Louisiana Update #9: A post-flood visit with a market farmer

Spent Wednesday morning tagging along with Copper Alvarez on her BREADA Small Farm Fund site visit to Lucy Capdeboscq’s home and farm near Amite. Copper has been crisscrossing the state seeing farmers who are reporting losses from this month’s floods. It’s important to note that BREADA is not focused only on their market farmers needs, but doing their best to get funds to any market farmer across the state.  Although one of Lucy’s daughters had been one of Red Stick market vendors in the past, Lucy sells only at the Saturday Crescent City Farmers Markets down in New Orleans. As a result, she was surprised when Copper contacted her by phone, asked if she had damage and then offered an evaluation visit in case BREADA’s fund might be able to help.

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Of course, no decisions or promises are made during the visits about any support, but as Lucy commented, the contact and visit were very welcome. Crescent City Farmers Market is also reactivating their Crescent Fund and has already had Lucy fill out their short form to receive assistance. The Crescent Fund is hoping to raise enough money to handle the 8 or so CCFM market farmers who have indicated losses, by quickly offering up to $1,500 for their farm needs.

To get to Lucy’s place, one turns off the main road at the permanent sign indicating it is also the direction to the legendary Liuzza strawberry farm. Although their famous berries are still a few weeks from being planted, other products like cucumbers could be seen in some of their fields. When you know that Lucy is a Liuzza by birth , it is clear why she lives amid those fields, (just off Jack Liuzza Lane) on the land deeded her by her parents. She and her late husband Allen raised their children here and kept their land productive even when they took on other professional occupations.

Allen and Lucy joined the Crescent City Farmers Market shortly after it opened. The Caps (as their farm name is known) were a huge hit immediately due to  Lucy’s charming customer service and Allen’s practical sense for growing their traditional yet innovative items. Lucy’s arrangements of zinnias and lilies with her decorative okra, hibiscus buds and her legendary sunflowers have remained market favorites since those early days.  As Poppy Tooker wrote in the 2009 Crescent City Farmers Market cookbook: “Lucy and Al have built a reputation for forward thinking innovation. They were the first to try early harvested rapini and green garlic made so popular in California.”

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Lucy’s okra, used for her bouquets.

To me, the Caps are a quintessential market vendor type: growing traditional and newer South Louisiana products on a small piece of land behind their home within sight of other family members also still farming. As a matter of fact, on one of my visits to the farm years ago, Lucy told me how much she was looking forward to letting a shopper know that next Saturday that their favorite item had been planted that week and would soon be back at market. That deep awareness of specific customer likes seemed to me then (and still) to be the best illustration of the personal touch of direct marketing farming that I have come across in my site visits.

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Louisiana Update # 8: The natural cost

 

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The flood leaves a watermark stain on the tree’s leaves as U.S. Geological Survey surveyor Scott Hedgecock works to survey the water levels along the Tangipahoa River along Highway 190 just west of Robert, Louisiana. (Photo by Ted Jackson NOLA.com )

Climate change is not entirely accepted, even by those for whom it should be obvious possibly because it is not entirely understood.  People don’t feel its effects as they move in comfort from their air-conditioned personal vehicle to living amid a span of concrete around their glass-enclosed home away from coasts or forests, getting most of their information through a thumbnail headline or from friends who work and live in the very same setting. In other words, industrialized countries.

Another culprit may be the environmental work done in the 1970s and 1980s, which often used unfamiliar phrases that lacked relevancy such as global warming (or even the term used at the beginning of this post, climate change) and focused mostly on national policy changes or in shaming users of resources without compelling evidence of the effect of that reduction. Environmentalists were seen as “do-gooders” who meant well but lacked realistic goals (this was actual feedback from focus groups at an organization I worked at in the 1980s.)

The strong pushback showed the fallacy of engaging ordinary citizens using lofty or scientific terms and  led to many turning to food as an organizing tool. After all, what could be better as an impetus to understanding and sharing the repair of the natural world but food?

Yet in the roll call of environmentalists circa 2016, food system organizers are usually in the middle of the pack. Most can certainly outline the issues involved with food production that both imperil and reboot Mother Nature, but are rarely working directly on those issues in concert with environmental organizations. Farmers markets have done an admirable job on promoting entrepreneurial activity and improving access, but efforts to highlight the stewardship of the natural world by market farmers has fallen a little behind.

I hear our great writer Wendell Berry exhorting us to remember the farmers:

“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.”

The  “eyes to acres” ratio suggested by Berry and Wes Jackson needs to be included in regional planning theory and in the metrics that assess our work. Within the framework of disaster, the acknowledgment of the need for that ratio could mean”deputizing” farmers to supply immediate indicators of the level of destruction.

Disasters point out the fragility of a place and at the same time remind us of the strength of human ties and the resolve of communities. Following that line of thinking, deeper knowledge of local and regional systems would help knit everyone more closely together, allow for rescue and recovery to happen faster even as it is offering a narrative with more relevancy to those in far-off but similarly sized food systems.  If the watershed or the regional system for food production were one such way to describe the need among those participating in food initiatives, assistance could be met one farm, one family or even one small town at a time.

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Louisiana Update #7: Online support

One of the innovations I have seen in the decentralized recovery efforts (and we have moved from rescue to recovery, with rebuilding as the next step to come) is the idea of aligned organizations in New Orleans using Amazon and other online sites and their direct shipping to buy supplies for their sister organization in one of the flooded zones. Or, create or use accounts for those registered with them and send them items needed directly to the households the next day!

What we learned here in years past is that sending funds to a general account can delay support as it means that checks have to be deposited or  those knee-deep in flooded homes have to manage the funds away from recovery work, wherever internet connections and computers can be found.

This method allows friends outside of the flooded zone to upload the list of items and then those items to be purchased and sent directly to those in need.

Here are 3 of those; the first one in the Baton Rouge area and the second in the Acadiana area:

Together Baton Rouge

Blessings For New Iberia             Their Facebook site

The third may require a little added explanation: Many folks across the U.S. see Mardi Gras only as a time of debauchery, but in reality, it is a celebratory Lenten public event with deep community attachments. Most of the “krewes” that parade are actually social aid clubs that give back to the community throughout the year. The list of their good works is too long to list, but here is one of my favorite walking clubs that will use the direct donation process to help with recovery. They have a list of folks to send the items directly to via the online purchases made by the organization.

Dames de Perlage

I have encouraged some of the farmers in the Acadiana parishes to do this as well, as there are few if any food or farming organizations in the area to collect support on their behalf. As I receive those, I’ll post them in future updates.

For those farmers in the Baton Rouge areas, BREADA has had an active small farms fund for over a decade that will help many such farmers. I saw a sign at the New Orleans farmers market suggesting that Market Umbrella will also be setting up a farm recovery fund that will support their farmers on the North Shore hit hard by this event. More on that later as I get more information.

Truly the recovery has been managed most ably by on the ground organizations, tied together to others via word of mouth, social media or texting. The larger organizations are working as well, but seemingly unable to process real-time innovations or absorb local help very well. This is the new reality of disaster zones:  two separate efforts working at the same time, rarely transecting and with different expectations. Sounds a lot like the food system.

 

 

 

 

Louisiana Update #6: Food for everyone

Local-girl-made-good Fleurty Girl CEO Lauren LeBlanc’s FB update shows how the Louisiana culture of food and community comes together when needed. Everyone who was in the Gulf Coast from 2005-2008 remembers how a good meal after hours of tearing out drywall made it possible to come back the next day, and since eating red beans together outside in some tailgating/parade chair is a familiar practice here, normalizing.

Some of our busiest and most celebrated restaurant chefs have been the first to get food out in the worst areas after various disasters.  Just like in 2005, John Besh and his fellow chefs were set up feeding first responders in flooded areas within a few days. 

Free food/hot meals on Saturday, August 20th:

DENHAM SPRINGS:

-Chef Alon Shaya (!!!), of Shaya restaurant in New Orleans, will be cooking red beans and rice with the John Besh Foundation in the Ryan’s parking lot at 916 S. Range Ave in front of the Wal Mart at noon tomorrow.

-The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation will be grilling burgers in the New Covenant Baptist Church parking lot at 215 Florida Ave (next to James’ Grill) starting serving at 11am.

-A group of NOLA friends will be grilling 1,000 burgers behind the Whitney Bank on Florida Ave in Denham Springs. They’ll also have 800 cookies from Moonshine Bake Shoppe.

-Christ’s Community Church will be setting up out front and serving 6000-8000 hot meals for lunch and dinner at 26574 Juban Road.

ALBANY
– Located at 30057 N. Cafeline Rd. Sat. August 20, starting at 11am, Red Beans, Smoked Sausage over Rice, bread & Cake

GONZALES
-Truckload of non-perishable food will be distributed at The Christian Assembly at 41258 Hwy 941 in Gonzales starting at 2pm.

-Hot meals for lunch and dinner served in the parking lot of Fellowship Church at 10757 Airline Hwy.

PRAIRIEVILLE
-Hot meals for lunch and dinner served in the parking lot of Fellowship Church at 14363 Hwy 73 in Prairieville.

ST. AMANT
-Hot meals at The Church in St. Amant at 13423 Hwy 431 in St. Amant, LA 70769.

ROBERT
-free food and misc supplies in the parking lot across from Robert Supermarket. Should get started at 11am.

Whether you’re cleaning your own home or helping someone with theirs, you’re gonna eat GOOD Saturday! ❤️❤️❤️

10,500 hot meals from @OpBBQRelief distributed at Denham Springs at Sams Club Sunday. Will be doing it again Monday.CqajnEtUsAAe27J.jpg

Louisiana Update #5: Flood victims encouraged to preregister for DSNAP benefits 

DSNAP is being activated for the August 2016 Louisiana Flood and means that rural markets should be prepared to see a influx of folks new to SNAP benefits. Unfortunately, many of our smaller, volunteer-led markets are still deciding whether to become SNAP authorized.
Here are the markets in Louisiana currently authorized as SNAP retailers (of course, some farm stands may also be authorized and are not included in this list):
Abita Springs Farmer’s Market Abita Springs
Cane River Green Market Natchitoches
Capstone Farmers Market 5007 New Orleans
Common Ground Health Clinic-Farmers Market New Orleans
Creole Market New Iberia
Crescent City Farmers Market New Orleans (4 locations)
Inglewood Harvest Barn Alexandria
Lafayette Farmers And Artisans Market Lafayette
Leesville Main Street Market Leesville
Market On LaSalle New Orleans
Marketplace at Armstrong Park New Orleans
Ruston Farmers Market Ruston
Oberlin Farmers’ Market Oberlin
Pearl River Farmers Market Pearl River
Red Stick Farmers Market Baton Rouge (2 locations plus mobile market)
Sankofa Farmers Market New Orleans
Shreveport Farmers’ Market Shreveport
Winn Farmers Market Winnfield

This list contains a few that my information indicates are not currently active and a few of these (9 of the 22) are in New Orleans which is  not near enough to the flooded zone to help most folks.
Since the state has about 80 farmers markets listed in various places, the above list shows how ill-prepared the state’s markets are to absorb these new shoppers.

Of course, some of the markets in Mississippi can also serve this clientele as many of the parishes hit hard are close to the state line; that is, if the benefit users are aware of the rules and where the markets are in MS and if those markets are prepared to accept those temporary SNAP users.

My experience as Deputy Director of Market Umbrella before and after Hurricanes Katrina/Rita (and on staff still during the BP oil spill) showed how much markets can do during disasters to offer solace, community and healthy choices to people under enormous stress. We were one of the few places in New Orleans up and running in 2005 (we reopened November 22) with EBT access, working with our fellow markets* across the area to help producers recover and doing our best to help other outlets open in our city.

From the very beginning in 1995, the founders of our markets had hoped to attract a significant number of at-risk shoppers, but as they opened in the era of EBT, the market was on the wrong side of technology for many years. As a result though, our 2004/2005 SNAP pilot strategy was relatively well thought out and predicated on the reality that our markets had not yet attracted their share of low-income shoppers but had the potential to serve that group as well as the cash shoppers we had attracted. Our token pilot led to the visit in the summer of 2005 of Bill Ludwig and the Southwest Regional FNS staff with then Under Secretary of Agriculture Eric Bost in tow to see and celebrate our early SNAP token and incentive work. Interestingly, Ludwig remarked during the visit on how helpful a token system might be during disasters. As we wrote a few years later, we remembered that comment later in 2005 and reflected on prescient he had been.
That long preparation meant we had outreach and materials to use when the levee breaks and oil spills and floods came (yeah we’re getting used to it) and the staff trained to make it happen.
So what we now know is the ability to support the citizens of towns and cities to recover from a major disaster requires organizational sophistication and preparation, which most of our newly emerging markets across the state are still working to achieve.

It is time for the national market field to create a toolkit for disaster planning, both for its vendors but also for its market organizers in order to be prepared when (not if) a situation like the one unfolding in Louisiana hits their area. USDA and FNS can be very helpful in this planning with needed policy changes such as lifting the requirement of location-specific SNAP licensing/transactions, loosening the ban on on-site hot food again (as was done in past disasters). It would also be helpful for funders like the innovative Wholesome Wave to increase their incentive work for disaster-hit areas along the lines of the incentive we created together for the Gulf Coast fishers in 2010.

Let’s get ready, folks.

How DSNAP works:
If you already receive SNAP benefits and are eligible for disaster benefits, you do not need to pre-register, as benefits will be added to your benefit card automatically.

Pre-registering does not guarantee benefits. DSNAP is only administered after a federally declared disaster and after the state receives approval from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services to activate DSNAP services.After a disaster is declared, residents who have pre-registered only need to visit a DSNAP issuance site to verify their information and identity, determine final eligibility and receive their benefit cards. Eligibility requirements and DSNAP locations will be announced at the time of a disaster.

You may name an Authorized Representative to go to a DSNAP site on your behalf. Accommodations will be made for the elderly and those with disabilities to reduce on-site wait times.The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services  is encouraging those who have experienced loss or damage in the severe storms and flooding to preregister for benefits under the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP).

DSNAP benefits are issued for one month, but they can be used for up to 365 days.  You will get your card when you go to the site, they will be loaded on the card within 3 days.
What amount will I receive in DSNAP benefits?

Household Size DSNAP Allotment
1 $194
2 $357
3 $511
4 $649
5 $771
6 $925
7 $1022
8 $1169
Each Additional Member  +$146

Source: Flood victims in Louisiana encouraged to preregister for DSNAP benefits | New Orleans – WDSU Home

http://www.katc.com/story/32814032/what-you-need-to-know-about-dsnap-food-stamps-benefits

 

 

 

*Deep appreciation for our colleagues at the Red Stick, Covington and Gretna farmers markets who, in 2005, were incredibly helpful to Market Umbrella and offered temporary spots to our vendors and help to our staff as needed.

See an American town that’s about to be completely lost to climate change.

The Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw lived in the same place for more than 200 years. But now it’s almost entirely washed away.

By the middle of the 20th century, there were nearly 400 people living on the island. At that point, the land was 11 miles long and five miles wide — providing this Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe with 55 square miles of lush, open land on which to hunt, farm, and thrive.

But all that’s left today is a half square mile of marshland — two miles long and a quarter-mile wide — with two dozen families struggling to survive. The island’s remaining residents still speak their own colloquial French-Cajun dialect and work as fishermen, oystermen, and fur trappers to survive. But ecological damage has made that work hard to come by too.

 

From WWII to Syria, How Seed Vaults Weather Wars 

But though the need for seed banks is often associated with more stereotypically environmental, even futuristic, cataclysms (climate change; disease; pesticide-resistant insects) their history is inextricably tied up with something more banal and present-day—war.

…virtually no conflict has gone by without a devastating loss of seeds, often mitigated by a heroic rescue or underscored by a tragic attempt. Afghani mujahideen destroyed Kabul’s national seed collection in 1992. (Local scientists managed to smuggle some seeds into the basement of a few city houses, but by the time they returned to check on them a decade later, looters had dumped them on the floor in order to steal the storage jars.) During the Georgian civil unrest of 1993, just before the country’s Sukhumi Seed Station was destroyed, an 83-year-old botanist named Alexey Fogel escaped into the Caucasus Mountains with its entire lemon collection. Scientist Alexis Rumaziminsi, now known as the “bean boffin of Rwanda,” protected the many varieties of beans in his research plots during 1994’s civil war and genocide. The US-led invasion of Iraq resulted in the razing of the country’s national seed bank in Abu Ghraib—not to mention the implementation of American-style seed laws, which mean that if Iraqis want to buy new seeds, they will have to pay for yearly usage licenses.

Source: From WWII to Syria, How Seed Vaults Weather Wars | Atlas Obscura