Louisiana Update #9: A post-flood visit with a market farmer

Spent Wednesday morning tagging along with Copper Alvarez on her BREADA Small Farm Fund site visit to Lucy Capdeboscq’s home and farm near Amite. Copper has been crisscrossing the state seeing farmers who are reporting losses from this month’s floods. It’s important to note that BREADA is not focused only on their market farmers needs, but doing their best to get funds to any market farmer across the state.  Although one of Lucy’s daughters had been one of Red Stick market vendors in the past, Lucy sells only at the Saturday Crescent City Farmers Markets down in New Orleans. As a result, she was surprised when Copper contacted her by phone, asked if she had damage and then offered an evaluation visit in case BREADA’s fund might be able to help.

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Of course, no decisions or promises are made during the visits about any support, but as Lucy commented, the contact and visit were very welcome. Crescent City Farmers Market is also reactivating their Crescent Fund and has already had Lucy fill out their short form to receive assistance. The Crescent Fund is hoping to raise enough money to handle the 8 or so CCFM market farmers who have indicated losses, by quickly offering up to $1,500 for their farm needs.

To get to Lucy’s place, one turns off the main road at the permanent sign indicating it is also the direction to the legendary Liuzza strawberry farm. Although their famous berries are still a few weeks from being planted, other products like cucumbers could be seen in some of their fields. When you know that Lucy is a Liuzza by birth , it is clear why she lives amid those fields, (just off Jack Liuzza Lane) on the land deeded her by her parents. She and her late husband Allen raised their children here and kept their land productive even when they took on other professional occupations.

Allen and Lucy joined the Crescent City Farmers Market shortly after it opened. The Caps (as their farm name is known) were a huge hit immediately due to  Lucy’s charming customer service and Allen’s practical sense for growing their traditional yet innovative items. Lucy’s arrangements of zinnias and lilies with her decorative okra, hibiscus buds and her legendary sunflowers have remained market favorites since those early days.  As Poppy Tooker wrote in the 2009 Crescent City Farmers Market cookbook: “Lucy and Al have built a reputation for forward thinking innovation. They were the first to try early harvested rapini and green garlic made so popular in California.”

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Lucy’s okra, used for her bouquets.

To me, the Caps are a quintessential market vendor type: growing traditional and newer South Louisiana products on a small piece of land behind their home within sight of other family members also still farming. As a matter of fact, on one of my visits to the farm years ago, Lucy told me how much she was looking forward to letting a shopper know that next Saturday that their favorite item had been planted that week and would soon be back at market. That deep awareness of specific customer likes seemed to me then (and still) to be the best illustration of the personal touch of direct marketing farming that I have come across in my site visits.

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Update your market

Hopefully, all market leaders know that the USDA directory is the go-to list for farmers markets for those within the department, for market advocates and for researchers and funders. Most media stories about markets use this link to direct shoppers to us. Additionally, all of the evaluation about markets is calculated from this directory and so if your market is not listed, the true impacts of your producers hard work and of your organizational projects cannot be measured.

Do yourself and all of us a favor: take a breather from outside for a few minutes this week and sit down with a cup of coffee or a glass of tea to update the directory for your market. Market vendors: ask your market manager or lead volunteer if they have updated the list recently.

 

Dear Farmers Market Colleagues, 

Get ready, get listed! National Farmers Market week is coming (Aug 7-13) and you want people to find your market! USDA’s Local Food Directories can help you promote your farmers market. This tool will allow shoppers to quickly identify you as a supplier of the local food. It takes less than 10 minutes to add or update your listing.

 

USDA will share the number of farmers markets listed in the directory with media and stakeholders across the country during National Farmers Market Week. We want you to be counted! Time is running out!  New listings or updated information must be entered by July 15, 2016, to be included in the national numbers, so don’t delay.

 

It’s easier than ever to register!  If this is your first time listing your market in the Directory, go towww.usdadirectoryupdate.com to add your market. In less than 10 minutes you’re done.  That’s all it takes.

 

If you do not know if your farmers market is listed, then you can search the National Farmers Market Directory database to find out. If your market was in the Directory last year, we sent an e-mail during the week of June 27th that has a direct link to update your market listing.

 

Even if you listed your market last year, you should check the directory again to make sure all your information is still correct.

 

Here is how the Directory can help you

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory helps you tell customers what they want to know about your market:

  • Where and when your market opens
  • Second and third market locations that you operate
  • What products your market sells
  • If your market  accepts:
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    • Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC-FMNP)
    • Women, Infant and Children, Cash Value Vouchers (WIC-CVV)
    • Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
  • Whether or not the market acceptances debit/credit cards
  • Consumers can even get:
    • Driving directions to the market they choose to visit
    • Map markets within a radius of their current location
    • Get a state or national map of farmers markets

 

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory used by mobile application developers to help consumers find you or other markets across the nation.

 

The Directory attracted over 400,000 page views from users last year.  It’s the “go-to” resource for consumers, researchers, community planners and more to better understand the size of farmers markets across the nation.

 

Don’t delay, please be counted by including your market by July 15.

 

Thank you.

USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory Team

The Seasons on Henry’s Farm

The first full morning back in town after my trip to the IFMA conference was satisfyingly spent on actual labor: helping my pals at Crescent City Books get the store moved to the new location by shelving their cooking and gardening sections. Afterwards, I came back to the Quarter to make a pizza with as many farmers market ingredients as could be crammed on, sided by local ale and all to be enjoyed in the sunny and warm courtyard. As background music from the drums and horns of the pickup band always working for tourists dollars in Jackson Square wafted over the wall, I continued to read a wonderful farming book authored by Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection, Illinois family farmhand, and clearly, top-notch writer.

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I met Terra a few years back at the first IFMA-led Illinois farmers market conference and found her to be one of those doers who think with absolute clarity about the ecological and human impacts of the industrial agricultural age. That type of intellect,  paired with that determined pioneer spirit for building logical new systems, is always encouraging to find in one’s colleagues. I knew that since that conference she had put TLC in other capable hands (as I saw through their presentations and available materials at this year’s conference) and had herself gone back to working with her family farm and written this highly regarded book. So, I was pleased to see it available for purchase at the TLC table this year.

If you want to know what it it means for a direct-marketing family farm in a commodity state to live and work in service to their land and its seasons, as well as to their ancestors and their present community, I suggest you pick up her book, “The Seasons on Henry’s Farm.” It is absorbing, beautifully written and organized to give you a snapshot of the life of a farm, season by season, plant by plant, decision by decision. Like any good farmer, any talk of the food being grown also includes recipes and the ones in the book are so good that I dogeared almost every page with one. I think it should be required reading for every grower, marketgoer, market manager and every municipal and regional leader. In other words, everyone interested in food sovereignty and those influencing its future.

http://www.brockmanfamilyfarming.com/terras-writings

Slow Food Int’l Food Sovereignty Tour with Eddie Mukiibi

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Where & When

will visit five American cities where disparities in power and wealth trigger an inspired use of food to grow leadership, self-reliance and cooperation. Stops on the tour include universities, schools and school gardens, and urban farms.

November 5-18, 2015: New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Petal, and Sacramento. Learn more about the public events listed below on theNational Slow Food Calendar:

  • November 5-7 in New York City
    • Thursday, November 5: Kelso Beer Tap Takeover at the Berg’n Beer Hall (6-8pm)
    • Friday, November 6: A global discussion at NYU followed by light refreshments and Ferrari sparkling wines (5-7pm)
  • November 7-10 in Detroit, MI
    • Sunday, November 8: A discussion at the Spirit of Hope Church about youth and food with Detroit youth activist Kadiri Sennefer followed by soup and bread (6-8pm)
  • November 11-14 in New Orleans, LA
    • Wednesday, November 11: Slow Food New Orleans Happy Hour at Café Carmo (6-8pm) featuring under-utilized seafood species
    • Saturday, November 14: Ring the opening bell at the Crescent City Farmers Market (8am-12pm)
  • November 13 in Petal (Hattiesburg), MS: Invitation-only event
  • November 15-18 in Sacramento, CA
    • Monday, November 16: A Slow Food Fall Mixer to draw solidarity between African and American garden projects (6-8pm)
      More information here

Locally grown coffee

In the years since I joined the farmers market community, many things have changed about my life because of that connection. One of those changes is how I get my news and what kind of news that I now find interesting. An example of this is RFD-TV, which I often catch on a sleepy Sunday morning as I cook up items from my Saturday market. RFD-TV is full of state agricultural updates, national farm reports and even some old-timey music shows like the Porter Wagoner Show. Exciting right?

This week the California Bountiful show featured a farmers market grower from the Santa Barbara area, Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics and the locally grown coffee beans he is selling at farmers markets. Yes, that’s right – coffee beans. This farmer has also experimented with other unusual crops like the caviar lime and the cherimoya; his never-ending enthusiasm for new trials and offering those products to his shoppers is a great example of how innovation and farmers markets are intrinsically connected.

If your market has a vendor who regularly offers new varieties or talks about his or her dreams of adding crops currently unavailable in your region, it may be worthwhile for the market organization to seek funding in partnership with that farmer and local Extension in order to get that item in full production and to promote it once available. It’s important that Extension or an agricultural advocate is involved to ensure that the production snafus that are inevitable to this type of project can be addressed. One of my favorite examples of this work was done in Toronto for their World Crops Project which I wrote about a few years back for Growing For Markets. What was so impressive were the depth of the partnerships assisting in every step of the process and that they focused on involving new citizens who had some experience as farmers in other world regions to introduce culturally appropriate products to Ontario.

Also, I always recommend that markets keep an ongoing list of crops that they’d like to see added to their market and to circulate that list every once in a while to the vendors. Who knows…you might just spark an idea…

http://www.californiabountiful.com

Blue Apron

Many market organizers and vendors have seen the market box concept in action in their region, where a non-profit or an entrepreneur picks up goods from participating producers and sells them as a package or allows for individual selections, packed and delivered. In my area, Good Eggs has the corner on the regional ingredient delivery system right now. Their delivery van is seen at most markets first thing picking up orders from individual market vendors.

Another version of the delivery service of “fresh” but not necessarily local is Blue Apron which delivers the precise ingredients for meals to your door, and adds seasonal recipes and detailed instructions. Hello Fresh is another well-known company using the same model, but Blue Apron is seen as the industry leader and just raised 135 million dollars so is now “valued” at 2 billion dollars.

So do these services help local food?
The truth is that many eaters will never become regular market shoppers but many can be introduced to the joys of seasonal whole foods through these services and so market organizers should at least be aware of them and do their best to work along if it does not impair the direct sales of the market’s vendors. However, we need to be vigilant about communicating the benefits of markets even more in these crowded times.

Blue Apron charges approximately $10 per meal, and makes over 3 million meals every month. Blue Apron now operates two distribution centers with over 1,800 employees, and thousands of customers.
Other facts from their site:
Recipes never repeated in the same year
Meals are 500-700 calories per serving and take 35 minutes to prepare
Ingredients are perfectly pre-measured so there’s no waste
Cook with seasonal ingredients that are fresher than the supermarket
Discover specialty products that are hard to find on your own
Convenient Delivery
Free delivery nationwide
Choose a delivery day that best fits your schedule
Ingredients arrive in a refrigerated box so food stays fresh even if you’re not home

What it’s like to use Blue Apron – Business Insider.

NOLA Vietnamese Farmers on the Beeb

I’ve written about the Vietnamese community in New Orleans in this blog as well as in my New Orleans blog and so am always glad when I see a news story on it, especially one on an international site.

http://bbc.in/1SOnYd0

Some background about our Vietnamese neighbors: the community was settled by the Catholic archdiocese and was made up of (originally) two North Vietnamese fishing villages. The land they settled was largely unused and is in the east along the waterways, where fishers have long made their living. The community kept to itself almost entirely until Katrina when their activist priest Father Vien challenged the city of New Orleans to rebuild as quickly as they wanted.

The Vietnamese fishers were active in the fight to get restitution after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and even more so after the 2010 BP oil spill. It is important to note that for fishers, one of the biggest barriers they have for making a living is the massive amount of seafood imported into the US; the standards that local fishers follow, especially those family fishers that largely operate in the “inside waters,” are not expected of those corporations that operate in China and elsewhere. The inside waters fishing seasons are opened and closed based on the size and quality of the catch and so limit overfishing. It is also important to note that many of the fleets operating in the Gulf in the federally-controlled waters are not primarily family or one-boat fishers but instead large companies scooping up your Red Lobster all-you-can-eat buffet items.

The Viet farming community in the East had been less visible pre-2005 with most of the elders growing food only for themselves and for their small Saturday morning farmers market, held from 6 am to 8:30 am or so on Alcee Fortier Blvd. After 2005, the community began to organize efforts and had grand plans to build a community/cooperative farm along the levee, but had some bad counsel and finally, government agencies as well as some cultural barriers (communication style with funders, generational politics etc)  stalled those efforts.

The Veggi Coop is a wonderful initiative and deserves lots of attention; to be clear, cooperative farming initiatives had been in the works there for some years and farming cooperatives like Mississippi Association of Cooperatives have led the way since the 1970s. So, for the focus of the BBC story to be on socialist or communist fears as the barrier seems like a red herring compared to the real concerns farmers and fishers have about organizing with their competitors, no matter from where they hail.

I don’t want to denigrate this story as I appreciate the attention, but the issues for small-scale farmers whether urban, suburban or rural, is profit, not just sales and long term infrastructure support, not just access to markets. What is exciting to see publicized is the cooperative itself; the addition of another cooperative is extremely welcome and in my mind, creating more of them is necessary in order to grow more regional food systems.

What coops like this have done admirably well is to reduce the costs of marketing; my hope is that these fine folks can gain support to next tackle infrastructure and policy issues and to connect their efforts to the rural farmers and fishers across the Lake Pontchartrain watershed. The Veggi Cooperative is one of the few outright success stories in urban agriculture since Katrina (along with Grow Dat Youth Farm) and both should be celebrated for making it in a very turbulent and uncertain time.

*Here is one of the Go Fish/Go Market/Go Farm films of the 30 or so that I made for Market Umbrella with Kellogg funding. This one was about the Vietnamese community:

See all of the films made in that series here.