Share with Charlottesville

I hope National Farmers Market Week was productive in your area. I hope your market received great support both from your community’s producers and its shoppers. I hope the media covered whatever event you hosted at your market. Good job everyone on spreading the news of our continued and expanding impacts.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for at least one market last weekend: the Charlottesville City Market, which was open for business on Saturday during the tragic events that happened two blocks away. Vendors and shoppers had courageously decided to show up, knowing the tense build-up over the past few days to the scheduled rally that afternoon. The market was attempting to do once again what it has done for many years: connect and comfort its citizens through the shared love of regional food and the championing of local creative output.

Instead, the name of its town is currently synonymous with riots and murder and the safety of its downtown with its lovely parks and pedestrian mall will be questioned, as it is likely to be threatened by more events like the ones that the world watched with horror last weekend.

I know this market. I have shopped there, gathered data there and discussed the hopes and dreams of its organizers and its vendors when there. It is like a great many of our markets across the country, located on underused weekend space, open to anyone and everyone, full of gorgeous produce and hand-crafted items proudly displayed by its makers. It is managed by the city and has been operating since the early 1970s, making it a “first wave” markets in my timeline of market eras.

This is what one regular market goer, William J. Antholis, Director and CEO of the Miller Center at UVA wrote about the market on this day:

My wife and I took our daughters for a walk around the protests, four blocks south (of their home), to the farmer’s market on the other side of the historic, pedestrian-only Downtown Mall. Immediately, we felt the sense of danger as fully armed white supremacist protestors walked dangerously close to counter-protestors. Taunts were already being hurled in both directions.

When we arrived at the market, we were surprised to find it eerily quiet. The market is usually packed on a Saturday morning. Row after row of beautiful heirloom tomatoes sat undisturbed, in a rainbow array of colors. Bread stands and coffee stands and local artisans had plenty of product, and not enough customers.

Stacy Miller, Farmers Market Coalition’s former Executive Director, has lived in Charlottesville for six years and is among the vendors at Charlottesville
City Market. Nervous about the potential for violence (and anticipating a slow
sales day, she said), she withdrew her participation several days before.

Several other vendors shared messages of solidarity and commitment to be there ‘come hell or high water’ on our public Facebook group. One said, specifically, “We won’t stand down for these terrorists! They come to our town uninvited and unwanted!… We will stand our grounds, with our fellow vendors and friends, against fascism, against xenophobia, against oppression!” While I certainly shared the sentiment, and I made sure to visit the market early to do my own shopping and wish good luck to those still setting up, I was eager to get back home, readying for other plans later that day. A helicopter (which may have been the same one crashing later that day) was already circling loudly overhead and would become my background noise nearly all day, as we barricaded into our little apartment. Thankfully, my husband was not working at the hospital that day, and we updated each other from various media sources, texts, and Twitter as things escalated, with photos of Nazis “indiscriminately” beating black youths in a parking garage. As my son napped (and, presumably, dreamed) 20 feet away, we quietly watched jerky, just-taken videos and photos of the black Charger with Ohio plates plowing through people on the downtown mall four blocks away, at an intersection I walked almost daily.”

When I read those quotes, I have to confess I had a little PTSD from my days of organizing New Orleans’ markets during hurricane seasons. As a matter of fact, on the Saturday before the landfall of Katrina our market manager, Tatum Evans was off so I was in charge of the day. The newscasters had told us on Thursday that the storm was to veer to Florida and any impact in the city would be negligible, so at that point, most locals stopped watching hour by hour updates.
Of course, since I was managing a market, I continued to monitor the weather and noticed the size of the storm and the lack of major movement eastward. I called vendors on Friday and told them they had the option of staying home, with no rent penalties for missing the day. Still, most showed up and as the day wore on, the tension in and around the market was palpable and the small number of shoppers also obvious. Stories of lines forming for gas and of panic rising around the city began to weigh on me and on our Executive Director Richard McCarthy who was calling me every half hour. Finally at 10:30, I closed the market.

I tell you that because as a result of that and other tense mornings in New Orleans, I felt the market’s anxiety in Charlottesville all the way down here in Louisiana, and I am sure many of you did too.

The use of public space for a public market is a heavy responsibility. Not only does one have to manage tender young businesses and seasoned ones side by side, but also shoulder the responsbility of managing risks of slip and falls, theft, disagreements, weather, dog bites and more crop up constantly.
And this last weekend, we saw once again that even when all of that is managed well, the danger around a market can still overwhelm its good intentions and positive vibe. (Update from C-ville market folks: The market was finally forced to close early because of the nearing clashes and the helicopters circling right overhead, making it impossible to communicate.)

I don’t really have a lesson to impart here. I just wanted to send my admiration to the Charlottesville City Market, to its manager Justin and to the entire team at the market, to its hard working vendors and its loyal shoppers and tell them that to me, YOU are Charlottesville. You are what I think about even as your city’s name is plastered across every news site and linked forever to a very, very bad day in American history.
I know that your market will once again become the center of health, wealth and good civic engagement. As a matter of fact, you will become that as early as next Saturday.
People will gather and hug and probably shed some tears in your lot. They will ask vendors how they are and vendors will ask that of their shoppers. Shoppers will tell vendors they hope they remain committed to coming to their downtown market and vendors will ask the same of their shoppers. The very best of what we do with farmers markets will become evident to everyone in Charlottesville over the next few weeks and months. Media will come to show “normal” activity returning and the market will know to embrace that opportunity and use it to encourage people to leave their homes and connect once again on Saturday mornings.
I know this because it is what happened to us during those months of darkness in 2005-2010.
And I know I was changed because of the love and care that the market community showed everyone here. I believe that markets do something that few other entities or ideas do in modern America: they build and keep community across age, background, political divides and socioeconomic status. I am proud to be part of that.
So let’s send out some good community energy to our friends in Charlottesville; I guarantee they’ll appreciate it.

Slow Food Nations sights

Check out my blog post on FMC’s site about what went on in Denver last weekend. Until then, here are some pics of the city and the events.


Larimer Square


Ben Burkett draws a crowd to Coffee and Conversation Sunday

Cometogetherseating16th street mall

temporary seating on the 16th street mall for a separate Prototyping Festival

BCFM Temp tattooFMC

Longmont FM manager Genevieve Gross models FMC tat


Genevieve shows off SF and FMC temp tats


SF snail


Author Deborah Madison tours the market during her Coffee and Conversation event


Alice Waters attends Madison event at the Saturday FM at Union Station


Richard McCarthy and I meet up at SF Nations


McCarthy captures set up team at Mexico tent


Ark of Taste potatoes available to save


BCFM Operations Manager Elyse Wood presents basket of market goodies to Deborah Madison

Denver 16th street mall

Prototyping seating on 16th street mall


SF Snail


Larimer Square


Crowd listens to SF Founder Carlo Petrini

Slow MoneySF@UnionStationFMLocalCatchSFNFermentingChange
SF panel LS Petrini et al

Petrini and translator, Severson, Findley, Waters, Nischan and Johnson take a bow.

Food court or food hall: is there a difference?

I guess to answer my own question I think there may be at least two instructive differences: one is that the food hall is about food and social space and not simply an amenity offered while doing other retail shopping; second, the quality of the food is meant to be more artisanal or at least, of a higher quality than what most U.S. food courts offer. The food hall may be what James Rouse had in mind when he began to develop the festival marketplace decades back. Unfortunately, just like that idea, the food hall will probably soon be used to describe every half-formed pitch for food aggregation that doesn’t really mean the same thing at all.

In one new food hall in New Orleans, the location had served as a public market long ago and is still owned by the city (St. Roch Market), but since 2005, the city had struggled with finding anyone who would manage the site to offer food to the neighborhood; one issue was the price tag needed to renovate the structure that the city wanted to split with the user. Another was the lack of parking and (small) size. Still, in terms of conversation among locals about how it should be used, it was a very hot property. I was even asked to write about this particular site  before the food hall idea had been fully formed:

Finally, the city did a smaller renovation on their own and chose a young entrepreneur to develop it from the white box they offered. Since its opening, it has become a bit of a lightning rod about trendy food places and gentrification. It has its defenders, mostly millennials and visitors to the city, who use it for easy-to-plan group meet-ups with food and drink.

Some of the original group of vendors chosen have already moved on and some of their issues led one alternative paper to accuse the operators of cronyism. Other vendors have moved to other locations better suited to their demographic or operational needs.
Then there was a late-night graffiti spree caught on video that started another round of pros and cons on the site’s current use while on the edge of one poor neighborhood and directly across from a more gentrified one.
I have heard that since the opening of St. Roch the operator is being asked to develop 2-3 more of these food halls, with at least one in New Orleans and another in Florida.

Clearly, this trend requires some watching for food organizers and maybe some local analysis.
BI story on food halls


Healthy Food Retail Act-Louisiana

For the second year in a row, the Governor and legislators included $1 million in the budget to fund the Healthy Food Retail Act, bringing the total allocated to date for the state’s fresh food financing initiative to $2 million. The funding is state-allocated Community Development Block Grant funds.

From the 2016 statute:

D. (1)  To the extent funds are available, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, in cooperation with public and private sector partners, shall establish a financing program that provides grants and loans to healthy food retailers that increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other affordable healthy food in underserved communities.

(2)  The department may contract with one or more qualified nonprofit organizations or community development financial institutions to administer the program described in this Section through a public-private partnership, to raise matching funds, market the program statewide, evaluate applicants, make award decisions, underwrite loans, and monitor compliance and impact.  The department and its partners shall coordinate with complementary nutrition assistance and education programs.

(3)  The program shall provide funding on a competitive, one-time basis as appropriate for the eligible project.

(4)(a)  The program may provide funding for projects such as:

(i)  New construction of supermarkets and grocery stores.

(ii)  Store renovations, expansion, and infrastructure upgrades that improve the availability and quality of fresh produce.

(iii)  Farmers’ markets and public markets, food cooperatives, mobile markets and delivery projects, and distribution projects that enable food retailers in underserved communities to regularly obtain fresh produce.

(iv)  Other projects that create or improve healthy food retail outlets that meet the intent of this Chapter as determined by the department.

(b)  Funding made available for projects included in Subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph may be used for the following purposes:

(i)  Site acquisition and preparation.

(ii)  Construction costs.

(iii)  Equipment and furnishings.

(iv)  Workforce training.

(v)  Security.

(vi)  Certain pre-development costs such as market studies and appraisals.

(vii)  Working capital for first-time inventory and start-up costs.

(c)  A restaurant is not eligible for funding under this Chapter.

(5)  An applicant for funding may be a for-profit or a not-for-profit entity, including but not limited to a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, cooperative, a nonprofit organization, nonprofit community development entity, university, or governmental entity.

The Blue Zones Solution: Secrets of the World’s Healthiest People

Dan Buettner quotes:

While working in the “Blue Zones” areas, I found that having a strong sense of purpose, a circle of healthy friends and living in walkable neighborhoods are all as important as a good diet. But I also realized that food is the entrance ramp for better living. So, I started this book by distilling all of the diets of longest-lived people into one über diet of sorts.


…But I can tell you that the longest-lived are getting 95% of their calories from plants and only 5% from animal products.

No matter where you go, the snack of choice is nuts.  People who eat nuts live 2-3 years longer than non-nut eaters.  But remember, they are moving all the time, not sitting at desks, in cars or watching TV.