort it takes to analyze it. What might help is to have some analysis prepared ahead of time and to prepare the market community for participation.
1. This means that every market association, or group of markets or markets themselves should keep information about each market’s history, size, structure and staffing in separate PDFs. This, by the way, is a resource that Farmers Market Coalition (for whom I am a consultant) is working on with one of their university partners, the University of Wisconsin to pilot for their AFRI Indicators for Impact project . Hopefully, the Market Profile will be available online for all markets to test in 2015- stay tuned!
2. Markets need to know the area’s current demographic and other relevant details. Check the census to know what the larger population’s stats are and make friends with real estate professionals to keep up on trends in the neighborhood.
3. Do a Dot Survey or Bean Poll a few times a year asking shoppers to tell you what zip code they live in, how they come to the market, things like that and keep track of that data. Maybe a big dry wipe calendar on the wall to add all data collected?
4. Market boards and advisors should keep any data already collected and the Profile information to be able to share it as needed in any meeting they happen to attend in their own professional lives.
5. When researchers do come to your market with an offer to help with data collection, be ready to ask for data you want. How about asking for focus group data so that a market can begin to build “persona profiles” of those who come to the market? Or ask for added analysis for numbers that you think might be important for the market: those who know me have heard my song about finding a way to track the number of return SNAP shoppers and how I think it that metric is so useful for markets and possibly even more useful than total SNAP dollars, in terms of analysis.

5. Encourage city or county public health agencies to offer a semi-annual breakfast for those entities that work on community interventions (like markets, health clinics, social service entities, university programs, youth outreach etc) to share news about what they are seeing in their field and to share any data informally. If meetings are impossible, then a regular email would work. In other words, stay in touch with other data collection efforts in your community.

I’ll end this post with some of the lovely words of Dataclysm author Christian Rudder who was talking about the Vietnam Memorial’s physical self versus its online database self:

“A web page can’t replace granite. It can’t replace friendship or love or family either. But what it can do – as a conduit for our shared experience – is help us understand ourselves and our lives. The era of data is here; we are now recorded. That, like all change is frightening, but between the gunmetal gray of the government and the hot pink of product offers we just can’t refuse, there is an open and ungarish way. To use data to know yet not manipulate, to explore but not to pry, to protect but not to smother, to see yet never expose, and, above all, to repay that priceless gift we bequeath to the world when we share our lives so that other lives may be better – and to fulfill for everyone that oldest of human hopes, from Gilgamesh to Ramses to today:that our names be remembered not only in stone but as part of memory itself.”
I think I’ll adopt that bit as my mantra.

Canadian measurement of local food impact

Received a great report this week from Community Food Centres Canada. These folks “provide resources and a proven approach to partner organizations across Canada to create Community Food Centres that bring people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food.”
Their report has loads of information, including some clear metrics with some of the social (I.e. added connections, added trust) and human benefits (I.e. knowledge gained) as well as metrics for gauging the effectiveness of their projects for the communities that they serve.

+ 93% of community members surveyed report that Community Food Centres are an important source of healthy food.

+ 88% of food skills program participants have increased confidence in making healthy food choices.

+ 90% of food skills program participants report improvements in their mental health.

+ 91% of parents of children in After School Programs say their children showed increased confidence in the kitchen after having participated in the program.

+ 88% of community members surveyed report that they’ve made a new friend since they’ve come to their Community Food Centre.

Download their report here




Junk Food Diet Keeps Rats from Seeking Out New Foods

The work suggests that consumption of junk foods may make you relatively indifferent to novel food, which may encourage overconsumption,” Morris said. “Also that you may overeat when exposed to signals linked to palatable foods, so an obese person may be more sensitive to advertising for foods like ice creams and chocolate bars.”

Junk Food Diet Keeps Rats from Seeking Out New Foods.

Inside the ‘Pay What You Want’ Marketplace

I wonder how many markets reach out to the yard sale-rs as potential shoppers? An ad in the paper near the listings perhaps? Or creating an event for a cookbook swap or a kitchen item swap at the market? This is one way markets can utilize the ecological community that connects farmers markets to other like-minded re-users interested in less packaging and waste in modern society.

The informal economy [of the yard sale] grants consumers much more power to stretch the value of their dollar—which has become especially crucial in the context of the Great Recession and other times of economic stress and uncertainty, where yard sales and other means of informal trade can be a survival strategy for many middle- and lower-class people.


Training Your Brain to Prefer Healthy Foods

Scientists have suspected that, once unhealthy food addiction circuits are established, they may be hard or impossible to reverse, subjecting people who have gained weight to a lifetime of unhealthy food cravings and temptation. To find out whether the brain can be re-trained to support healthy food choices, Roberts and colleagues studied the reward system in thirteen overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were participants in a new weight loss program designed by Tufts University researchers and five who were in a control group and were not enrolled in the program.

“We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” said senior and co-corresponding author Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly! – what is out there in the toxic food environment.”

Training Your Brain to Prefer Healthy Foods.

Plastic versus paper

From USAToday:

There’s a growing generation gap when it comes to using plastic for purchases under $5, a survey out this week by CreditCards.com reveals. More than half of Millennials are likely to whip out a card for a pack of gum or a newspaper, while 77% of people older than 50 still dig out cash.

The plastic cards young people are reaching for at cash registers these days are overwhelmingly debit. Those ages 18 to 29 favor debit over credit by a ratio of almost 3 to 1, the survey of 983 credit card holders showed.

Other findings from the survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for CreditCards.com done July 17-20 and July 24-27:
• Overall, 65% of Americans typically pay for purchases under $5 with cash; 22% use debit cards, and 11% use credit cards.
• Cash is the preferred payment method for almost eight in 10 rural card holders, vs. 62% of city dwellers and suburbanites.