May 18 – 24, 2015
“Farmers markets are moveable feasts that mean local and fresh. They epitomize the principle of short supply chains — the distance between producer and consumer.” – Douglas Gayeton
In this week’s Food List, we’ll be exploring this short supply chain and ways that farmers markets empower producers and consumers alike.
Farmers markets are a melting pot for food culture. It brings together urban and rural farmers, and allows a space for community members to engage. In fact, the number of farmers markets have doubled since 2000, all bursting in celebration of local bounty.
The beauty within farmers markets is the opportunity to interact. Rather than struggling for certification to recognize our values and ethics, face certification allows us to discuss and support our principles.
While there remain several key challenges to organizing markets, there continues to be a growing demand for making them mainstream. There are several ways to encourage more producers and consumers to participate in local farmers markets. A newer approach is through acceptance of SNAP and other government assistance programs. Efforts such as this are broadening the reach of farmers markets and allowing for them to serve as a lucrative outlet for many farmers.
Aside from providing communities with fresh, local produce, farmers markets are a hub for building community. They allow for neighbors and friends to partake in the locavore lifestyle and support their local food culture and food producers. Whether you are a farmer or a patron, you can nurture a local food system by participating at your farmers market.
Introduction by Karen Washington, Coordinator of La Familia Verde Farmers Markets
I think that spring has finally arrived. The birds are singing and the trees are bursting at the seams with leaves and flowers. Farmers and gardeners are in the soil sowing seeds and transplants for the upcoming growing season. Many people are out and about gracing the sidewalks of their local farmers market or waiting for their favorite ones to start.
I run the La Familia Verde Market, located in the 17th Congressional District of the Bronx. The market was started because there was a need for produce that was local, fresh, accessible, and affordable. Our market is unique in that it is a collaboration between both urban and rural farmers.
Every Tuesday, from July to November, in Tremond Park we bring the ethnic fruits and vegetables that our consumers long for. From calloloo to papalo, collards to cilantro, we have a signature saying “We Grow ‘Em, You Eat ‘Em.”
At our farmers market, we take SNAP, Health Bucks, Wic Coupons, and both Senior and WIC FMNP (farmers market nutrition program) coupons and, of course, cash. It’s win/win situation for the customer and the farmer. We look at our customers as part of the market, and the market part of our community.
Along with selling produce from our urban and rural farmers, we offer nutritional education through our partnership with Just Food and Stellar Markets. What is the purpose of having good quality food if you don’t know how to cook it? So having cooking demonstrations are extremely important.
When we look at our food system, everyone should have the right to healthy food. We make sure that people who have been labeled impoverished are treated with dignity and respect.
Farmers markets are fun places to try new things, meet new people and explore one’s curiosity. Many farmers markets, such as 14th Union Square, operate year-round. The time is now to shed the cold weather blues and let your palate be your guide.
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years. Since 1985, Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, she has stood up and spoken out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launch a City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors. Karen also serves a supportive role for Just Food and Black Urban Growers (BUGS). This year, she was the recipient of the 2014 James Beard Leadership Award.
Farmers markets have been popping up in abundance in the last decade — in fact, they’ve more than doubled since 2000! Their popularity arises from more than farm fresh produce; farmers markets improve local neighborhoods, provoke awareness about seasons and environmental issues, and build community! In this video, Farmer Nigel Walker, chef Bryant Terry, and others celebrate the joys of farmers markets.
Michael Pollan and Bryant Terry share their perspectives into the benefits of farmers markets.
Title: Face Certification
Location: Provident Organic Farm, Bi-Valve, Maryland
Featuring: Farmer Jay Martin
Farmers are willing to share their ideas and insights, but the current processes and standards behind organic certification are now in place primarily to facilitate the growth of organics as an industry. Such certification stifles innovation by the very farmers who initiated the movement.
How did Jay Martin end up with an organic farm that isn’t certified organic? Three reasons: financial, philosophical, and personal. Jay Martin uses Face Certification as his standard. The direct contact between farmers and consumers creates an environment of trust and faith. As Jay Martin says, “People don’t need to read a piece of paper or a certification to judge what produce they’re buying. All they have to do is look me in the eye.” This motto is reflective of the Japanese word teikei. In English, teikei means “food with a farmer’s face on it.”
Despite the ubiquity and convenience of supermarkets and large retailers, direct-to-consumer sales are growing in popularity–primarily in the form of farmers markets. Direct markets benefit both consumers and producers by allowing them to connect and exchange information about production practices and consumer concerns. “The opportunity to sell direct to customers offers not only a fair price for their products, but also a chance to develop personal relationships with their customer base, many of whom will return week on week.” However, these benefits don’t reach everyone; farmer’s markets face key challenges that hinder broad-scale development of local food systems.
The key challenges to farmers markets are regular accessibility (some markets operate only monthly or seasonally), greater prevalence (more markets means more access for consumers), the myth of high prices (while there are some upscale markets, many are surprisingly affordable), and having a limited range of goods for sale. As we attempt to develop and bolster local food systems in the context of one-stop-shop customers who are used to easy parking and 24/7 availability, making local markets mainstream will require addressing all of these concerns.
Farmers markets are an ancient method used by farmers worldwide to sell their produce directly to consumers. As U.S. food production became increasingly industrialized and specialized, farmers markets were replaced by brokers and supermarkets. During the past couple of decades, however, farmers markets have rapidly regained popularity in the U.S.
Farmers find a number of advantages in selling at farmers markets. By selling directly to their customers without going through middlemen, farmers can charge retail prices for their produce. A farmers market is a good place for new growers who are perfecting production skills and learning which products customers want most. In addition, many growers enjoy the interaction with customers and other vendors, and say, “This is my social life.”
For customers, too, the farmers market is not just a place to buy food, but a social affair. A festive atmosphere helps to bring people to markets, where they can talk with farmers about how the produce was grown and how it can be prepared.
To encourage more producers and consumers to participate in local farmers, NCAT has organized a tip sheet to selling at farmers markets and ways to incorporate electronic Food Stamps. As NCAT emphasizes, this expands access to nutritious local food and support for local farmers.
Location: Market Umbrella’s Crescent City Farmers Market
Found on Page 51 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called “Food Stamps”) provides financial assistance to low or no-income individuals.
Accepting SNAP allows markets to diversify their consumer base by bringing in other sectors of the community; put more money in local farmers’ pockets; boost the regional economy; and helps farmer’s markets grow!
The Crescent City Farmers Market accepts SNAP benefits to give low income shoppers access to locally grown, raised, and produced foods and put more money into local food producers’ pockets. Accepting SNAP requires Market Umbrella, operator of the Crescent City Farmer’s Market, to dedicate a good deal of back office capacity – specifically staff time–to count tokens, cut checks and troubleshoot problems that come with using wireless processing devices in rain, heat, cold and high humidity. It’s all well worth it. The shared knowledge and experience exchanged in farmers markets is priceless. Founder of Market Umbrella Richard McCarthy points out that shopping at a grocery store limits you to a single interact, and it’s with a cashier.
This is a story of how farmers markets turned the tables for a berry farm. Kathy and Matt Unger have been farming berries since 1984. Initially, Matt and Kathy sold their berries to local food processors and canneries. They quickly realized this was not a lucrative outlet. Upon being introduced to their local farmers market, the Ungers realized that not only were they capable of making a living, but the social working environment was uplifting. Now Unger Farms can be found at 17 different locations each week.
This photo essay by SPUR narrates the story of the “Heart of the City Farmer’s Market” located at the Civic Center. This year-round market makes eating in season easy, offering reasonably priced produce, seafood, and household staples with unparalleled freshness and quality. The market has existed for more than three decades, with vendors coming from the Bay Area and Central Valley, and attracting a diverse group of customers, including city workers, local residents and tourists. The “Heart of the City Farmer’s Market” also caters to the low-income population by offering produce that is on par with or cheaper than supermarket prices, and by accepting CalFresh /EBT tokens.
Location: Berkeley Farmers Market, Berkeley, CA
Featuring: Santa Bariani (Bariani Olive Oil), Ted Fuller (Highland Hills Ranch), John Lagier (Lagier Ranch), Eduardo Morrell (Morrell Bakery), Annabelle Lenderink (La Tercera), and Jessica Prentice (The Locavore)
Found on Page 31 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America
A locavore is someone who gives precedence to food that’s locally grown. In many cases this leads the locavore to know who grows his or her food.
Jessica Prentice, a Bay Area chef, food writer, and community kitchen incubator, created the term in 2005. According to her, the term means a person who bases their diet on foods that are grown and produced in the geographic region where they live, are in touch with the seasonality of their food systems, and seek to cultivate relationships with local producers and processors. Locavores also have some kind of hands-on interaction with their food (cooking, gardens, baking, fermenting) either domestically or professionally.
Prentice coined it by first looking at the Latin root for “place” — locus, which is now we get words like “local” or “locomotion” — then coupling it with the vorare, the Latin verb for “to eat” or “to swallow.” It’s also the root of “devour” and “carnivore.” Putting the two roots together gave her locavore.
Most of us love the idea of local food systems, but actually building them takes profound commitment, vision, and perseverance. It is in-the-trenches social change work. Issues of ecological stewardship, financial sustainability, public health, and economic accessibility all compete for your attention and pull a project in seemingly irreconcilable directions. Meanwhile, a globalized system of cheap abundant food ups the ante, singing an unyielding siren song of convenience and accessibility to your potential customs. How do you figure out what to prioritize, when it all matters so much? How do you keep moving forward, when you are bound to fall short of achieving all that needs to be done?
I suppose it helps if you have an angel investor or two; one of the 1% who has seen the light on sustainability and wants to put his money where his mouth is. But won’t he always want to call the shots in the end? It’s his money, after all…To build truly participatory, locally-rooted food enterprises requires deep engagement, not just deep pockets. In my experience, what’s needed is akin to rebuilding the village after the devastation of a military occupation. Not only must the physical infrastructure be recreated from available materials, but hearts need healing and traumas need to be confronted and worked through. And somehow, amid the wreckage, beautiful and delicious food needs to be made and offered to all who hunger for both food and connection.
Difficult at the least; perhaps we ask for a miracle. But we have to hold the hope that it is possible. One of the things that keeps me going is this beautiful quote from Nelson Mandela: “But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distances I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
That Mandela could hold the vision of freedom and justice for decades, against impossible odds, is a lesson in applied hope. If it can be, than we must work to make it so. If apartheid could end, then so can corporate control of our food system. But the first step is not to underestimate the huge task that lies ahead. We are engaged in nothing less than a great human project, ultimately: to figure out how to nourish your community within the context and capacity of a particular ecosystem. What gives me hope is that humans have been doing it for thousands of years, long before this fossil-fuel driven industrial-capitalist bubble. Communities have built local food systems in the midst of desolate deserts, tangled rain forests, and Arctic ice. These village-scale food systems were both sustainable and sustaining. And so we are called to do the same in the wasteland of the industrialized food system, amid the inexorable tangle of corporate profiteering and the uncertainty of climate change. It all starts with an internal shift and a small step: sharing a basketful of eggs laid by backyard chickens; growing a fruit tree on a sunny deck; loading up a granny cart with fresh product at a farmers market; waiting until spring to enjoy asparagus; curing your own salami; fermenting your own sauerkraut. If we all take those small steps, then together we can climb that great hill, and look back, like Nelson Mandela, at the distance we have come, and the journey that lies ahead. Join us!!
Jessica Prentice is a profession chef, author, local foods activist, social entrepreneur, and sought-after speaker on issues related to healing our broken food system. Her book Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection (Chelsea Green, 2006) mythopoetically explores the connection between the environment, human communities, and traditional cycles through food. She is a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth, a community supported kitchen in Berkeley that uses local, sustainable ingredients to prepare nutrient-dense, traditional foods on a community scale. Prentice is also co-creator of the Local Foods Wheel, coined the word “locavore,” and is a regular contributor to Edible East Bay.
Whether you are a producer or consumer your role in building a local food system is critical. Farmers markets are a great start to reinforcing a healthy community and healthy environment.
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