The Amazing Bureaucracy of Burning Man

Any and all pop-up community efforts interest me and the Burning Man phenomenon is certainly an excellent example. As a long-time “Deadhead”, I learned to embrace outsider culture, bartering, the gift economy, open-source technology, and more in that community. All market leaders would do well to examine these pop-up efforts too.
What was amazing about the DH culture (especially before MTV began) was the level of self-organization and civic energy contained and managed at these massive events. This was possible because of simple and clear rules that somehow everyone knew about. That is how it ties into markets then and now; to learn how we can maintain some informality and innovation while still offering a standardized approach to make it easier for vendors and for shoppers to know what is what.

One example of their system approach was the Grateful Dead’s ticketing system, long done by mailing a request to the band’s office through the little San Rafael CA post office. The system was called Grateful Dead Ticketing Service (GDTS) and was begun in order to diversify their audience to those who could not camp out overnight for tickets or were not near to a ticket office. Mailers often decorated their envelopes in the hopes that their artwork would make their request more appealing; the band maintains a fabulous archive of many of the best of those envelopes that they received. The mail-in process was still agonizing as most of the tour dates had more requests than tickets and so a random selection was used to select who received tickets. And in order to be eligible, the details for mailing in your request had to be followed EXACTLY.  Remember this was long before the days of internet and its easily found instructions. my memory was that other Deadheads sat down and taught me how to mail in for tickets.

The second area where the Dead innovated was a system for allowing concert-goers to tape their shows. From a Rolling Stone story about the band and its embrace of technology:

Since the band started officially sanctioning the practice in 1984, the tapers built a worldwide music distribution system that sustained the Dead and helped launch bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, and dozens more. This network (and modern service-oriented variations like NYC Taper) presaged Napster by a generation, survived the radical remaking of the recording industry and laid the foundation for open online file trading.

That is exactly the kind of crowdsourced approach to rules that many markets maintain with humor and tact which keep them out of tense situations and keep them as lively as these communities are decades after their origin.

Maybe we can also learn from these communities by figuring out how we can maintain an online archive of market stories, recipes and unique cultural moments somewhere too.

BM is another example of organization, this time by a later generation with a different aim that should also be studied. This article is a great example of their planning for the site, even if the author took a slightly cynical view of it, even calling the give and take he and his friends have to answer  “bureaucracy”. I’d argue that word is not accurate as the planning and management is led by the community,  is quite flexible in the design stages and anyone with a clipboard can explain why the rules exist: The Amazing Bureaucracy of Burning Man – CityLab

By the way, inclusive planning, flexibility, and transparency are also rules that well-run many markets abide by and yet some are still accused of bureaucracy by those who do not want to engage during planning or understand how the community safety can sometimes need to limit personal expression.

Here is an example of how members of these pop-up feel-good events can step up to reduce the waste of these massive events and make an impact elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

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So long, NOLa’s Hollygrove farm shop

Hollygrove Market’s debt forces closure of post-Katrina bright spot

I’ve been waiting for this for some time. The design of this program has depended on grants and at times, on the kindness of the neighborhood leadership, and as is the case far too often, on goodwill to carry them through. The costs (some of which are outlined in Paul Barricos’ thoughtful and honest interview in ensuing articles which indicate that the cost of rent and insurance were significant for a non-profit and doesn’t even mention the cost for utilities, which you can imagine…)
More importantly, the original idea was undercut almost immediately by for-profit versions of delivery services and by offering products with too little profit margin to make it. I also commend Paul and his Hollygrove CDC team who have done their best to learn about farming and retail as best they could and stepped up to provide an outlet for local farmers, much like Sankofa has been doing in the lower 9 section of New Orleans for about the same length of time.
As local farmers Grant and Kate Estrade of Local Cooling Farm said today, think of the farmers who sell through this outlet and do your best to not penalize them because of this closure.

For me, the lesson is that community initiatives around food and farming in an urban environment are very very challenging, especially when supply and demand needs are not balanced and the retail food sector decides there is enough business to co-opt the idea behind these community efforts. As this may become public again(!), I will also share that when this leadership opened Hollygrove “farm” in 2008 ish, I sent a strongly worded message to them that I felt the mission and message were muddy and the farmers and harvesters would end up losing through their plan to become an aggregator and distributor without understanding the costs or scope of such an endeavor. Sadly, that is exactly the case.

Legal help for markets

 

Over the last 4 years, different students under the leadership of Jamie Renner at Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems took the questions and issues that NOFA-VT and FMC had collected over the years in order to research what markets had done in that situation and what the legal ramifications would be for each issue. Dozens of market leaders offered input and a few even let us go through their files or be interviewed to find case studies or to offer expert advice.

Laurie led us with her indefatigable good humor, constant layers of gentle questions and a firm belief in her team: Claire and the aforementioned Jamie,  Gabe Halberg at Dadra Design, Mike Custode and Sarah Danley with the gorgeous design of the site and then Emily Spiegel and Lihlani Nelson who very ably took the reins over the last year to do tons of final edits (with the help of the brilliant and speedy Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons), design the dissemination of the tool and lead the project to its conclusion.

Jen Cheek, FMC’s Executive Director popped in when she was able to offer advice on content, to review the design using her extensive graphics skills and to link the CAFS team to resources, especially within the SNAP section whenever needed.

Erin Buckwalter at NOFA-VT was our constant project and content leader, always ready with calm wisdom and wry jokes, yet firm in her direction about what she and I agreed was vital to include in the toolkit.

Now in 2018, we have a resource that we are all rightly proud to share with markets and vendors. The site is well laid out and offers enough detail to steer folks in the right direction and to assist their legal team in understanding what is available already and what are possible issues.

I hope that we can continue to build this toolkit in future iterations and expand on other questions raised since we began this project in 2014. Please let us all know how the toolkit is useful to you and how we might best increase its use if new funding comes our way.

 

https://farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org/

 

 

 

 

Day carts bring new faces to Reading Terminal Market

“We found ourselves in this incredibly competitive environment where you want to test new concepts and give customers something new,” Gupta said. “We needed a way to bring in some of these hyper-local entrepreneurs, these small-batch products that you can find at farmers’ markets. And the way to do that was to lower the barriers to entry.”

The wheeled carts, left over from the market’s days as a train station, already were being leased to a few businesses that needed no refrigeration — like Lansdale’s Boardroom Spirits and newcomer Birdie’s Biscuits — for use as pop-up stands in the center of the building. The feedback from customers and owners was good, Gupta said, so last fall he and members of his team started working with the Health Department on turning the former Wan’s Seafood into a flexible space for multiple kiosks. The space has no built-in cooking station, but other than sinks, refrigeration, and the proper permits and licenses, it turned out little was needed for businesses to start selling ready-made food.

http://www.philly.com/philly/food/reading-terminal-market-day-carts-20180124.html

Using EBT

 

by Janelle Harris

The first time I used food stamps, I cried. It was a predawn Saturday morning and I had purposely gone to the grocery store early to avoid pulling out the EBT card in the sight lines of people I worried would judge me. I felt like an imposter among self-paying customers.

 

Tension and discouragement hang dense in the air as soon as you walk into the human resources office. You’re at the mercy of a system powered by a comedy of inefficiencies. Lines form early. Waits are long. Paperwork disappears. Your life is ultimately laid bare in document form, fanned out in front of the person whose job it is to decide whether you’re optimally managing the finances of your household and whether you and your people deserve help from the government. It’s a reductive and demeaning process. The negative energy there makes even tiny babies cry.

 

…Poverty is crazy-making. It changes you, snatches your good common sense, and consumes your thoughts. You wake up thinking about being poor, spend your days plotting how not to be poor, and go to bed worrying about the consequences of being poor. You’re high-strung, easily provoked, always looking for answers. You snap on your children. You snap on your boos and baes. You snap on God. There are moments — long, inward-facing moments — when no scripture, no motivational meme, no inspirational quote can quell the urgency of not having enough.

 

 

story link

People mapping via Google et al.

This link is to a piece by Richard Campanella, an extremely popular New Orleans geographer who has written many books on the New Orleans region. He has become the regional go-to guy describing how this place shapes its people and how its people shape the place.

When I saw this piece on how he uses Google Street View to analyze a place better, I could see how it could reach beyond the world of academics and into the DIY world of farmers markets and public space.

How we measure markets is important yet we don’t have the luxury of choosing between all of the data collection methods that researchers in a controlled environment have available to them. Market organizers don’t always have access to teams of eager data collectors and analysts such as those a university professor can quickly assemble among their students. Because of those limitations, the more adventurous we are in seeking the most appropriate methods*, the better chance we will find the right suite of tools for our needs. The use of Google Street View could clearly assist a market searching for a new location, or help to decide how to lay out the market better or unveil the current uses of the area around a market in order to find program partners. Imagine using it for showing impact: taking a screenshot of an empty litter-strewn lot and then a year later showing photographs of that same area with a vibrant market now popping up. That set of pictures is almost enough for a market’s first-year annual report!

Campanella’s method is simple and could be easily used on a smaller cross-section than he did for New Orleans. Basically, he chose points across the area from 2016 to drop “Pegman” to see a 360-degree view of the area. Noting the density and activity of street life, graffiti, and bicycles, he then compared it to the earliest available imagery from 2007.

While Google Street View images are not regularly used in scholarly research, they can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional social-surveying methods, under the right conditions. Public health experts have used Street View as a neighborhood auditing tool, and have found it to be a reliable indicator of broader trends and patterns, if not fine targeted phenomena. And researchers at the MIT Media Lab used pairs of geo-tagged street images to “map the inequality of urban perception” by soliciting online input about which scene looked “safer,” “more upper class,” and “more unique.” Urban planners Reid Ewing and Otto Clemente assessed the viability of Google Street View and its competitors Bing Streetside and Everyscape for counting pedestrians, compared with live street surveys. They found that human raters were reliable in online counting and that Google Street View had the strongest correlation with live counts (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.864 on a scale of zero to one). Other researchers have proposed methods to remove people from images automatically, which would enable more systematic studies. Until such tools are widely available, researchers will have to devise sampling strategies, set up protocols, and manually deploy that invaluable remote assistant, Pegman..

I hope to see this method utilized by some markets in 2018.

*If you are searching for current methods already in use to measure your market, do check out the tool we have been working on for the last few years at FMC called Farmers Market Metrics. The collection methods are free and available to anyone who wants to use them and do not need an active account. The good news is that the Metrics Program will be available to markets in early 2018 which will be explained via webinar announced soon.
Also, check out the FMC Resource Library for the piece on visitor count methods that I did recently, and keep an eye for the visitor survey article I am doing now, which will also be posted to the Resource Library.