Salvador on Plantation Economics

‘Our Food System Is Very Much Modeled on Plantation Economics’

And in the United States in particular, because of our history, not very long ago, the people that performed all of the jobs that I just listed right now, or their equivalents, those were performed by enslaved people, people whom we forced to do this for no pay, for no compensation; we appropriated their labor. And that era is not that long ago. As everyone listening knows, emancipation didn’t occur, at least officially, until 1865. But the fact is that emancipation never really came to agriculture, in the sense that we still don’t pay the full value of the labor that’s required to make the entire system work.

 

 

 

We need a food system that is fungible, that has redundancy built in. The so-called efficiencies that have been built into the highly specialized industrial model that we have right now, we are now learning, do not serve us when you have a situation where a single thing that is unpredicted takes out one pillar of the food system, and then the whole thing comes crumbling down. That’s not the kind of food system that we need. We need one that is more distributed, meaning that there are more nodes within the food system that can respond in the volumes and quantities and the formats that are necessary for where people are going to be using this food.

Now, a very good example of that is that the farmers that are doing well right now are the so-called small-scale family farmers. These are folks that produce in volumes, and who redistribute in local and regional networks, where they can respond very quickly, to where the schools are now becoming redistribution points for SNAP, for instance, or for school food that needs to be picked up by students that otherwise might not have access to that food, because they’re not coming to school every day, and so on. Or through farmers markets, another very important redistribution method which is very fungible. So we’re learning that that’s actually what works; we need to invest more in these kinds of highly distributed systems, and less in the highly concentrated systems.

Drive-thru farmers market report for 4/05/2020, New Orleans LA

 

Today my local farmers markets reopened as strictly drive-thru. No question that it was a great success in terms of the order levels (reported by vendors as I motored through) and the appreciation from shoppers. In addition, the staff looked MUCH more relaxed than they did with their once-only, timed entry, open-air market pilot that happened in mid March.

Our Baton Rouge-based Red Stick Farmers Markets are doing drive-thru markets as well, but slightly differently, as it is not entirely pre-order. Keep an eye on the BREADA website to see what Copper Alvarez and her team come up with next.

CCFMED at entranceDrive Thru

Executive Director Kate Parker at entrance of today’s market

For some background:

The Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans LA is normally held in parking lots around the city 6-7 times per week year round (one or two locations have been seasonal, and one recently closed for good, but they are almost always running 6 markets or more per week.) This entity’s parent organization, Market Umbrella,  has long been known for their innovative work to increase access and provide support to regional farmers and small businesses.

The CCFM vendors are almost all only direct-to-consumer businesses with a smidgen of side-door restaurant sales, although most of the chefs around town simply come to the market and buy what they need. From my experience as Deputy Director 2001-2011 this is because most of the vendors are not able to do delivery or even invoice sales because they are so small, so understaffed, or so far away. After all, this is a commodity-driven region that has mostly resisted building support for DTC farmers. And yes, the Deep South does seem to be even worse than most areas across the US.  So even in good times, its pretty rough for these farmers and businesses to find resources or support to pivot or to do multiple types of channels.

The market organization decided that walk up markets would not work for them for the duration of this emergency, for many reasons I am sure. I believe that each organization gets to decide exactly how they will handle this moment. Of course, this aligns with my long-held market TA response about which rules a new market should adopt: I answer (probably maddeningly) “use those rules that are understandable to your team, to your vendors, and to your shoppers and stakeholders. After all, you need to defend them and explain why you have them.”  So the same thing goes for this moment too. And all of that market context around rules has to co-exist within the rules (if they exist) set by your local municipality, county, and/or state.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, for markets our usual go-to agency is agriculture, which  in this case has been mostly unable to do much to help us, as this is not a food-borne virus.  Instead, it’s been public health or disease control making the decisions,  agencies which often have less awareness or fewer partnerships with  open-air farmers markets and so less understanding of our protocols.

So that’s number one. Do what is best for your organization and your vendors. Just be transparent with your shoppers and stakeholders exactly WHAT that decision is and HOW it was made.

Next, how to order: First, it’s important to share that this very sophisticated, well-advised, well-staffed organization attempted an preorder app a few years back and it was not a success, so they shelved it.   After they closed their walk-in market a few weeks back, they instead began by partnering on a box program with a 3rd party entity where the local items are pre-selected and can be paid for with SNAP or other cards. It costs 40.00 and is also available for delivery. I have only seen a few pics and it looked a little light to me, but that just may be how the pictures have been taken. I think many regular and new market shoppers are perfectly fine with this box, but it seems that many others were not and that many of their vendors were unwilling or unable to sell this way. I am one of those unwilling to do a preorder box and instead I reached out to those vendors I usually purchase from and made arrangements with them whenever possible. I also took advantage of some of these other non-market choices below:

  1. A couple of market vendors began working with local chefs to sell a box directly from only one farm at their restaurant:PocheFMboxesApril
  2. Another version has been coffeehouses et al adding local produce to their long list of items they will pack up as a preorder. My local heroes here are Good Karma Cafe because they offer coffee, tea, their tinctures, their prepared items, and are selling the produce without asking any fees from those farmers. They need the local goods themselves for their prepared items, and they feel they benefit by adding customers who want a little local produce. And they truly believe in the quality of locally grown items. There are others around town doing something similar from what I am hearing.
  3. The local news featured a farm which usually sells only to restaurants selling boxes to walk ups outside one of those shuttered places. Not sure yet how that is working but it seems to be doing well.
  4. We had a few (and I mean a few, maybe 1 or 2)  farm aggregators selling to consumers already running successfully with farmers Kate and Grant Estrade from Laughing Buddha Nursery as the model that everyone else should learn from. (LBN is their longstanding retail nursery shop and their farm is called Local Cooling Farms.) They tell me that demand is way up, and even though a few of their usual farmers are using one of the other above methods and don’t need to sell through LBN as of now, that allowed them to pick up new farmers. And instead of doing their usual 6-7 drop offs at their hub partner sites around town each week, they are selling only at their nursery which has refrigeration and allows them to set up contactless pick up. (This couple should be doing monthly webinars for DTC farmers and maybe, sooner or later, they will have enough time to do just that. I’m a big fan as you can tell.)

Okay, so how well did the drive-thru market work?

At the beginning of this post,  I mentioned the level of vendor sales channel diversity because it matters.  I understand via a quick convo with market staff through face masks that getting this small group of vendors ready for this was a HUGE undertaking, which is no surprise to me. The vendors that agreed to participate were listed on the organization’s website with the items they would have, the cost for each, and the way to order from each individually (phone or text or email) and the manner to pay (Paypal, Venmo, manual card entry over phone, etc.)

CCFM website DriveThru

I say small group because the number of vendors at this market were far fewer than their usual open-air market. I understand that some told the market “I can’t sell enough to do pre-orders, so no thanks.” (And again, every vendor ALSO has the right to decide what works for their business without scorn, but I do believe when they hear how well this went for those this week, more will want to try it. I can tell you that this reticence may be partly based on their experience with a half-dozen 3rd party aggregator projects around town over the last decade which all started up to great acclaim and then all shuttered, often still owing them money.)

Other vendors told the market casually that they would take try it and take orders over the phone not knowing how many people would call in the first few hours! I think part of this rush to order was that news of this drive-thru came to most through the local media- and only a few days before the actual market.  So that type of publicity made it much bigger than it might have been without. (I might suggest that small less-staffed or experienced markets try week one through just reaching out to their email list at first if possible. Maybe ask local writers to hold the story until after week 1 is in the books-that is if the market is confident enough in their list.)

As a result of the great publicity, and the deep attachment to this market with its 25 years of service, vendor voicemail mailboxes were immediately full. And when  vendors called folks back, I’m not sure that each figured out they needed to do it in order of earliest calls to the latest, so it may be that some of those who called earliest lost out. (I think that happened to me with one vendor. And no biggie. I’l get them next week).

Some vendors did texting which seemed to work pretty well but to work it needed to be confirmed and sent to payment immediately. I tried two that were listed as text orders and only one called back. The one who did, did it exactly right- texted me the total, told me their Venmo account and I paid immediately.

Clearly, this requires that there is one person handling orders for each vendor for the open window period.  And that is easier said than done. (I’ll do another post on vendors soon with some feedback I received. Let me just say that the few I had time to answer me were very positive on this as a short-term solution during this pandemic but clearly exhausted from the added work. One vendor told me on camera he came close to his usual Saturday market in terms of the number of sales. He had 92 preorders, and he estimated that he usually gets 120 or so transactions over 4 hours at the Saturday market  but thinks he didn’t meet or exceed his usual Saturday only because “his system wasn’t ready for this.” And he promised he will get better at it. I’d also suggest that the anecdotal data from markets across the US seems to indicate that the average sale is higher than the normal market in present circumstances. Likely because people buy more, and we are also hearing that meat vendors are doing tremendously well.)

Location

In terms of where to hold this market and when, the organization had some (I assume informal) help from City Hall. Most of their current locations were not going to work as a drive through; sadly, one of their best locations has had too many cases of Covid-19 at the assisted living place that is situated on the same property to hold this there.  City Hall employee and engineer Jennifer Ruley, who has been working on safe street programs for almost 20 years stepped up; she personifies what I wrote last month about finding partners for this moment. She and the Market Umbrella E.D. Kate Parker were well acquainted from neighborhood work that both have been doing for decades. The team chose the parking lot of the most popular and community-minded po-boy* shop in town, which has been closed for the duration and is right next to the new multi-use greenway that MU wanted to use but was not available because of other uses. Jen met with market staff and Parkway owners on Saturday to think through traffic design. See their map below.

IMG_2642.jpg

Lafitte Street is under construction as part of the Greenway, and has houses on only one side. It has 6-7 side streets that dead end into this street and two major avenues on either end.

CCFMDT_Police directing at entranceexit

Orange was entrance, green was exit.

All in all, I’d say that it worked beautifully – up to a point. The early problem that I saw was that a few folks came down the side streets and poked in the line which, honestly, most of those already in line let go and didn’t get all screamy on them; after all, why? their order was already made. And really, most shoppers politely went to the end of the line without urging.

The other traffic issue that can be easily corrected next time was that the police should have closed the street off to all other traffic. Folks were turning on to the street unaware of the market, meaning to simply drive somewhere and often got caught up in the crawl. Additionally, the street should have been made only one way towards the market for these hours, and all shoppers directed to the far end avenue (Broad) to turn on to Lafitte. Again, all easily fixed for next time.

Yet this location seems like it is going to top out around 16-18 vendors and so the question becomes does CCFM add another location while keeping this one for the duration for that number of vendors, or just go find one big spot for all of their drive thru markets and vendors?  Seems like some of the vendors feel like 2 locations a week may max their ability to take orders and to take those, but they may feel differently as time goes on. If they add a second location what would the criteria be? My guess is easy access from main streets and from many parts of town, large parking lot with a fence or barricade around it to maintain safety and keep pedestrians out, in or near zip codes where there is density of drivers/shoppers, a well known location, vendor restroom access, and a partner/host to help.

Once in line, one CCFM staffer came down, said a cheerful hello and explained how it would work, and asked shoppers to get their trunks open before entering. Another staffer wrote the shoppers name on a piece of paper that was then stuck on the outside of the window so vendors could see the names and get their orders up.

 

The shopper drove in, made the circle with vendors checking your name and putting your orders in the truck. The last would close it.

I understand they figured out how to do some SNAP sales, but as I didn’t bother them any longer than I had to so I’ll have to get more info later. One way this may work is for those shoppers to have their pre-orders total written out, separated by  vendor and swipe their card for the total as they arrive and attach the paid receipt on the window for each vendor to see it was paid. Or have them place the orders as everyone else does, and the vendors to pack those and hand them to the market org before the bell rings to process on the machine in another line.

CCFMexitStaff takepaperoff windshield.JPG

CCFM tent at entrance/exit which (maybe) could still process SNAP?

a few issues:

Long market

Took longer than the 4 hours it was scheduled. There were timespans with long lines and then timespans with very short ones, so staggering the arrival next time may help.

There were too many vendors without PPE at all, no gloves or masks. All CCFM staff were equipped and had their market t-shirt on to make clear who they were, led by their E.D. who again, was out there at the entrance checking on everything. I am SURE that CCFM strongly suggested that vendors equip themselves but clearly too many had not paid much attention or could not find any.  One idea that I will float via my own social media  is for fervent CCFM shoppers to purchase cloth masks made by locals for their favorite vendors, and maybe get them a pair or cleaning gloves to wear if nothing else.  Since no money is changing hands, there is little need for dexterity.  I am sure that many of your shoppers would be happy to help get masks made and could possibly get gloves and sanitizer for your vendors too. (Update: within 15 minutes of me posting it, local people are getting masks made for these vendors! Update #2: NOLa folks made almost 200 masks for farmers which I have given to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Covington farmers markets.)

Big purchasers versus small. Some cars were stopping at every vendor and some only were picking up one or two items.  (It may work to stagger those by the number of vendor pickups one has, so that those with fewer transactions come later. Still to do that would require a LOT more work for the organization and it simply may not matter when vendors get better at this.)

How to check orders. Vendors were madly looking through page after page of orders, which didn’t seem to be in alphabetical order. (It might be helpful for the market organization to offer a simple spreadsheet that they can use for their orders and/or then print them out for everyone in order.It might also help for the organization to also have shoppers – when they arrive – list the market location number of each vendors who they had an order with, so if vendor #4 isn’t marked, vendor #4 doesn’t need to look through their list.)

Impact on the neighborhood. This needs to part of the measurement for any market: the positive and the negative impact on that area. Too often, markets only measure economic impact- which should always be measured – but also should also view the effect of noise, cars, trash, and other impacts on that area. These neighbors, without warning, had a line of cars belching exhaust into their houses for a few hours at a time when the weather is so beautiful that every window is probably open. It may help to stagger shoppers by time, to add another market day in another area, or to simply ask folks to turn their car off and let the police move clusters of cars at a time. I’ll find out more about how many cars came through but it sounded like the line was down to only a block long after an hour or so.

CCFM line in first hourDrive Thru

Costs. The design did require more staff than a regular market day and clearly a lot more planning was required. It did require police which I would assume will have to be reimbursed.  And the fees per vendor are assessed at a flat rate in this organization;  as the numbers of vendors were lower than they would normally be during this extremely busy market season**, they will have less income there. I will say that the partnership with Parkway Bakery’s free lot was inspired because they also came and helped, AND gave each car a free bag with a roast beef po-boy, local chips and water. And they have a very well-tended lot.

ParkwayGift

local chips, roast beef po-boy, branded memo pad, paper hat,  and a water bottle.

 

All in all, I hope these vendors and this staff sleep well tonight, knowing they have pulled off an extremely delicate and complicated market day. And that we deeply thank them.

I’ll let a shopper give the last word with what he told me after he picked up his items:

“It is a blessing, no matter how long it takes.”

AngelinaCCFM

Director of Markets Angelina Harrison watching it all.

 

 

**We’re in the middle of berry, lettuce, and just beginning tomato season and the weather is great in March and April here, usually low humidity and little rain which is holding true this year.

 

 

It’s a Make, Break, or Take set of moments. Get ready.

Dear Colleagues,

I am thinking of each of you,  your teams, and communities as you make decisions and adapt your Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) channels. If I can help, I hope you know you can contact me and also access our FMC resources,  and any updates.

Once we get get to the healing side of this pandemic, there are many things that markets may have to operationalize into best practices. Some of those we have noted already:

changing markets designation from special events to essential food and social space services.

writing rules for vendor food handling during outbreaks

having emergency layouts for smaller-than-usual markets

plans for fast pick up for items that don’t penalize the vendor with massive added fees or convert markets into something it cannot return from

communication plans for media

communication plans for vendors

          partnerships for emergency situations

and of course much more to come. And as always, those ideas and solutions will come from you and your community leaders, and mostly not from an academic or government partner or from other “experts.” At FMC, our team continues to scour the internet, participate on our listservs, answer emails, and be ready to pick up the phone to learn what is going on.


 

 

This moment is reminiscent of the disasters that we worked through here in New Orleans while I was Deputy Director of Market Umbrella, and is also reminiscent of so many of our peers work on their own emergency situations. It is similar, and yet it has new wrinkles that most of us have not had to address.

That is something that I dread will be the new normal: cycles of disasters that remind us of previous examples and that we can draw from, but that bring brand-new challenges that we need to quickly assess and master too.

And as important as it is as to bravely and clearly react to the moment, how we protect our fragile community from profiteers and bureaucrats and how we prepare to share any learning for the next one is equally as important.

Make moment examples

Of course, José Andrés World Central Kitchen team is already out there. Not only is WCK  immediately ready to deploy healthy food and community at the first moment necessary, the entity illustrates Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” model that is as crucial during emergencies as in everyday life. Because they are there and attract media attention, they are able to call out the policy changes that have to be made, especially challenging those that push aside local knowledge or responses.  Our DTC channel organizations can clearly learn from that approach in getting media attention during these events.

“In emergencies, locals know best how to take care of their own,” Andrés said as he decried the tendency of government personnel to tell locals “how you should run your lives” when they enter disaster zones. “We need to achieve a better moment where those organizations come in to help people in America or around the world, listen to the locals more and bring them into the solution.”

Beyond the famous chefs, there are so many of these types of interveners that come to us during these moments. In New Orleans we had tens of thousands of respondents over the decade of recovery: everyone from the Rainbow Family setting up a wonderful emergency camp and doing soil mitigation right after the levee breaks to massive numbers of faith-based volunteers that came for years every summer to build houses. Be ready to spot those for this emergency: it may be someone with a better temporary space for your pop up market, a policymaker willing to suspend rules that limit the exchange of healthy foods,  a school bus driver to deliver food,  a fellow NGO leader with an idea for getting healthy food to more communities, or a farmer able to deliver to a multiplicity of neighborhoods or towns.

Also crucial to remind ourselves is that any make moment uses the assets and goodwill of the local community to respond, but also accounts for the length of the disaster. Some  of these last days, some weeks, some months or years. COVID19’s length is still undetermined, which is deeply frightening  especially as this timeline relies on a the response level of a weak medical system and a lack of a concerted response from our national government.

What those of us who have been through an emergency know is that it is vital to recognize the different phases as stages, each of which may require different responses and partners. The GoFish YouTube videos we did at MU with support from Kellogg Foundation helped us capture some of what our markets and small businesses came up with as responses and allowed us to record them across the length of that response – and not least, get those businesses money for those innovations over the long official response to Katrina.

Break moment examples

Cities closing down open-air food markets because they are viewed as events rather than as essential services are the main break moment we have to prepare to meet in this moment. In the weeks after Katrina, I was called into New Orleans City Hall (which was still set up in an eerie, blackout curtain-covered, borrowed hotel space) to defend the idea of selling food from what had been flood-covered land. What was interesting about this question from City Hall was they were unaware that most of our vendors came from the surrounding parishes outside of the levee breaks that had inundated New Orleans with water.  Only three vendors were growing food in the city, and all had already sent in soil tests to LSU. So, by sharing that information and plan, we were able to move quickly past that question. And since we operated in parking lots, building renovation – which slowed other retailers down for months or for years – was not an issue that we had to deal with. The open-air and transient nature of our design absolutely helped us, taking what would have  been a break moment into a make moment for our small market organization in the months and years after 2005. We never forgot that lesson for our emergency-prone area.


And we also learned that adaptation is the key.  As described again by Andrés:

“If we plan too much, chances are that things are gonna be completely wrong. And once you have a plan, and everybody agrees on the plan, if the plan goes out of line, people freeze,” Andrés admitted. “Adapting always in these scenarios is gonna be more important than planning.”

So don’t let the urge to make each moment the exact right response break you.

In other words, do what market organizations do best:  pilot something, learn from it quickly, adapt from its lessons and regroup. 

Take moment examples

There are also what we’d down here call “carpetbaggers” in every disaster situation. Already the NYT had a story of someone hoarding tens of thousands of hand sanitizers hoping to profit from this pandemic. Luckily, online stores shut him down, although he made plenty before it happened, and there will be others who will not caught or penalized.

I have already been contacted by many online stores and developers about aiding DTC channels. Now some of them are absolutely dedicated to helping and not hurting and offering their expertise- but some are not. The wrong ones can break our small businesses with hidden fees and bad design. Good, indifferent, or bad, don’t let them take our value proposition or our message for theirs. They are still two different business models and even if we borrow from each other, we have to remind our shoppers that we will return to our model because our DTC farmers and vendors are still not able to benefit from most of those models. Use your peers to ask about these opportunities, and ask them a lot of questions too. Yes, take advantage of the right opportunity, but don’t make a good idea into a bad situation by not being careful.


Another important point is to be ready and open enough to take the gifts that will come your or your community’s way.  Whether it is a a friend offering to make dinner for you, a market shopper willing to help with social media,  asking a peer to get on a webinar on your market’s behalf, or stopping for a moment for a walk or to close your eyes even on a busy busy day, take it. Being givers, market leaders and vendors are loathe to take their share, but for this moment, it is vital that you do. 

I just dropped some juice off to local culture bearers and small business owners who have been feeding me this week with their art and with healthy food. That was my gift to them; the fruit I used was a gift to me from neighbors and friends.

the bit I left at my pals door, photographer Cheryl and musician Mark.

And I was able to harvest so much this last week due to a gift of time and help by my Vermont food system pal Jean Hamilton who was in town for the National Good Food Network meeting.

Jean up in that tree!

I’ll add more examples here as they come to me through the extraordinary, creative community of food and civic activists that make up my world. I know we will grow stronger through this trial, and hopefully rebound by reminding even more people and community leaders why local farmers and businesses and their markets, farm stands, and CSAs are vital to a resilient, healthy place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Farmer

From Dr. John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri, Columbia on the passing of his brother, a farmer. So beautiful.

The Farmer

My brother Don, the farmer, died last Sunday morning—in his home on the family farm. He was born on the farm, lived his whole life on the farm, and died on the farm—the same farm. I have just returned from attending his memorial services. This meant a trip to some of the places where I grew up in southwest Missouri. His burial was in the cemetery at Eureka Church, a small country church that my family attended while I was growing up. I completed grade school in the two-room schoolhouse that once stood near the cemetery. There were five kids in our family, three boys and two girls. Our older sister died in her early 30s. Don was in his early 20s when he took over the home farm after the death of my Dad. The rest of us all had other things we wanted to do with our lives. Don never wanted to do anything other than be a family farmer. He succeeded, both as a dedicated family man and as a farmer.

I was always proud of Don. He was actually able to do the things I wrote and talked about as the challenges and opportunities for small family farmers. I knew it was possible to have a good life on a small farm because he was doing it. I knew him and I knew the farm—personally. The farm was about 200 acres in total. Only about half of that was cropland, which he eventually transitioned into pasture for rotational grazing. The rest was timbered hill sides. It had been a dairy farm since the 1950s. He had once tried to feed and milk something close to 100 cows, but eventually concluded he could do better milking less than 50 on grass. Don knew that cows were simply a means of turning sunshine and grass into a marketable commodity. He also knew that family farming is more than a way to make a living; it’s a way to make a life. He lived and died on the farm that he loved with the people he loved. Who could ask for more from life?

I won’t attempt to tell any more of Don’s story. His wife, Sue, wrote a poem about him that does much better that I could hope to do.

The Farmer

He has been a farmer all of his life,
Long before he took a wife,
He knew he was meant to work the soil.
His days on this earth would be spent in toil,
Planting the crops and clearing the land.
This was all part of the Master’s Plan.
As in his father’s and grandfather’s days,
For generations this had been the ways.
In which they would work the land and the sod,
Drawing nearer to nature and communing with God.
To each of his neighbors he lent a hand
They worked together to farm the land,
In autumn when the harvest came,
Each one in turn did the same.
All through the week they labored each day,
But on the Sabbath they gathered to pray.
To thank Him for His blessings and love,
What they gathered on earth had come from above..
When his children were born he watched them grow.
He taught them the lessons so they would know,
And learn the ways of country and farm,
Of love, truth, respect and to do no harm
To creature on land or those in the air,
And to be good stewards of the land in their care,
He watched them ride horses and float down the stream,
But he knew that their future could not be his dream.
This farmer he realizes that he has wealth beyond measure,
Because here on this farm he has found all his treasure,
With his family around him, for wealth there’s no need.
With all of His blessings he’s a rich man indeed.
His breed is a rare one, it’s becoming extinct,
With this world’s busy lifestyle, there’s no time to think.
Life’s becoming too hectic and people miss out,
On all of the beauty that lies roundabout,
This farmer can see it as he goes through his days,
From bird’s nests to sunsets, each free for the gaze.
The path that he’s taken is different than most.
He’s content in his heart and has no need to boast.
His drumbeat is different but he follows its sounds,
With his dog by his side he walks over this ground,
Of the land that he loves, he will do it no harm,
The place of his birth, the old family farm.

Sue Ikerd

Eat with the fullest pleasure this Thanksgiving

People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating….The thought of the good pasture and of the calf contentedly grazing flavors the steak….A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes.

Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

-Wendell Berry

Moving forward with markets

For the better part of the last 20 years, I have devoted my energy to the field of farmers markets, designing and running them, writing and analyzing them with the goal to expand all of its hyperlocal community energy into something that resembles a community of practice that can reduce burnout, increase support, and embed best practices and resources for its organizers. That in turn will help assist meet its true focus: build support for the farmers and small businesses that make up these markets, who are gambling their skills and talents, their bodies, and their futures to ensure their place is still there. If we succeed, we will offer our communities a true alternative to the backwards and crippled dominant systems that are killing this earth and life on it.

So no biggie; it’s just…well, everything.

The first ten years I did this work as Market Umbrella’s Deputy Director and its Marketshare Director. Beginning in 2011, I became a consultant at Helping Public Markets Grow, and then since 2015, a part-time staff person at the only national organization devoted entirely to supporting farmers market operators and networks, Farmers Market Coalition.

I am pleased to announce that I am beginning a new iteration of this work as Farmers Market Coalition’s Training and Technical Assistance Director. This will allow our team to dive much more deeply into the underlying issues that stymie direct-to-consumer channels and also add more components and layers of support for operators within FMC and among market partners. Those partners are increasingly realizing that markets are truly a place for innovation, for incubation of new ideas, and remain the most visible and democratic center of dynamic local and regional food systems. What they may still miss is how much work it takes to make it all add up to system change.

To make all of that balance for everyone’s needs while properly stewarding the resources given to me and use them all in the right order, is the puzzle I am trying to figure out; if you have ideas, feel free to drop me a line.

In this blog, I’ll keep focusing on the big topics and try to use this to continue to inspire but also keep my eye on the local community that I actually live in, where I am constantly inspired by the next generations putting it all out there, even as I am worrying that all of our work will come to naught. Sound familiar?

To keep you entertained, may I send you to my farmers market book group? It has been dormant for some time, but needs to be revived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg to UN: How Dare You

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.

How dare you! For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. With today’s emissions levels, our remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years

You say you “hear” us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that. The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. Maybe 50% is acceptable to you. But those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equity. They also rely on my and my children’s generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences. To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5C global temperature rise – the best odds given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the world had 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left to emit back on 1 January 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatonnes.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone in less than eight and a half years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today. Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. 

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

1619 and (Food) Justice

On August 20, 1619, a ship carrying about 20 enslaved Africans arrived in Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. 

If you have somehow missed the rollout of the New York Times 1619 project, I hope you will find time to get a printed copy, listen to the podcasts, or find  another way to catch up. This project – groundbreaking, truth-telling, and comprehensive – is a tremendously collaborative endeavor, created and led by brilliant journalist Nikole-Hannah Jones that offers a wide base of knowledge about America’s entanglement with enslavement, and how our systems have been designed to continue to subjugate people, using the construct of race. The other great point made across the essays, the photos, the podcasts, and more is how deeply felt the patriotism is among black Americans who continue to patiently reach out to their compatriots to try to explain what must be fixed.


Nikole-Hannah Jones:

At 43, I am part of the first generation of black Americans in the history of the United States to be born into a society in which black people had full rights of citizenship. Black people suffered under slavery for 250 years; we have been legally “free” for just 50. Yet in that briefest of spans, despite continuing to face rampant discrimination, and despite there never having been a genuine effort to redress the wrongs of slavery and the century of racial apartheid that followed, black Americans have made astounding progress, not only for ourselves but also for all Americans. 

(This statement’s profundity made me slowly draw in my breath:)

What if America understood, finally, in this 400th year, that we have never been the problem but the solution?


The reason this is featured on my public market blog is that our work is really about equity and requires an investigation of the systems that underpin food, farming, and sovereignty.  If the sum of what we accomplish are lovely little pilots and projects that don’t interfere with the dominant system, then we are doomed to irrelevance. But I do have the belief that our work will have results that ultimately change what is broken in food and agriculture by focusing on local control and civic inclusion made real and long lasting by having a reckoning with the past to build the new. One reason I have that belief is the ongoing work and the leadership of black justice organizers willing to address the systemic issues in our work. Examples abound: including Cooperation Jackson, to Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s decades of work, to Karen Washington’s refusal of the term food deserts:

What I would rather say instead of “food desert” is “food apartheid,” because “food apartheid” looks at the whole food system, along with race, geography, faith, and economics. You say “food apartheid” and you get to the root cause of some of the problems around the food system. It brings in hunger and poverty. It brings us to the more important question: What are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices?

Or Dr. Raja’s concise assessment of the problem:

 Who actually owns the means of production? Who owns the business? Who controls the wages in grocery stores? We can describe the physical absence of retail stores in the best possible way, but that’s still a partial analysis of the structural problem that we face. My concern is not just that the term [food desert] doesn’t fully capture what is in the food retail environment, but that it doesn’t tackle the question of agency at all.

More leaders inspiring words here

What is vital about the 1619 Project is that even as its writers and artists educate on the unrelenting degradations visited upon generations of people of color, that same group is also firm in its belief that solutions are possible. That this rising tide of systemic analysis and activism can lift every boat, especially  if white allies do not allow those others who are deeply invested in white supremacy to submerge it this time too.

1619 Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 data collection strategies-South Champlain Islands and Capital City Farmers Markets, Part 2

from Part 1

For the last few years,I have worked on an FMPP-funded project under the supervision of NOFA-VT’s Direct Marketing Coordinator, Erin Buckwalter. This project will aid in building a culture of data collection at Vermont’s farmers markets and has included resource development, evaluation strategies for all market types, and direct technical assistance and training. Because of this, I added a second annual trip besides my usual winter conference attendance. And lucky for me, it was scheduled for the summer rather than the usual winter trip, which, although very lovely, is somewhat limiting for this Southerner and means I see few markets.

Erin suggested that we create a team of market managers, agency leaders, and market volunteers to gather data for markets in August. The goals were multiple:
1. model good data collection habits
2. network markets interested in data collection
3. test out some methods for different types of markets
4. look for opportunities for needed resource development on evaluation
5. see more markets and make a direct connection with market leaders
6. collect some data!

She sent out an email to a few markets to nominate themselves. Obviously we needed to be able to do them in a short span of days, the successful applicants needed to have a use for the data, and they would have to have some capacity to assist the team.

We ended up with 2 excellent choices: Champlain Islands Farmers Market – South Hero, held Wednesday afternoons 3-6 pm, and Capitol City Farmers Market (Montpelier) held 9-1 pm Saturdays.

They were wonderful choices because they were so very different, and they have enthusiastic leadership that are very interested in the data.

Capital City Farmers Market-Montpelier

The team:
Jennie Porter, NOFA-VT’s Food Security Coordinator
me
Dave Kaczynski , Montpelier FM board member, VTFMA board member
Sherry Maher, Brattleboro Winter mkt leader, and NOFA-VT’s lead for in-state data collection strategies on this project
Alissa Matthews, VT Agency of Ag, Food and Food Systems (VAAFM)
NOFA-VT alumni Jean Hamilton and Libby MacDonald
Elizabeth Parker from Sustainable Montpelier Coalition who offered to stay and help when we approached her as a shopper that morning.

Dave and his fellow board member Hannah Blackmer were our leads for the this farmers market collection. This required a very different plan than South Hero, as the Montpelier market is much larger and is situated on a busy shopping district street. As most Vermonters know, this beloved market has been around for 40 years, but has already had to move locations more than once, and will have to do that again after this year. So questions about location had to be added to this survey which meant a flurry of emails and even some refinements to the survey on Saturday morning- thankfully, there is a copy/print company right down the street that was open.
And because this market was on a Saturday morning, market leaders who were interested in doing team data collection could not help, as most were either running their own market or working another job.
So because we had a smaller than necessary team, and the survey would take longer, we decided on a different and relatively new method for collecting the visitor count. We used a method that works better for small teams and for less busy markets: the Sticker Count.
The idea is to give each adult who enters the market a sticker to wear, telling them that we are counting the attendance that day, and then count how many stickers were given out to assess the number. And by wearing the sticker, we won’t double count them.
This method can be fun and less taxing to counters than clicking entries, but it has its own issues, such as:
1. The community has to be aware of this activity beforehand and know to take a sticker but only one.
2. Since counts are estimating potential shoppers, kids are not usually counted. That can be difficult when kids cannot take one of these stickers as they are often the only ones who want to wear a sticker. (Our solution was to stick those stickers to the back of our paper that someone had refused to take to be able to give kids one of those. That way the child’s sticker was not adding to our count. Another way to solve this will be to have kids-only stickers to hand out.)

3. Complex layouts can also make this hard (although complex layouts make ALL counting hard!) and CCFM has ONE fascinating and complicated layout:

 

 

In terms of the survey, we decided to have more ways to complete them as we had a goal to get over 260 completed surveys:
• “intercept” surveys, which means a surveyor asked questions and wrote the answers on their form

•  self-reported surveys under a tent, where people could fill out the forms on their own on paper, or on one of our laptops set up for that;


•  having signs with a QR code for smartphone users to snap a picture using their smartphone which takes that phone to the form online.


The tent was ably staffed by Alissa Matthews, who we decided to have there because she has been involved with this relocation process and could better answer questions about the possible locations and is always calm and cheerful . Dave set the tent up beautifully, both by adding eye-catching signs and table coverings. He also knows how to make tables comfortable for those reading or writing by adding leg extensions which helped as well. His survey work is also stellar; he is a natural at it.
The tent was constantly bustling, Alissa aided by me or by nearby Sticker Queen, Libby McDonald.

One issue at the tent was that the online form was designed to require an email address, which is helpful to ensure only one response per email, but it seemed to freak out those at the computer. The reason the online survey was also included was partly to gather more responses next week after market day, because the location issue is significant for the entire market community to be able to weigh in. Oddly, those doing the self-reporting paper surveys at the same tent were less concerned about the email request on their form and even when we told people they didn’t have to fill out their email on those forms, they often did, saying they would be happy to learn more about the market or the relocation process. (And those doing intercept surveys don’t ask for emails at all.) Another issue was that the printed self survey had a few areas that confused people (the frequency of visit choices were too close together so many people circled more than one choice, and lots of folks missed the other side!) One last issue that I noted a few times were both members of a couple were filling out surveys, which means their economic contribution that day would be doubled. I don’t think any of these damaged the day’s data in a major way, but these are the issues that can arise with allowing self-reported survey completion.

 


The sticker counting started off extremely well, with aforementioned volunteer Libby taking the entrance near to our tent as her stickering responsibility. We worked out language around that, as brandishing a sticker at someone entering a market could seem off-putting, and the market had less time to let folks know beforehand that we’d be doing this.

Instead of “Can I offer you a sticker? The market is counting everyone attending..” which offers an easy chance for a NO.

we settled on:

“here’s a sticker for you (putting it gently on a shoulder or handing to the person) ; the market is counting everyone attending by giving each adult a sticker. The good news is if you wear it, we’ll not bother you again!”

3-5 of us were constantly handing out stickers (and the surveyors also had stickers if someone they stopped had gotten past us), all strategically placed near entrances or busy areas. We also had signs at all of the vendor booths and also explained what was happening and asked them to steer anyone without a sticker to one of us.

Our estimate was that maybe 20% were not stickered, especially later on when larger groups started to show up and we couldn’t get to them all. That part is still a very rough guess, but with more trials, we may get better at it.

Still, it was a cheerful, participatory way to do counting and many people were intrigued by the idea and one person even said enthusiastically to one of our team when asked if she had taken a sticker: “Yes,  I was counted today!”  Honestly, that made my day.

Overall, the numbers of surveys far exceeded our goal (we even had to go print more surveys for people to fill out!), our count felt as if was a good test and the team felt relatively confident about the numbers.

 

The Cap City Team: Me, Dave, Sherry, Jennie, Jean, Alissa, and Libby (sorry to miss Elizabeth who had left.)

Part 1

2019 data collection strategies-South Champlain Islands and Capital City Farmers Markets – Part 1

Checking out different ways that markets collect and use data is one of my chief duties in developing evaluation tools over the past 20 years. And since part-time at FMC, I have also contracted directly with some markets and networks, mostly on data collection strategies, which also informs my FMC duties.
One of those delightful synergies can be illustrated through my long time relationship with Northeast Organic Farming Association- Vermont (NOFA-VT). For the last few years, I have worked on an FMPP-funded project under the supervision of NOFA-VT’s Direct Marketing Coordinator, Erin Buckwalter. This project will aid in building a culture of data collection at Vermont’s farmers markets and has included resource development, evaluation strategies for all market types, and direct technical assistance and training. Because of this, I added a second annual trip besides my usual winter conference attendance.  And luckily for me, it was scheduled for the mid-summer rather than the usual winter trip, which, although very lovely, is somewhat limiting for this Southerner and has meant few market visits.

Erin suggested that we create a team of market managers, agency leaders, and market volunteers to gather data for markets in August. The goals were multiple:
1. model good data collection habits
2. network markets interested in data collection
3. test out some methods for different types of markets
4. look for opportunities for needed resource development on evaluation
5. see more markets and make a direct connection with market leaders
6. collect some data!

She sent out an email to a few markets to nominate themselves. Obviously we needed to be able to do them in a short span of days, the successful applicants needed to have a use for the data, and they would have to have some capacity to assist the team.

We ended up with 2 excellent choices: Champlain Islands Farmers Market – South Hero, held Wednesday afternoons 3-6 pm, and Capitol City Farmers Market (Montpelier) held 9-1 pm Saturdays.

They were wonderful choices because they were so very different, and because they have enthusiastic leadership that are very interested in the data and learning more about collecting it.

Champlain Islands Farmers Market – South Hero
is one of those organizations that operate markets 2 days a week in 2 different locations. As such, it means the two are actually quite different in terms of vendors, products, programs, and visitors.
The Wednesday market is held behind a church and its location was partly chosen to take advantage of the visitors who are on that part of the island before they turn to the ferry. It has around 16 vendors, offering a wide variety of what is needed by seasonal visitors who will be cooking in their vacation kitchens and what permanent residents need for their table. Because the site is offered by a third party, sharing data on the positive impacts of this location is always helpful, as is analyzing the functionality of the site. Cindy Walcott, Market Chair/Treasurer and Julia Small (market manager) were gracious hosts, giving a lot of assistance to our team.

The team:
Erin
me
Dave Kaczynski , Montpelier FM board member, VTFMA board member
Sherry Maher, Brattleboro Winter mkt leader, and NOFA-VT’s lead for in-state data collection strategies on this project
Janice Baldwin also from the Brattleboro Winter Market
Alissa Matthews, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM)
Anisa​ Balagam​, the new market manager of the Winooski Farmers Market​.​

This market organization has collected data previously and has devised an almost fool-proof way to count their visitors. Since the parking is routed from the main road via a narrow drive to a graveled area, they can position someone at the beginning of the drive, counting every car and the number of adults inside. Additionally, it also allows the market to collect the license plate state which is extremely important as Cindy says that the attendance for this weekday market usually about 50% Vermonters.

Using their counting sheet, two of us went to the vantage point to gather the count. Cindy has also downloaded a counting app on her smart phone, having set it up previously to capture the same detailed data, but we decided to go paper.

Cindy gives us an overview of the counting method the market uses.

The rest of us would gather surveys from the visitors, and since we had a good crew size, could team folks up and also allow them to take breaks to shop and eat.
They had a tent and tables for our use, and we decided to put it in the location where we could best capture folks on their way out. Deciding if the team will survey folks coming in or out is one of the decisions the collection supervisor needs to make before or on the day of – with input from the team.

Whether you do it on the way in or out has a lot to do with the shopping behavior

-are people frantic about missing items that quickly sell out? they will be less interested in doing the survey on the way in.

-are people loaded down with bags and have a long way to go to their parking? they may be less interested in offering data on the way out, although having tables and a tent to put their items down does help!

-and if you are asking intent on learning about their purchases that day, it may be better to wait until the end of the shopping trip. – However, if you have a small market with a lot of regular weekly shoppers, it may be okay to do it as they come in as the amount spent may not vary as much week to week for those shoppers.

We began the day with a group logistical meeting: introductions, and discussing who would be where and how to get breaks when needed. Depending on the group, a quick round of role plays with the survey sheet may also helpful. Cindy gave us the likely attendance number (which decides how many surveys to collect), and the type of shoppers this market usually experiences. My responsibility as the Data Collection Coordinator was simple for this market (and was a very different job for our Saturday market visit at Capital City – more on that in Part 2) but even when it is simple, the Coordinator should be constantly rotating, collecting completed sheets to make sure things look right, re-assigning folks when necessary, and generally seeing what else can be done (and if possible, doing data collection too.)
The crew was eager and because it was a group of market leaders was great at problem-solving, very willing to engage with shoppers, and able to gracefully steer “I don’t know” answers to a specific amount or answer.

market map

The market had originally had us next to the Land Trust info booth, but after a short discussion, the team decided that moving our tent to a spot closer to where we estimated the path to leaving the market would be was better for us. Dave also suggested that we move the picnic table into our tent for folks to sit or to place their bags, and since the day began rainy,  Julia thought it fine to do just that.
The survey collection went great as everyone was very willing to stop and answer questions. I find that the majority of people (90-95%) are always very open to this, especially if the opening line is something like “Can you spare a minute to help the market?”  It has almost always been true on the farmers market data collection teams that I have worked that surveyors constantly exceed the collection goals set for them because they find it easier and more fun than they originally expected. Sometimes it is harder to get them to slow down, which can be necessary to make sure that a comparable number of surveys are collected in each hour.Making it fun for the surveyor and not taxing to the respondent are other reasons that the survey should be well designed and as short as possible!

I must say for this experience of having every person we asked say yes AND people making a beeline for us to take the survey before we approached them was delightful, and is a credit to the excellent pre-market communication that the market had with this community and also makes it clear that the community understands that this is a data-driven market.
Well done Champlain Island Farmers Markets!

More later on the data that was collected, once it has been cleaned and organized by the market organization and NOFA-VT. We did exceed our goal for the number of surveys that the team and the market agreed it wanted to collect. For most markets, collecting 10-15% of the usual attendees will be a good number, but there are ways to calculate that further.

Anissa uses the tent

Erin does the first survey

Data collection and time for sharing and general conversations too

 

Part 2

Salud America: Why Your Town Needs a Farmers Market

Why Your Town Needs a Farmers Market

I love this call-to-action piece for Latinx to use markets to organize across multiple impacts. The newest trend in markets is the use of this nimble mechanism by equity and justice organizers to create new outcomes for both sides of the market table.

I must point out though that if 44% match those type of census tracts (see below), then 56% do not; any chance we can highlight THAT fact? Or that it does not mean that markets on the edge of multiple neighborhoods are not welcoming to a cross-section of shoppers from all census tracts. I’d also like to see if there will ever be research on whether there are mitigating factors to total gentrification and if some types of markets are a factor in that anti-gentrification.

But many of these markets are not accessible to Latinos. In fact, a San Diego State University report indicates that 44% of the city’s farmers markets are in census tracts with high levels of gentrification.