Against the Soda Tax | Jacobin

One of the most thought-provoking magazines on the newsstand gives an argument this month against soda taxes. The argument made here is both in how regressive taxes have been traditionally been spent in the US but also includes the unfair choices of what is being taxed:

While low-income people’s fizzy drinks are getting socked with taxes, most of the sugar-laden beverages favored by the upper middle-class and the rich are conspicuously exempt.

In Philadelphia, drinks that are at least 50 percent juice are excluded from the 1.5-cent-per-ounce fee. The bottled smoothies that line Whole Foods’s shelves? Tax-free, even when they contain more sugar than a Pepsi.

Beverages that are more than 50 percent milk are also exempt, a loophole big enough to drive a tanker truck full of venti white-chocolate mochas through.

Source: Against the Soda Tax | Jacobin

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A decade after ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma,’ Michael Pollan sees signs of hope

This new generation of young farmers is helping to build what amounts to an alternative food economy. That new economy is comprised of farms supplying local markets; farms employing organic and other sustainable methods; and farms raising animals outdoors, as well as producers of artisanal foodstuffs of all kinds and new distribution models such as the farm subscriptions known as CSAs, or community-supported agriculture. No one knows quite how large this new food economy is, but we do know it is growing much faster than the old one, which has stalled. Its rise is the direct result of consumers and producers working together to shorten the food chain in order to radically simplify the answer to the “Where does my food come from” question.

Source: A decade after ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma,’ Michael Pollan sees signs of hope – The Washington Post

 

The New Food Economy also reconsiders TOD, 10 years after.

NYT writer: seasonality? bah humbug!

 

A ridiculous and myopic piece from a writer in the NYT this week is attached to this post at bottom. Her argument is that seasonal and local are out of touch and at odds with good eating and for her Manhattan restaurant. Notwithstanding the lack of awareness of the value in supporting farmers in order to increase production in one’s region, the use of terms like “forces of snobbery” without backing it up with evidence of it instead show that she is herself employing that very idea. Farmers markets and the producers in them have made her “brand” even possible which she ignores in this piece.

Add to that her lack of awareness about the extension of seasonality of producer through innovative farming techniques by small-scaled producers and supportive agricultural advocates indicates that her ignorance is massive. On top of those now extended seasons, our past generations canned and stored food throughout the non-growing season to keep it available and those techniques are not only still available to us but better and easier than ever to employ; instead she believes we should instead wait for our food to come via truck from far away simply because that is the modern world and a “beautiful thing.” As for the ‘post-seasonal”world she likes to live in, how about talking about the chemicals and processes needed to pick food thousands of miles away to have on shelves in the Midwest?

I’d like to see swift rebuke from the community to this person, and some education offered to her to teach her how items like regionally produced winter tomatoes are largely available in every area, how citrus can be and is grown outside of Florida and California, how garlic, grapes, oils and more are possible in many other areas too and how farmers markets are the main engine behind increasing production and access to healthy and tasty food that is competitively priced and often incentivized. THAT work is creating the “demand”that she asks for and relies on for her own location-based business. Lastly, let me also offer my opinion that the NYT has recently become the paper of hysterical food nonsense which does not do The Gray Lady credit.  How about cutting down on the hyperbole about local food and instead report on the actual data of our field made up of small businesses and public policy all designed to increase healthy living for all.

Amanda Cohen, the Dirt Candy chef and owner, satisfies a craving and proves that even tomatoes don’t have to be eaten in season to taste good.
NYTIMES.COM|BY AMANDA COHEN

24 Diagrams To Help You Eat Healthier

These infographics should spark some ideas among vendors and among shoppers:

24 Diagrams To Help You Eat Healthier.

Harvest of Change

An engaging interactive story on today’s agribusiness sector from the Des Moines Register and USA Today.

Amid all the challenges, farmers find lucrative markets shaped by shifting consumer tastes. Farmers markets, where consumers can interact directly with the growers of their food, expanded steadily in the USA from 1994 to 2014, almost quintupling to 8,268, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2012, fresh fruits and vegetables sold directly to consumers were a $1.3 billion industry, up 8% since 2007, the census found. That same year, organic food sales reached about $27 billion, according to the USDA, up from $11 billion in 2004.

link to the 5-part story in The Register

Harvest of Change.

In the U.S., a Quick Walk to the Store Is a Rare Thing Indeed

Another report to share with food communities as an indicator of the positive changes we can make if we can embed our initiatives in neighborhoods.

“After you pass Seattle, ranked 13th with just 31 percent access, no other city in the U.S. cracks 30 percent, and the bottom 22 cities of the U.S. top 50 by population all have 10 percent or fewer residents within a five-minute walk to the store.

The numbers paint a picture of a dramatically divided nation, one in which even residents of the nation’s largest cities rarely have quick access via active transportation to the ingredients for fresh and healthy meals.

It’s just one more way of measuring how development defines our lives and our choices in ways that we are only beginning to understand.”
Link to story

The Crunchy Cities Index – Support Farmers Markets

This is an exciting piece on the explosion of farmers markets, but I must confess that based on my own knowledge, I find the data to be less than precise. The USDA list of markets is not checked for accuracy and as it is up to market organizers to list and to de-list their own markets, most estimations believe that the list is far from accurate, even though the USDA does everything within its (limited) time to make it right. Even the definition of what can be listed as a market is loose; this may seem like nitpicking (after all more “markets” is good news isn’t it?) but since we know how the capacity of markets remains low partly because of low support among funders and policy makers, the lack of clarity may hurt chances to expand well-managed farmers markets or public markets that support local entrepreneurs.
What is also true is that many retail operations masquerade as farmers markets without directly supporting farmers or managing those involved in direct sales; regular operation, transparent governance and some direct sales for regional producers should at least be the minimum to being listed on this list. Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of auxiliary and ancillary food initiatives that get regional food into more communities being listed somewhere and to be tied to efforts at flagship or sister market organizations, but we should get better at describing each of them with their own type so we can allow more to flourish.

The Crunchy Cities Index – Buy Local by I Support Farmers Markets.

The Agrarian Standard | Wendell Berry

Recently, I was working on a piece for The Nature of Cities blog, and wanted to re-read something that Wendell Berry had said about the agrarian culture; I found the 2002 Orion Magazine essay in which he reflects on the 25th year of publication of The Unsettling of America. I think the paragraph below is enormously descriptive of the tension that those of us involved in creating an alternative agrarian world work and live in:
To the corporate and political and academic servants of global industrialism, the small family farm and the small farming community are not known, not imaginable, and therefore unthinkable, except as damaging stereotypes. The people of “the cutting edge” in science, business, education, and politics have no patience with the local love, local loyalty, and local knowledge that make people truly native to their places and therefore good caretakers of their places. This is why one of the primary principles in industrialism has always been to get the worker away from home. From the beginning it has been destructive of home employment and home economies. The economic function of the household has been increasingly the consumption of purchased goods. Under industrialism, the farm too has become increasingly consumptive, and farms fail as the costs of consumption overpower the income from production.

The Agrarian Standard | Wendell Berry | Orion Magazine.

Giving Business the Incentive to Promote Healthy Lifestyles

Love the article linked below; it’s an overview of incentives given to business to encourage healthy behaviors. For those of you that have heard my spiel on how the 1970s emergence of the farmers markets movement has focused on incentivizing behavior changes of all kinds with buying rewards (frequent shopper cards, raffles/giveaways), added social interaction (music or entertainment), knowledge increase (cooking demos) and so on you might see how the most recent addition of cash incentives for low-income citizens to find their way to us is simply another example of that strategy.

This article shows that many businesses are using the same strategy when adding benefits to their community and therefore, markets should see that they stand proudly as innovative leaders in incentivizing good health and wealth. AND markets should use this strategy in as many ways as they can to continue to increase everyone’s changes, including vendors, neighbors, and shoppers in every socioeconomic strata.

Giving Business the Incentive to Promote Healthy Lifestyles | Community Commons.

Resentful? Overworked? Face These Painful Facts about Shared Work. « The Happiness Project

Seven hard facts about shared work
I excerpted this because of the many times that I hear market or food system organizers tell me they don’t have time to teach volunteers or to share work – that should be a red flag to anyone who wants to build their market or project past a lifespan of a few years. When a market is managed and governed entirely by one person and has not figured out how to welcome others into decision-making – or has yet to plan for the future – crisis begins to climb exponentially.

When I hear people complain about the fact that other people aren’t doing their share–about a spouse who isn’t pulling weight at home, or a colleague at work, or a sibling in a family–I want to launch into a disquisition about shared work.
From what I’ve observed, people have a very incorrect understanding about how shared work actually gets divvied up. Take note of these somewhat-painful facts:

Fact 1: Work done by other people sounds easy. How hard can it be to take care of a newborn who sleeps twenty hours a day? How hard can it be to keep track of your billable hours? To travel for one night for business? To get a four-year-old ready for school? To return a few phone calls? To fill out some forms?
Of course, something like “perform open-heart surgery” sounds difficult, but to a very great degree, daily work by other people sounds easy—certainly easier that what we have to do.
This fact leads us to under-estimate how onerous a particular task is, when someone else does it, and that makes it easy to assume that we don’t need to help or provide support. Or even be grateful. For that reason, we don’t feel very obligated to share the burden. After all, how hard is it to change a light-bulb?

Fact 2: When you’re doing a job that benefits other people, it’s easy to assume that they feel conscious of the fact that you’re doing this work—that they should feel grateful, and that they should and do feel guilty about not helping you.
But no! Often, the more reliably you perform a task, the less likely it is for someone to notice that you’re doing it, and to feel grateful, and to feel any impulse to help or to take a turn.
You think, “I’ve been making the first pot of coffee for this office for three months! When is someone going to do it?” In fact, the longer you make that coffee, the less likely it is that someone will do it.
If one person on a tandem bike is pedaling hard, the other person can take it easy. If you’re reliably doing a task, others will relax. They aren’t silently feeling more and more guilty for letting you shoulder the burden; they probably don’t even think about it. And after all, how hard is it to make a pot of coffee? (see Fact #1). Also, they begin to view this as your job (after all, you’ve been doing it reliably for all this time, in fact, you probably enjoy this job!), it’s not their job, so they don’t feel any burden to help.
Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.

Fact 3: It’s hard to avoid “unconscious overclaiming.” In unconscious overclaiming, we unconsciously overestimate our contributions relative to others. This makes sense, because we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. Also, we tend to do the work that we value. I think holiday cards are important; my husband thinks that keeping the air-conditioning working is important.
Studies showed that when spouses estimated what percentage of housework each performed, the percentages added up to more than 120 percent. When business-school students estimated how much they’d contributed to a team effort, the total was 139 percent.
It’s easy to think “I’m the only one around here who bothers to…” or “Why do I always have to be the one who…?” but ignore all the tasks you don’t do. And maybe others don’t think that task is as important as you do (See Fact #5).

Fact 4: Taking turns is easier than sharing. I read somewhere that young children have a lot of trouble “sharing” but find it easier to “take turns.” Sharing is pretty ambiguous; taking turns is clearer and serves the value of justice, which is very important to children.
I think this is just as true for adults. I have to admit, shared tasks often give me the urge to try to shirk. Maybe if I pretend not to notice that the dishwasher is ready to be emptied, my husband will do it! And often he does. Which bring us t0…
THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT SHARED WORK:

Fact 5: The person who cares the most will often end up doing a task. If you care more about a task being done, you’re more likely to end up doing it–and don’t expect other people to care as much as you do, just because something is important to you. It’s easy to make this mistake in marriage. You think it’s important to get the basement organized, and you expect your spouse to share the work, but your spouse thinks, “We never use the basement anyway, so why bother?” Just because something’s important to you doesn’t make it important to someone else, and people are less likely to share work they deem unimportant. At least not without a lot of nagging.

Fact 6. If you want someone else to do a task, DON’T DO IT YOURSELF. This sounds so obvious, but think about it. Really. Let it go. If you think you shouldn’t have to do it, don’t do it. Wait. Someone else is a lot more likely to do it if you don’t do it first. Note: this means that a task is most likely to be done by the person who cares most (see Fact #5). To repeat this point in other words, if you persist in doing particular work, it becomes more and more unlikely that someone else will do it.
Of course, you can’t always choose not to do something. Someone must get the kids ready for school. But many tasks are optional.

Fact #7: If, when people do step up, you criticize their performance, you discourage them from doing that work in the future. If you want others to help, don’t carp from the sidelines. If you do, they feel justified in thinking, “Well, I can’t do it right anyway” or “Pat wants this to be done a particular way, and I don’t know how to do that, so Pat should do it.” The more important it is to you that tasks be performed your way, the more likely you are to be doing those tasks yourself. (Of course, some people use deliberate incompetence to shirk, which is so deeply annoying.)

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Report shows that direct farm sales increase local economies in many regions

(talk about needing more research like this!)

Using county-level data from the 2002 and 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, the team analyzed the link between direct farm sales — sales made directly from farmer to consumer — and total farm sales. When they examined the data on a national basis, they found a positive but not statistically significant relationship between the two. Goetz said that a different picture emerged when they looked at the data by region, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In some regions, direct sales seemed to complement total farm sales. For example, in New England, a $1 increase from the 2002 level of direct farm sales was associated with a $5 increase in total farm sales. That same $1 increase was associated with a $9 increase in overall farm sales in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Yet, in other regions, local food sales appear to compete with total farm sales. In Southeastern U.S. counties, for example, direct sales were associated with a reduction in total farm sales. Next, to measure the impact of all agricultural sales on economic growth, the researchers used a statistical model to analyze how changes in farm sales per capita influenced changes in real personal income per capita — an indicator of economic growth. Again, the team performed this analysis using county-level data from 2002 to 2007.
Goetz said that by establishing that direct sales have a positive effect on total agricultural sales, which in turn have an effect on income growth, this study demonstrates that direct sales do indeed expand local economies at least in the Northeast U.S. He added that these results came as a bit of a surprise.
“When we set out to measure the economic impact of local food sales, we frankly didn’t expect to find one,” said Goetz. He explained that economists are generally skeptical that local sales can have impacts because such sales tend to recirculate money within a community rather than inject new money. “Injection of new money — money from outside of the community — is what many economic development practitioners think of as the fuel for economic growth. But to me, these findings provide quite robust evidence that even direct sales do have an effect on growth, in the Northeast U.S.”

Science Daily