How the Bitcoin protocol actually works and what that means for us

Complementary currencies fascinate me and recently, the crypto currency bitcoin especially. Its an example of a decentralized example designed to reduce  inflation (although maybe not deflation) and the need to have a central authority. I agree with many that the bitcoin seems unlikely to be a replacement for fiat currency (government-decreed legal currency) and I also agree with the concern over the ultimate role of this currency that has a limit to how much can be “mined.” Still, important to remember that gold has very close to the same values and limits and has flourished as a protection against only using a national currency.

The reason why this should be so important to food system organizers-especially to direct marketing outlets-is that many of these outlets are operating what is essentially a debiting system with tokens,  yet doing it without the robust and transparent nature of a currency system, or without a fair and openly discussed exchange rate that asks everyone possible to share the costs. In other words, we have built systems that allow people to begin to depend on the market to supply a debiting system so as not to have to stop and get cash before coming to market, or from vendors from having their own machine and costs, yet are not extending the reach of that system to find ways to pay and find support for it. What seems to be the goal for most involved is to dream of the day that we can hand these systems off to the farmers to run themselves. I would say that for many reasons this is unlikely in any near future as these systems will remain unwieldy to manage.
Those reasons for the delay or impossibility of the vendor hand off happening include (but are not limited to):
-the lack of easy-to-manage back office systems
-the wide variations of card fees and systems needed to swipe cards
-the costs for each vendor to purchase and maintain these systems. Add to that the very nature of pop up markets without access to good wifi or mobile phone signals, the low number of transactions per vendor and complication of a high number of customer transactions on any one day with many small businesses that will confuse and alert card processors.
To me, what comes first is solving these problems and extending this system’s reach to savings and loans pilots. What about allowing restaurants that source locally to accept the tokens during slow months? Or working with banks to help provide some accounting or backing? What about establishing micro loans to encourage more people to use this as a sticky currency working through a local food system? The Berkshares system in Great Barrington area is an uniquely designed currency that is experimenting with these ideas and more and has added hundreds of outlets at which their currency can be used; it is surely one that should be studied closely by our field, if nothing else.
There are examples of different token pilots at markets, such as MarketUmbrella’s Crescent Fund and Massachusetts’ pilot of electronic wallet (an example here of an electronic wallet) but these pilots are still so limited and information is not widely available. I would love to see some deep analysis of the impact of these systems and some prototyping of entire systems, especially with the emergence of these popular electronic currency such as bitcoins and vibrant complementary currencies such as the Berkshares.

How the Bitcoin protocol actually works | DDI.

Overstock says they’ll take Bitcoin

World’s first Bitcoin ATM goes live in Vancouver next week – Business – CBC News

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.

World's first Bitcoin ATM goes live in Vancouver next week – Business – CBC News.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Farmer/Shopper Survey Project-2013/2014 – Helping Public Markets Grow

This is one of the surveys we are using with the shopper/farmer survey project along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Sorry-only review copies are available at this point-all of the surveys will be published with the final report in 2014.

Surveys

(Found on http://www.helpingpublicmarketsgrow.com under surveys/evaluation if link does not work.)

Maryland Food System Map | Center for a Livable Future

This is one of my favorite food system sites . Wouldn’t it be great if each state and every regional projects collected and shared this type of visual data?

A screen shot of the Maryland Food Map circa July 2013.

A screen shot of the Maryland Food System Map circa July 2013.


Note from the organizers:

Map updates include expanded Nutrition Assistance data and updated points of interest for Maryland.
Nutrition Assistance – new and updated data about federal nutrition assistance programs.
SNAP usage by Zip Code
Schools with 50% or more children who are eligible for free and reduced cost meals
Afterschool Meal Program Sites
WIC office locations
NOTE: The following existing data layers have been moved to this category:
SNAP Participation by County
SNAP Retailers
WIC Retailers
Points of Interest – updated points of interest note changes in addresses and expand lists statewide.
Institutional sites in this list – schools and hospitals – will be expanded further this year, as we gather data and statistics about how these institutions are using local food. Here are the layers currently updated:
Hospitals
Public schools
Recreation centers
Senior centers

Maryland Food System Map | Center for a Livable Future.

Nearly 1 in 6 Americans Receives Food Stamps

This link sent to me by my Canadian colleague who said:
“It’s an astonishing figure…”

It certainly is, Helené.

And the graphic should be very useful to many markets and community organizers.

Nearly 1 in 6 Americans Receives Food Stamps – Real Time Economics – WSJ.

Concert to raise money for EBT program

Great idea from the Cobblestone Farmers Market (coincidentally a market that I profiled in my Market Governance paper) about how to fundraise for incentives. This does more than just raise a bit of money; it also explains the deeper mission of the market to the general public and may also shake out more funders for the future.

Concert to raise money for EBT program – Winston-Salem Journal: Tidbits.

One of the pieces in the Vermont Market Currency Feasibility Report was the addition of a table of useful, current research on EBT at markets, collected and designed for me by the also useful and current Farmers Market Coalition. Here is a link to that 3-page table.

EBT table