Pittsburgh’s Kevin Sousa on His Record-Breaking Kickstarter and New Restaurant

“We could have done any number of things, a nice farmers’ market or a convenience store. But my background is in restaurants and so that was the base of my idea. I was trying to wrap my brain around what kind of restaurant could work and help the community.

I became more familiar with Braddock and all these beautiful things that already existed. For example, Braddock Farms, which is a subsidiary of Grow Pittsburgh, has been there for years. It’s this beautiful two-acre urban farm in a beautiful post-industrial backdrop [with] a beautiful award-winning apiary that makes delicious honey that I’ve used in all of my restaurants. We have chickens down there that are producing tons of eggs. We have a rooftop 1,000-square foot greenhouse that happened to come with the building [and] 4,000 square feet of a raised bed garden on the roof of the building. We have a convent that has been restored to a beautiful hostel, and we’re going to be able to use it for free housing for our staff and interns and students. All these things, it’s like they were there already.

I had experience doing volunteer work in the Summer with the Braddock Youth Project. There are all these young people who are passionate about food and farming and Braddock, but odds are that they wouldn’t be given the opportunity to pursue that after high school. So John and I started to put together this idea, well, how do we incorporate a culinary/farming training program? We work directly with Braddock Redux, which is the nonprofit that does job training in neighboring areas, so we would have people that are educators. All these resources exist already, so we just felt the last piece of the puzzle was a delivery system. And we felt that the best way to show all of these beautiful things to the world would be through a restaurant.”

Pittsburgh's Kevin Sousa on His Record-Breaking Kickstarter and New Restaurant – Eater Interviews – Eater National.

Grazing with goats in the Crescent City

Goats for grazing is a super idea for the many open, untended sites we have in New Orleans and throughout the U.S. This is a simple fundraising idea for an New Orleans entrepreneur that wants to use goats to graze public and private green space. She has already been contracted to use goats on a park in the city (Brechtel Park) starting in 2014 and needs support to get her business prepared for the work ahead.
I see she also sees this as public art, which I’d have to hear more about to understand I guess, but the goat grazing is by itself an idea that I can certainly support. Maybe you can too?


…To comment further on the public art point, I’d rather this be seen chiefly as a serious farming and open space issue that helps urban people see that livestock can safely serve many roles in the larger natural survival loop, even in our ordered urban environment.

Findlay Market pictures

The first of three public markets that I will be visiting this week across Ohio.http://www.findlaymarket.org/

Lovely Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, the largest collection of Italianate buildings in the US.

Lovely Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, the largest collection of Italianate buildings in the US.

Belgian brunch restaurant in O-t-R neighborhood, close to the Findlay Market.

brunch restaurant in Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, close to Findlay Market.

Seating at Findlay Market

Seating at Findlay Market

Welcome to Findlay, Ohio's oldest public market.

Welcome to Findlay, Ohio’s oldest public market.

Around the corner from the Findlay Market, Cincinnati's Public Market

Around the corner from the market

Mural at the Findlay Market

Mural at the Market

Australian Food Sovereignty

Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) is a growing national voice representing the community at large. AFSA emerged with the Peoples Food Plan as a response to the Governments National Food Plan, which in their analysis showed “heavy bias towards corporate agribusiness, large-scale food manufacturing, big retailing interests and a flawed public consultation process”.


As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth – NYTimes.com

…officials across the region say more young people are getting involved, partly because food prices have soared, but also because governments have promised that agriculture means steady work, and not just in the fields.

The Bahamas is building a gleaming food science university to emphasize agricultural best practices.

Haiti, which experienced food riots in 2008, recently broke ground on a series of silos for a “strategic food reserve,” while Jamaica is considering investments in juicing and food preservation start-ups.

“We have idle hands and arable land,” Mr. Clarke said. “We are trying to see how we can bring those two together.”

As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth – NYTimes.com.

Cuba Jan 2014

Fact finding mission is in order. Anyone?

Cuba Jan 2014.

Vermont leads again

“Vermont is now officially, quantitatively the number one state in the union for local foods two years running, according to Strolling of the Heifers’ 2013 Locavore Index.”

Having spent some of the last 3 years working with Vermont food system organizers, I can tell you that this news was likely (again).
Sharing with your community – whether it is your talent or with your products – is embedded deep within the Vermont DNA and can account for part of their success in being #1 for local “eating”, but quite possibly a book that I am currently reading, “Fast Lane On A Dirt Road: Vermont Transformed 1945-1990,” may also shed light:

“The 24,000 farms of 1946 became 9,200 farms by 1964… and by 1990, 2400.”

superimposed over this info:

“The 1960 newcomers reversed the century-long exodus of the young and the restless and helped increase Vermont’s population from 390,000 to 445,000, the first jump of more than five percent in one decade since the 1830s.”

In other words, by the early 1960s the “halcyon” days of agriculture had given way to paved roads leading to ski lodges (in a state with over a thousand peaks over 2000 feet) and IBM jobs, yet had fewer people.
So, what may have saved the state from chasing the corporate buck and rich tourist to its economic death may have been those hippies who came a few years later looking for ways to live their values and start a new life.

And in a state now known for its progressive politics at the state and national level, it may surprise many to know that when the Republicans gave way to a Democratic governor in 1962, it ended the “longest run of one-party control in American history.” However, that change also meant more state programs and less local control which continues to affect the future of Vermont, especially in the role of agriculture and who will help decide what “local” will mean in the coming years.

What all this means to me is each state’s food organizers need to understand their demographic past and then adapt to current assets and trends just as I think Vermont has started to do quite well. In any case, congrats to the hardworking folks of the Green Mountain State.


Tabasco is given special market status

No, not THAT Tabasco. Clever market.


A Load of Guac

As a citizen of the host city for Super Bowl 2013, I find the scale of this thing fascinating. In some ways, this event surpasses the festivities of Thanksgiving among some demographics. And of course, the two days are both about food and football and screaming (okay maybe that’s only some families)…

This article talks about the history of guacamole at Super Bowl festivities and how it is tied to the explosion of avocados grown and marketed in California starting in the 1980s according to the author:

In the 1980s, California saw a boom in avocado farm start-ups — a small-scale “green gold” rush, news outlets joked; easy avocado trees were the perfect crop for the gentleman farmer. More avocado farms meant a greater — and cheaper — avocado supply for the end user. This bounty, combined with the establishment of commissions to promote avocados and protect grower interests, triggered the classic feedback loop that mainstreams “exotic” food into American culture: The more visible and widely distributed a food becomes, the less strange it seems; the less strange it seems, the more widespread it becomes. You can see this cultural shift in a couple of banner years between the middle and end of the last century: A mid-summer bumper crop in 1960, two years before Jackie Kennedy served an avocado and crabmeat salad at a formal state dinner, cause the price per avocado to drop to 15 to 30 cents — roughly equivalent to $1.17 to $2.33 today, which we’d consider a bit high for a record low. In 1987, when Californians had been slicing avocado onto every burger and sandwich for about a decade, a similar surplus crop allowed New Yorkers to buy at 30 to 50 cents apiece (60 cents to $1 today).

So fascinating to think that for the next Super Bowl in New Orleans the state ag folks could start planning for a bumper crop of pecans and work to add roasted pecans, pecan pie to become the next tradition for Super Bowl Sunday.

The Smart Set: A Load of Guac – January 30, 2013.

If children lose contact with nature they won’t fight for it

Good language in here for project proposals that involve taking student groups to farms and gardens. That the number of children involved in creative outdoor activities fell so quickly is shocking and can be addressed by activities that markets organize. Also, how access to nature can be a creative stimulant for later learning could also be the basis of your project for your targeted market day activities.

The remarkable collapse of children’s engagement with nature – which is even faster than the collapse of the natural world – is recorded in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, and in a report published recently by the National Trust. Since the 1970s the area in which children may roam without supervision has decreased by almost 90%. In one generation the proportion of children regularly playing in wild places in the UK has fallen from more than half to fewer than one in 10. In the US, in just six years (1997-2003) children with particular outdoor hobbies fell by half. Eleven- to 15-year-olds in Britain now spend, on average, half their waking day in front of a screen.

In her famous essay the Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, Edith Cobb proposed that contact with nature stimulates creativity. Reviewing the biographies of 300 “geniuses”, she exposed a common theme: intense experiences of the natural world in the middle age of childhood (between five and 12). Animals and plants, she contended, are among “the figures of speech in the rhetoric of play … which the genius in particular of later life seems to recall”.

Studies in several nations show that children’s games are more creative in green places than in concrete playgrounds. Natural spaces encourage fantasy and roleplay, reasoning and observation. The social standing of children there depends less on physical dominance, more on inventiveness and language skills. Perhaps forcing children to study so much, rather than running wild in the woods and fields, is counter-productive.

UTNE Altwire – If children lose contact with nature they won't fight for it.

New campus HQ OK’d for Nicholls culinary school

Believe it or not, my food obsessed city of New Orleans is NOT the home of a dozen first-rate culinary schools; well, actually zero would be the number that we currently have. There has long been talk of Johnson and Wales putting a school in the NOLa area, but this program and school in a new campus headquarters along the Mississippi River Delta of Louisiana (about 50 miles outside of New Orleans) appeals to me more.
Chef John Folse has been extremely dedicated in building this program and his deep commitment to finding homegrown food professionals is commendable, as has been his long time support of the region’s farmers markets. On top of that, he has the encyclopedia on Cajun and Creole cuisine, a highly regarded reference book: Folse Encyclopedia and his cheese making operation is also excellent and one of the few artisanal cheese operations at this level in our state: Bittersweet Plantation

So, to wrap up, a good guy who has done as much as he can to build food systems in his home state. More like him are always welcome.

New campus HQ OK'd for Nicholls culinary school.

Toronto Market profile-Dufferin Grove Farmers Market

I had the pleasure of visiting our food community in Toronto in mid April, courtesy of the Greenbelt Farmers Market Network and its organizers, Anne Freeman and Sara Udow. Before I left, I was able to visit Anne’s well established, highly respected market (many people I chatted with throughout the city mentioned this market to me when they found I work with public markets), the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market.
The Dufferin Grove Park is a study in itself, and deserves to be used as an example by other neighborhoods that want to be a bridge for their residents and to use their space to inspire and share. I had the great fortune (thanks to Anne Freeman) to sit down with Jutta Mason who has dedicated much of her time to the evolution of this park and its activities. I could say more nice things about Jutta, how market organizers should be so lucky to have a partner like her, but she’d just find this lionizing of her quite odd probably.
But do take some time to see the wealth of resources and activities this informal group has brought to their area:
Friends of DGP

The market itself runs year-round (take that, northerners that say it can’t be done!) and has focused on organic producers, but does have farmers that represent non-organic farming as well. A good mix of small and large vendors. The wild rice vendor is a good example of the mix of season and scale of the vendors- he was sold out for the year after I bought some of his rice and would be back to his regular work until he harvested rice next year. (He told me to throw some of his rice into the swamps down in New Orleans- I might take that idea for an old creek bed on my family property…)
In any case, this is a fantastic Thursday evening farmers market that has been around for a decade already and will be there for future generations….

Black Duck Wild Rice-Toronto

Toronto CA community park

The community garden at the Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto. Sits right next to the weekly farmers market...

Folks sitting on the grass in Dufferin Grove Park next to the weekly farmers market.

Anne Freeman, the manager of the Dufferin Grove Park Farmers Market is seen here (in pink shirt) talking with one of her vendors in the Zamboni storage area (it is Canada after all!) where the market camps out in the winter and then spills out into the walkway for the rest of the year.

The market sets up this cleaning station for shoppers to add condiments and to clean their plates. A very attractive set up..

The market sale board for the park folks who make bread and food in their bake ovens and have a Friday night dinner as well.