Slow week in New Orleans coming up

I hope all Slow Food leaders come visit us in May. If you do, let me know, I’ll be leading one of the tours.….

Slow Food USA National Leadership Conference
May 17 — May 19, 2013
New Orleans

Come to the French Quarter of New Orleans for a national gathering of Slow Food chapter leaders and volunteers. Connect with fellow leaders, experience the local culture and build your skills and knowledge in workshops designed just for you.

Who: Slow Food USA Chapter Leaders and Representatives
When: Friday, May 17 at 9:00am — Sunday, May 19 at 3:00pm
Where: Astor Crowne Hotel, 739 Canal Street (at Bourbon Street)
French Quarter, New Orleans

Town Hall Q&A with new Executive Director Richard McCarthy
Skills Building & Informational Workshops
Traditional Crawfish & Shrimp Boil Dinner (with Veg options!) at The Edible Schoolyard
Louisiana’s Ark of Taste Foods and Heritage Dishes
Slow Food Tent at the Bayou Boogaloo Festival
Cultural Tours & Side Trips
Live Jazz, fresh fish and fun in the heart of the French Quarter. Need we say more?


Ken Meter talks about food systems


Great points from Meter at the Illinois Farmers Market Association Thursday:

Community food systems build health, wealth, connection and capacity

Local food may be the best path toward economic recovery in U.S.

If we can’t grow an economy around food, how do we expect to grow it around windmills or technology?

Counting food miles matter less than banding business together to work for a social value.

Farmers often create systems that are often more efficient by reducing energy costs and using “waste” products to do value-added. Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy Ohio sells their skim to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for a high quality ice cream product. Both businesses are innovating waste reduction and distribution systems that shorten the chain.

Community food systems don’t just measure the multiplier-they build the multiplier.

Southern Illinois farmers (Meter’s study) show that from 1969 to 2010 commodity farmers sold 1.1 billion worth of products and spent 1.1 billion in production costs during the same time.

1.8 billion amount of food bought in Southern Illinois region; 1.7 billion of it was produced outside of the region.

If every person in that region bought 5.00 of local food directly from local farms each week, farms would earn 191 million of new farm income (why not have a 5.00 campaign at farmers markets?)

The promise of permanent markets abroad in the 1970s drove farmers into the “Get big or get out” mindset and into more debt. Those permanent markets disappeared within the generation.

The link between the oil crisis of 1973 can most likely be directly linked to the obesity crisis: the oil crisis in the U.S. led to the rise of the corn economy which added high fructose corn syrup to production.

Viroqua, Wisconsin is a model of an economic development recovery after their national company that had supplied 85 jobs left town. The city government convinced the owner to sell their building for a small amount (explaining to the company that the investment that the county had made for 30 years maybe should be repaid before leaving).
Viroqua used 100,000 square foot building to start to build an entire local food system and expect to replace those 85 jobs within the next 2 years.

Southern SSAWG conference news

The 2013 conference program and registration information is now available on the Southern SAWG website. You will love the program we have put together for this year’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference. There are even more sessions and pre-conference events this year!
Pre-Conference Offerings:
Wed & Thurs – Jan. 23-24
Short Courses
Our popular 1½ day pre-conference short courses are intensive learning experiences that provide comprehensive information on whole farming enterprises. With the in-class presentations and the extensive take-home materials, they give you the knowledge you most need to be successful with your enterprise.
Program info here

Mini Courses
Our ½ day pre-conference mini courses provide in-depth information on specific topics in greater depth than is possible in our regular conference sessions. Our expert presenters provide you the latest information and answer your pressing questions on the topics you requested.
Mini Courses Here
Field Trips
For those who learn best by getting out in the field, we offer five outstanding field trips this year. Our ½ day pre-conference field trips are geared toward organic and sustainable production and marketing of horticultural crops and livestock and community food initiatives. Click here to learn more about these outstanding field trips.

General Conference Info:
Fri & Sat – Jan. 25-26
Expert Presenters
Each year conference participants tell us the great line-up of presenters with their practical experience is what makes our conference program so valuable. These people know their stuff and are willing to share their expertise. One older farmer said “I sure wish I had had access to this kind of expertise when I got started. I’d have gotten a lot further a lot faster!”
Presenters Here
62 Educational Sessions
The general conference, running all day Friday and Saturday, offers more choices: 62, 1½-hour sessions on a broad range of topics for start-up and seasoned producers alike. Sessions include; sustainable and organic production and marketing information for commercial horticultural and livestock producers, enterprise management lessons, farm policy education and community food systems development information.

Registration and Fee Waivers
The Southern SAWG conference is always a great bargain, given the quality of the information to be gained and the networking opportunities that come with such a large turnout of the South’s most innovative and successful producers, organizers and advocates in sustainable agriculture. Your farming operation or local foods organization can’t afford to miss this event.
This year we have three options for those looking for a fee waiver to participate in this conference.
Fee Waivers here

Be a 2012 Conference Sponsor
Your presence as a sponsor will help hundreds of farmers, community food advocates, educators and researchers across the South, and with the visibility this event affords, it will distinguish you as a supporter of the sustainable agriculture movement.
Note to organizational and institutional leaders: We can provide letters of support to your potential funders if you are seeking funds for producers in your area to participate in the pre-conference and conference activities. Just contact us with the details.
Keep up with Southern SAWG through Facebook and Twitter. Show your support for Southern SAWG by liking and following us!

SSAWG conference link here

Here at the PPS conference, unexpected relationships can start too

Just like a market, conferences bring people together and from that moment good things can begin. Things like flagship markets meeting up and sharing ideas:

(below) Leslie from the Athens OH market community chats with Chris of the Burlington VT Farmers Market. Both of these markets have existed for decades, are over 80 vendors and are year round. Their markets definitely have plans and issues that the other can truly understand!


or things like people from the same city meeting and openly sharing ideas across projects:
Toronto Food Policy Chair Helene St. Jacques and Greenbelt Farmers Market organizer Anne Freeman make friends with St. Lawrence Market vendors Odysseas and Sandra Gounalakis of Scheffler’s Deli and Cheese while they are all far from home and waiting on a “rapid” to the evening PPS conference event. Odysseas and Sandra paid their own way to the conference to learn about public markets so that they can be of assistance to the managers.


Meeting the larger market community can lead to unexpected lessons, ideas and friendships. Take the time to take a “busman’s holiday”!

Still time to join the PPS conference…

About every two years, Projects for Public Spaces hosts a dynamic public market conference that draws a wide selection of market organizers, researchers and municipal officials. This time, this it’s being hosted by my other home town of Cleveland, Ohio. The city worked hard to get the conference to showcase their 100-year-old market West Side Market AND its vibrant alternative food system. If you haven’t been to what USED to be called “the mistake on the lake” ever or recently, you would be amazed at some of the changes around town. Those of us who have done community organizing there shouldn’t be: the long tradition of neighborhood and issue organizing on issues like housing, utility reform and brownfields has been expanded to excellent food campaigns.
I can’t wait to see my colleagues, to hear about what they are up to and to see more of the Northeast Ohio food and farming system. If you haven’t checked out PPS’ website and excellent work to support public space and markets role in them, please take the time.


Community Supported Enterprises

Just attended a very useful workshop on Community Supported Enterprises, a model for investments for local businesses.I’ll leave my questions to the end after I give you some details…
3 examples were profiled:
Claire’s Restaurant, Hardwick Vermont is a LLC (actually 2 LLCs) that has 3 groups involved: investors in the real estate group, owner/managers (3 people) and 50 subscribers/lenders.

The one owner raised money by knocking on doors and reaching out to her network, since she was the only long-time Vermonter among the (3) owners.
She found investors who invested in the real estate group which owns the lease (and subleases to the restaurant) and the equipment. Their investment is very long-term and they were told that at the beginning. If the restaurant fails, they can get someone to take over the new lease.
The subscribers/lenders gave 1000.00 each to the restaurant itself and get their money back in increments of 25.00 in 10 months of the year over 4 years at the restaurant. The subscribers can transfer ownership of their subscription and family can use the subscription. There is no cash out provision. Since the restaurant does not own the equipment, it does not have major debt.

The Community Store, Saranac Lake NY
Is a C-corporation and has a board of directors of 7 and 3 full-time staff. Issued stock at 100 each to NY residents, goal was to raise 500,000, which took 5 years to do.
Shares can be transferred to out of state holders after 9 months. Since there is no majority stockholder, there is little chance for formal financing.
They ended the offer with 750 investors, mostly by asking their early shareholders to host “share” parties where board members could sell stock. Did constant events to keep their name and idea in front of people throughout the 5 years. Got the last 42,000 because of an in-depth New York Times story on cover of Sunday edition.

Co-op Power
Massachusetts, Southern Vermont
Classic member cooperative, different levels of membership:
Standard: 975.00 over 2 years
Farmer: 750.00 over 2 years
Limited Resource: 500.00 over 2 years
Buying Group: 250.00 over 2 years
Green Worker: 50.00 plus 6 months of work at Co-op Power

They also raise money through project loans for specific projects:
Biodiesel Project: 500.00 min, 5 years, 650k raised
Energy Efficiency Project: 500.00 min, 2-5 %, 5 years, 90k raised.

Here are the questions that occurred to me:
So, why haven’t farmers markets taken this model to find their start up?

And why don’t we see more cooperatives at market management level?,’

And why not project loans among the shoppers and farmers for short-term projects to create merchandise or an earned income stream for the market or for a farmer?

Our Black Year

Amazing presentation and exhortation at the 2012 BALLE conference from author and activist Maggie Anderson, author of “Our Black Year” a year long experiment in buying only from black-owned businesses. Her presentation was inspiring, troubling, uplifting, poignant and above all, a challenge to us “localists” to get past concepts and really place our buying power in the arena of a true power shift.
I cheered, cried and nodded throughout thinking of my own city of New Orleans and the tragedy of the lost African-American owned businesses and leaders that I have seen disappear from downtown since my childhood. Since Hurricane Katrina, that loss has been accelerated tremendously.
I heard her and committed to picking up the challenge in my own life, within the farmers market movement and on my neighborhood corridors.
Please read and listen to her amazing story and ideas so you can fashion your own plan to reduce African-American unemployment by shopping at and encouraging the number one employer of African-Americans – African-American owned businesses.

Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Conference

I was fortunate enough to receive a Community Capital Sponsorship from RSF Social Finance for the annual conference that is being held in Grand Rapids Michigan this week. I am especially looking forward to the workshop on indicators for measuring local economies, as well as listening in on some of the case studies for funding entrepreneurial businesses.

If you have not heard of BALLE, it’s high time:

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, is North America’s fastest growing network of socially responsible businesses, comprised of over 80 community networks in 30 U.S. states and Canadian provinces representing over 22,000 independent business members across the U.S. and Canada.

BALLE believes that local, independent businesses are among our most potent change agents, uniquely prepared to take on the challenges of the twenty-first century with an agility, sense of place, and relationship-based approach others lack. They are more than employers and profit-makers; they are neighbors, community builders and the starting point for social innovation, aligning commerce with the common good and bringing transparency, accountability, and a caring human face to the marketplace.
BALLE’s mission is to catalyze, strengthen and connect networks of locally owned independent businesses dedicated to building strong Local Living Economies.

In late 2001, BALLE was officially launched with Laury and Judy as founding co-chairs and Michael Shuman and David Korten on the first board of advisors. Under Laury’s leadership, BALLE eventually spun off from SVN to become its own nonprofit organization, and held its first national conference in Portland, Oregon, in 2003. Since then BALLE has grown to include more than 80 other local business networks encompassing over 22,000 entrepreneurs in the US and Canada.

BALLE is a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Facing Race

Within our food system work, we need to face and address it. Within our own communities, we need to face it and address it.

Facing Race Conference

Ohio Farmers Market Conference highlights benefits of ‘association’

Farmers Market Coalition Board President Bernie Prince visits Ohio to support their state association and to promote FMC’s work.

Ohio Farmers Market Conference highlights benefits of ‘association’ | Farm and Dairy – The Auction Guide and Rural Marketplace.