Gulf Coast, 9 years later: Still unfinished.

The link below is from my New Orleans blog that details our life here post Katrina: today August 29th, it will be 9 years since that terrible day when our region suffered through the hurricane and then through the much larger federal levee disaster.

We community organizers learned that we needed to be constantly available to our family, our friends and neighbors (including our farmers and fishers) as they rebuilt their lives and businesses. And we had to carry the story of citizen-led recovery to our colleagues in other places while remaining vigilant when home to help combat bad ideas from our decision makers.
We still need to do that work unfortunately.
Some of this piece may be too local, but the sentiment is clear I think. Basically, the years of 2010/2011 were when we really began to really feel the pressure from corporations trying to find deals; this post tells some of what we were going through:

“We are now coming up to 6 years after the federal levee system disintegrated in New Orleans. When we look around, do we see our old neighbors, a resurgence in small mom and pop businesses, and a generally more livable city than before?
I’d say no….”

Complete post from New Orleans Can Thrive


Why Not Chef Markets Next?

My post is after the italicized market announcement.


The Minneapolis’ Linden Hills Farmers Market season begins on June 1st and continues every Sunday through October. We are piloting a brand new chef-driven farmers’ market model, offering both retail and wholesale sales on the same day and in the same location. We are the only market that offers these opportunities.
Our thinking. Our regional model of farmers markets primarily serve as entertainment venues. While wonderful in their own right, these types of markets create audiences and not customers. We believe we can change that!
To explain. As a point of helping local farmers and local food entrepreneurs find real profitability – we will skip the standard offering of non-food related arts, crafts and live music. AND return to why farmers’ markets started in the first place – as a location for both local food growers and food entrepreneurs to sell direct to retail customers and wholesale buyers.
Who we are looking for. Our market is seeking local farmers growing unique varieties AND local food entrepreneurs cooking up artisanal foods. We are especially interested in those vendors able to price their products for both the wholesale and retail markets, and produce enough to sell at both markets.
When: From June to October. Every Sunday, Rain or Shine. From 7AM to 1PM.
Where: At the Settegren Ace Hardware Parking Lot, in the heart of lovely Linden Hills in Minneapolis, MN.
What we offer.
  • A combined wholesale (7AM to 9AM) and retail (9AM – 1PM) market in one.
  • Currently, there is no other farmers’ market opportunity for vendors selling directly to both retail and wholesale buyers on the same day and in the same location.
  • A mission and focus on the transfer of local produce and local food products for purposes of sales, with virtually no arts, crafts and musical diversions throughout the day.
  • Fair pricing for farmers and food producers. There is no requirement to commit to an entire season. Rent a stall for a day, meet a few chefs and our neighbors and diversify your customer base — simple as that.
Who we communicate our vendors’ line up of products and produce with:  Our remarkable community of neighborhood buyers. Along with, chefs; such as those affiliated with restaurants, catering companies and food trucks. Restaurant and institutional food procurement specialists; such as those responsible for buying for three or more restaurants or institutions. Grocery departmen > t buyers; from Whole Foods to mom+pop neighborhood stores. Distribution center buyers; including CPW, J & J and Bix. And more!
What we need. 
  • Help us get the word out. Refer this post to folks you think might be interested.
  • Vend with us, for a day, a month or for the entire season.
  • Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter and follow our progress!
  • Come as a visitor, come as a buyer — or both.
Contact us to receive an application and to learn more about this new type of  market. I am available at libertywyrum at <

How wonderful to see an idea that I have been advocating for come to life. As regular readers of this blog know, as well as those who have sat through my presentations, I do believe that we can do a great deal more with the types of open air farmers markets than we have accomplished so far. Markets for chefs and other intermediate buyers could be one of the next iterations for some market organizations, using the same transparent values and strong criteria to serve the public good, just as this group is clearly doing.

Here is what I advocated for a few years ago: a market on a Tuesday morning, selling to family table shoppers first, then closing and reopening an hour later to intermediate buyers. (I do not believe the former will be thrilled to be left with the leftovers after procurers leave or to look at food for their table that has already been out for a few hours.) The later chef market would be by case/box only and only for those farmers that wanted to stay and sell that way..I might also allow one or two distributors of regional foods to set up (clearly defined and not allowed to sell some premium goods that are offered by the local growers) to ensure a true more complete procurement experience. Direct sales between buyers and sellers would still be the purpose. I might also set up a a centralized billing system to help small growers and charge a percentage if they wanted to utilize that service for a short time. (The market organizer didn’t seem to like this idea and viewed this as micro-management, which I had not meant it to be. I saw it as a chance for smaller growers that have not built their interior invoicing systems to benefit from assistance where needed. I have worked with a great many small family farms at farmers markets that have not yet begun to look at back office systems yet, but clearly this organizer has had a different experience-acknowledged.)

I will say that their dismissal of “entertainment” at markets seems a little off, as at times the social bonding at markets is as important as economic transactions. In some types of markets, collecting the largest number of economic transactions is key for the majority of members, and for others it is not the chief reason for attendance.* I might believe the issue of entertainment as a contributing factor of less produce sales if I saw examples of surveys of current markets lower sales corresponding with entertainment activity levels, with variables accounted for. I wonder if what this group has actually noticed is that the percentage of goods that are brought by growers is lower at these markets and suspect that means less sales of healthy food; it might, or it might not!
If that is the case, a correction could be made by creating a new market with less frenetic social activity and restricting non-food or festival goods, yet serving the same community. After all, some of their targeted shoppers no doubt enjoy some level of conviviality in markets. In other words, I might not throw the baby out with the bath water. ( The market organizer sent comments of their intention on doing well-defined events that drive interest and awareness of food, which is absolutely right. Glad to get more information!)
I am also a little surprised at this: “Rent a stall for a day, meet a few chefs and our neighbors and diversify your customer base — simple as that.” I do think regular activity is key to an open air market; regular buyers will spend more money once relationships are established, and I suspect that they will have a hard time keeping out resellers if they allow the coming and going of vendors without any restrictions. (The market organizer seemed to feel strongly that I have this wrong, and I may; My experience tells me it will be tricky but I am all for seeing a pilot that can prove me wrong!)

In any case, the idea of understanding and expanding market types is a good one. I certainly wish this group good luck.

*Economic activity IS a chief reason for all markets-don’t get me wrong- but there are examples of market vendors choosing less busy markets where the total is still below what they might make in a larger market; some small businesses do not thrive under copious amounts of competition. Or, of people who walk to their neighborhood market to see their friends and to buy lunch  or garden plants, but not to shop every time for the week’s produce- you might see this in a market that operates 3-4 times a week especially. In all cases, behavior change is the common goal.

Innovation through your people

Read a recent article on innovation, and I think the point about how to keep innovation alive, even with departing staff (or board) is crucial for market and food organizations to think about.

“Organizations really need to reexamine their management attitudes and practices within a new and more sophisticated framework of innovation. It is important that everyone actively seek out and support the human agents of innovation through, not only the best practices of good management, but also creative initiatives aimed toward innovation at all levels of the business. Assuming a degree of mutual trust and respect has been properly developed, when good people get ready to leave, organizations need to step up their efforts to maintain some sort of ongoing relationship.

A much broader, more human-centered framework for innovation may take on many forms, but could include a range of opportunities to have departing talent on the hook as speakers or mentors within a group. There should also be incentives to build joint ventures with the most entrepreneurial of the bunch, including seed money for new enterprises that feed into market niches of the organization’s endeavors.”

And if you missed this free workshop offer in an earlier post, here it is again:

Maps Made Of Regional Foods

Love these maps; However, wouldn’t it be great if we could change the US map to something less destructive and harder to convert to sugar? Or is that just wishful thinking?


“regional food” maps

Childhood hunger

Link to a NBC news story about kids who only eat in school; this is an epidemic problem within the industrial food system that those of us working to build an alternative system must address in our initiatives. We can assist those working on school food issues by using our place and products to offer comfort and good food with just a little incentive…

How about markets offering a case of free fruit near the end of the day so kids have it for later in the day or offering a market incentive for high marks (think 5.00 token to the A students)? That token, along with bus tokens and all offered during SNAP incentive seasons could allow families to expand their time together and expand their meals.

Tomorrow is another holiday in the New Orleans area and in many other Italian-American areas- St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the island of Sicily and it’s said during the famines of the Middle Ages, residents prayed to St. Joseph to deliver them, and the altars are built in thanks on his feast day, March 19.In the late 19th century, New Orleans was a major port of immigration for Italians from Sicily. Many settled in the French Quarter, nicknamed “Little Palermo” at the time. Devout Catholics promise altars for answered prayers and favors granted, such as healing or safe delivery.The food on an altar is supposed to be donated, or “begged.” Countless people work on the altars: Altar societies, church members, Catholic and non-Catholic spend untold hours, starting at the beginning of the year. Many New Orleaniains try to make a “pilgrimage” to a number of altars on the feast day, to churches, store and even to private homes.


and for those of you looking, those who secretly steal a lemon from a St. Joseph’s Day altar will get a husband. For those not in the search, you can just ask for a fava bean: Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry a fava bean.

St. Joseph's Day Altar

St. Joseph’s Day Altar

Be a sign up genius

Whenever I get to farmers market conferences, I learn a few new things: this time, I learned about from Jaime Moore, Columbus area market manager, Ohio Farmers Market Management Network Board member AND “Central Ohio’s Agricultural Queen” with farm Wayward Seed.

Jaime uses it to manage her three area farmers markets volunteers and based on her to-do list, she needs it…
It looks like a great tool to use (and is free) for market organizations of many sizes and types.