In 2009 to 2010, 26 percent, or roughly 1 in 4 kids whose parents have at most a high school education, were obese, compared to 7 percent, or roughly 1 in 14, kids whose parents have at least a four-year college degree, according to Frederick. He cited data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the National Survey of Children’s Health.
The link to the excellent Growing For Markets site. In the January 2014 issue, I have an article where I share the latest news on SNAP at farmers markets. GFM is a great magazine for news and tips for market farmers and organizers. You can subscribe at different levels for print or online (which can include their excellent archives) or you can simply purchase a single issue.
I suspected as much, based on the struggle that our community food systems here still have in front of them to reach any decent economic plateau. And, of course, this is another easy way to track where large swaths of institutional racism are still at work.
A commentary from yours truly on the food system found in my first hometown of Cleveland Ohio. Whenever I return to it, I am struck by the unusual underpinnings of their food work, being as it is deeply embedded within the community organizing/social justice strategy that is alive and well in many of their neighborhoods, as well as in the larger reality of figuring out what to do with their post-industrial inner core. Combine that with enthusiastic corporate greening, municipal support and the awareness of the need to combat the foreclosure crisis with innovative small business and residential reclamations and you get a dynamic little system coming to maturation there.
Article 89 of the zoning code will create clarity and predictability for anyone interested in growing commercial food and creating farms in Boston. The development of Article 89 was made possible through the exploration of six research modules which were studied and discussed in depth throughout 2012 during monthly public Working Group meetings:
Soil safety, pesticides and fertilizers, and composting
Growing of produce and accessory structures
Rooftop and vertical agriculture
Hydroponics and aquaculture
Keeping of animals and bees
Farmers markets, winter markets, farm stands, and sales
The existing Boston zoning code does not address many types of agricultural activities. If an activity is not identified, it is considered a forbidden use and requires an appeal process through the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Article 89 will identify urban agricultural activities to improve Boston’s direct access to locally produced fresh food.
Why Urban Agriculture is Good for Boston:
Community based farms can bring people together, increasing cooperation, collaboration, and neighborhood building.
Urban agriculture improves access to affordable, fresh, and healthy food.
Urban farming provides an opportunity for Bostonians to learn how to grow food and empowers entrepreneurs to operate a farm right in the City.
Local farming can be an effective tool for empowering youth by teaching young people how to grow food and run a business.
Urban farming teaches us about using land wisely, which helps us grow our neighborhoods and communities in a positive and healthy way.
Farming in the city is good for the environment because it can reduce transportation costs and carbon emissions on the buyer and grower’s end.
Urban farming is a great way to get Bostonians excited about sustainability and “greenovation,” so that we can make this a cleaner, healthier city.
Urban Agriculture – Article 89 Quick Facts_tcm3-38477
I think this “less waste and more uses” of local food is exactly what it will take for a small store to re-imagine itself as a source of healthy food. To simply move itself into local sourcing through distributors is not going to be enough. Stores like the Saxapahaw grocery outside of Raleigh Durham are also taking the closed loop seriously and combining gourmet takeout and diverse food stuffs with nearby local sourcing so that even the scraps go back to the animals and compost heaps that supply their store.
I’m still not sure the business plan is completely figured out, but it will certainly help these stores bottom lines to be more waste conscious and to build nearby farms and cottage industries to supply their shelves.
Orion Magazine published a piece in this month’s issue by author Rowan Jacobsen that extols the virtues of the emerging food hub as the next welcome part of our movement.
Much of what is in this piece is spot on and well crafted to explain why the addition of local infrastructure and aggregation is quite necessary for many farmers and vital to the goal of building regional food systems. However, calling farmers markets “window dressing” as was done in this article shows an extremely abbreviated view of the role that grassroots, low-capital farmers markets play in this still-emerging food system.
When we talk about building more farms from an idea to full production, farmers markets are still the best place to give those new farmers the space and time to build their businesses while they watch their peers and learn from them, from shoppers and from other leaders that stop by. When attempting small amounts of new products that are not yet clear winners in the marketplace, where better to test those varieties but with diverse, ever-changing weekly populations such as those found in a market? When a local community wants to have healthier citizens, where else than a place that allows everyone to enter it just as they are and allows each participant time to get to their own version of local food awareness and civic engagement?
Achieving the moment where communities truly value local food production is a long strange trip and takes many seasons and a multitude of different organizing attempts to build even enough of those “early adopters” much less the early majority that will surely need to at least pass through tents on more than a few sunny days to begin to change their habits.
In case we have forgotten what the different market eras have done already:
The earliest markets that started in the 1970s brought small family growers and eager buyers together (mostly organized by farmers themselves) and did so using very little infrastructure or investment from outsiders. Many of those markets began because farmers were stymied by indirect buyers, even those buyers that worked on behalf of natural food stores and locally owned supermarkets. “Grow it to sell it” was a very powerful statement and maybe even a revolutionary one back then.
That era was followed by neighborhood leaders adding markets designed to invite a whole new group of community members (for example, senior citizens), and THAT was followed by small rural communities using farmers markets to revive their Main Streets and hold on to their towns.
Last but certainly not least, the public health community invited by markets to help bridge serious food access issues and pilot innovative programs has brought new energy to every market over the last decade and built partnerships that work tirelessly together in the halls of Congress and with other policymakers to show what local food can do, can accomplish where hospitals on wheels by themselves cannot. Each of these eras added an important piece to the food system movement and is still needed to curate it and don’t doubt it, future market eras will do more in areas not yet imagined. To paint the farmers market as “one size and one goal fits all” misses the continued evolution of this efficient and elegant mechanism.
To accomplish the big goals of behavior change for everyone (farmers, shoppers, policy makers etc), farmers markets have invited every food system idea into their midst, allowing never-ending tests in the only place that they were all really possible: the democratic town squares of food where personal yet collective transformation happens.
Can all farmers and buyers fit into markets? Of course not, nor were they meant to. But to speak anecdotally about sales at markets declining and there being “over saturation” when the entire community food system has reached (by most estimates) one to four percent of the population is shortsighted at best. Have sales declined for some farmers? Certainly. Maybe because serious infrastructure or rule changes were needed or maybe because markets needed some help along the way to manage their multiplying productions, help that mostly never came.
Let’s put it this way: the need for infrastructure is an argument that markets themselves have been making for a few decades, and in some cases, actually made happen for their farmers. It is not counter to the idea of the tented market in any way and when community infrastructure is added all producers will benefit. The need for capacity is also an argument that has been made by market organizers for decades; however, if it only comes at the sight of shiny new buildings and asking farmers to scale up-without eradicating the barriers that still exist for some of them-then has capacity help for them truly arrived?
The core truth is that the entire community food system remains immature. It is immature because it has not connected its networks and built collaborative communities of practice everywhere (using the terms of Meg Wheatley and Deb Frieze’s Emergence Theory)
All systems need appropriate stages of improvement to lift all in its rising tide. In order to work on economic, cultural and environmental levels, new leaders must be allowed to emerge and to connect. New ideas have to be allowed in alongside of those already present. Markets have needed help to make their case to newer and larger audiences for some time and see that food hubs can help make that happen. The business baseline of good food hubs is one that markets can learn from while sharing their community-building lessons in return.
Therefore, to style the farmers market field as a static anachronism is a dangerous idea to the health of the entire food system, without even recalling the very deep work done by its direct marketing sister-CSAs, which have certainly pushed forward the economic boundaries for intermediate farmers and allowed their infrastructure to grow.
Let me state it clearly: for farmers market communities, food hubs are welcome. (I wonder if the opposite is also true? And if not, why not?)
Food hubs will not replace the need for farmers markets in the case of many farmers and for many eaters; they will expand the idea for some of those farmers ready and willing to negotiate with wholesale concerns and most likely attract the farmers who were never deeply interested in retail sales or in introductory relationships with constantly changing buyers. The true hubs will stand alongside of markets and CSAs to share the responsibility of changing the way that all producers are valued. They will help encourage and expand needed investments and updates in food handling that do not ask small family farms to hand over their farm to large corporate interests.
The need to change the power structure and allow farmers to LEAD the negotiations over what price, product and types of appropriate growth that each farm needs is the goal for farmers markets, for CSAs and for food hubs too. With all respect to a favored author of mine, to separate us into what was and what is next is very wrong.
The food system world needs to pay more attention to these digital currencies, like bitcoin. The time and effort it is taking to figure out which emerging technologies and systems of reimbursement and the corresponding risk levels will work for a market may very well be straining the small businesses of our movement. People like Jeff Cole in Massachusetts are piloting ideas such as “electronic token systems” and lucky for all of you, I wrote about this in my Vermont Market Currency Report found on page 28 in the conclusion of the report.
This article is from the beginning of the year:
“The idea of bringing in a private company to run the operation comes less than a year after a review from Metro’s finance department that was critical of the market’s finances and management. Then-market director Jeff Themm stepped down from the role in June of last year, shortly after the review, and Nancy Whittemore, director of Metro General Services, has been serving as interim director ever since.
Comer says the market board has worked with General Services to address most of the issues brought up in the report, including better enforcement and compliance with civil service rules, and more thorough housekeeping and maintenance. She says they’re still working through the report, and part of that means looking at “all possible options” when it comes to making the market financially sustainable.”
I have not heard or seen any updates to this since this article and RFP were published.
I appreciate that this was written from a vendor point of view, since there’s not enough of that out there. Moreover, I think we need a national awareness campaign about how markets have begun to adeptly organize themselves around diverse shopping bases while also paying attention to the deep needs of their farmers and producers. That strategy makes them unique within the food system since markets have to constantly manage the social and human benefits along with the economic ones.
What strikes me as unsaid in this piece and in so many that I read is that time must be taken to explain to the users of markets about organizers using different strategies to achieve these goals, including selecting different vendor groups based on location, choosing locations either embedded deep within a targeted area or on the edge between multiple zip codes, while creating different sets of incentives to achieve those goals. As long as people think that markets see themselves as a one-type-fits-all, we will constantly struggle with our impacts when seeking support from folks like the USDA, city government and private funders. You can hear that struggle in the comments about “pricing” in this piece.
“It’s a small thing, in light of Afghanistan’s many ailments. But what makes this dairy shop truly remarkable is that it is part of an operation that comprises all elements of Afghan society—communists, commanders, shopkeepers, everyday citizens, and yes, even the Taliban. That’s an incredibly rare thing in this war-torn country. But when it comes to fresh milk and butter, Afghans have found something worth not fighting over.”
Afghan milk story
I did my best to advocate for the entire community food system in the comments.
Baboon ambushes woman at Cape Town farmers’ market
The baboon sat and waited patiently for an easy target leaving a farmers’ market in Cape Town, South Africa.
He then made his move, and boldly strode up to a shopper and robbed her in broad daylight of her rhubarb.
Unimpressed with his haul, he then went back a second time, this time stealing an avocado.
The protected species is a growing problem for Cape Town citizens, some even raid their homes.
There are now 500 baboons living in the city and their food gathering tactics are getting more daring. The chacma baboon patiently waits for people to leave the farmers’ market where fresh vegetables are on sale.