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Farmers' Markets & Slow Food Movement
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Feste



Joined: 03 Apr 2005
Posts: 32
Location: Berkeley, CA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, so I have a minor quibble about the farmers' markets in my area:

I used to live in L.A. and loved the farmers' markets there; really great, reasonably priced, unusual organic produce that could not be had at the local Albertsons, as well as amazing prepared food (Rainey, I hope you have had the tamales from Corn Maiden- I dream of them.).

Since moving back up to Berkeley, I have been completely bowled over by a couple of independant grocery stores here. The produce is great and so many things are offered in bulk!

The trouble is, while I still go to the farmers' market occasionally, they typically have the exact same farmers selling the exact same produce as the grocers, but at twice the price! I'm all for supporting local farmers, and I like the idea that all of my money is going to them rather than a supermarket taking a cut, but it feels like the original intention has been corrupted. (By greed? I don't know.) The farmers' markets here seem to be more posh than I would like, as if by being in Berkeley, the home of Alice Waters, everyone should relish buying from farmers implicitly, without questioning the politics of the market itself.

That being said, I still love the format of the market, and there is some really great prepared food being sold there.

(Incidently, I am going to be in L.A. in August, and I am purposely coming two days early so I can go to my beloved Hollywood farmers' market! Oh, I miss it so!)
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Feste- Oh yes indeedee to the Corn Maiden tamales! What excellence and what variety. Surely they could ship frozen ones to Berkeley!? Dry ice is wonderful stuff.

What day is the Hollywood farmers' market? Sounds like a fine spot for a rendezvous, no? I've never been to that one and it could be fun to see what they've got that we don't have further out in the valley.
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Pesto Man



Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 185
Location: New Orleans Louisiana

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Feste, Not knowing the particulars on your situation, I will not comment on them. But I will say that that it almost impossible for the small independant farmer to compete with the big boys on a price alone basis. Even when you factor in the middlemen and the cost of transporting produce across the country, the sheer economy of scale of the Archers Daniels Midland type of operation is something a local farmer with just a few acres cannot compete with, Therefore matters of freshness, taste, and variety, have to be taken into consideration.

There also more considerations than price alone that have be considered when computing the cost of an item. There the long-term costs to the environment that massive ammounts of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, can have. Also to consider, are the degradation of water tables that massive irrigation brings, as well as the social costs that the elimination of the family farmer brings. (I cannot help but believe that the fact that there are more people in prison than living on farms are somehow related).

Alll of this being said, it is possible that some are exploiting the inherent hippness of the environment, for personal gain. Be make sure that your market has strict guidelines concerning thecommercially produced goods" that call themselves "farmers markets" If you suspect that someone is taking mass produced produce and marking it up Report them!!! If this dosen't help, go to another market, or help form another one!!!!!!

sorry for the rant guys..
Embarassed
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Feste wrote:
Okay, so I have a minor quibble about the farmers' markets in my area:


The trouble is, while I still go to the farmers' market occasionally, they typically have the exact same farmers selling the exact same produce as the grocers, but at twice the price! I'm all for supporting local farmers, and I like the idea that all of my money is going to them rather than a supermarket taking a cut, but it feels like the original intention has been corrupted. (By greed? I don't know.) The farmers' markets here seem to be more posh than I would like, as if by being in Berkeley, the home of Alice Waters, everyone should relish buying from farmers implicitly, without questioning the politics of the market itself.


Feste: We have the same problem in Chicago, with the IDENTICAL VENDORS from the IDENTICAL FARMS selling their wares at 10-25% MORE at the richer area Farmer's Markets!!! Shocked Talk about ruining the experience! Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil

Not only have I experienced this, but many friends of mine, too. We'll buy a bushel of apples in Lincoln Square for $10.00 but one mile South, in $$$Lincoln Park$$$, the same bushel of apples sells for $15.00. When one of my friends questioned the seller, they actually dropped the price for them, but asked them to not mention the price difference to friends between the locations.

Say what???!!! The two spots are only a frickin' mile apart! This isn't the 1600's and we're traveling between towns on oxen!

So, now I go ONLY to the Farmer's Markets in Blue Collar areas where there's less chi-chi cheese and wine and more emphasis on vegetables and fruit.

Coming from farmers, I have the right to say, "There's honest ones and dishonest ones, same as the general population. Just because you're a farmer, doesn't make you noble; you just have dirtier finger nails at the end of the day."
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VictoriaLH



Joined: 17 May 2005
Posts: 87
Location: Madison WI

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the fortunate things about living in Madison (and after enduring the
Arctic winters and the tropical summers, we are always searching for the fortunate) is the weekly Farmers Market. We have the largest in the country, over 300 vendors, set amongst the backdrop of the lovely Capitol square downtown. We even got a write-up in Gourmet this month by Deborah Madison! We take my wheelchair bound Mum every week and there is so much to choose from for a place with such a short growing season, anything from artisanal cheeses, homemade pasta, pickles, jams, flowers, honey, Amish baked goods, plants, and of course a dizzying amount of fresh fruits and veggies. As mentioned by other posters, the local restaurants use these markets heavily, and there are also smaller neighborhood markets popping up all over town on other days of the week. Right now its strawberry season, so they are cheap and delicious!
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carriedean



Joined: 27 Jun 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Brooklyn, NY

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:05 pm    Post subject: Local growers Reply with quote

It sounds like this is happening all over the place. The slow food and local food movements have been co-opted by the rich as a symbol of social status, rather than just a health or aesthetic thing. The local growers around NYC have been able to drive up their prices, since many of the toniest restaurants in town develop relationships with them. I'm glad to know that the local $20/person pizzeria exclusively gets their tomatoes from such-and-such farms 15 miles away, but when I try to buy tomatoes from that farm at the Park Slope Food Co-op (the oldest in the country), they're some unbelievable price per pound. I understand that the reason these foods are so good is that they are lovingly cared for, but, especially in urban areas, there are plenty of rich people who love to pay as much as possible for their tomatoes. The growers know this, and start marketing their produce as a luxury item.

I guess I'm saying that no one is exempt from the siren call of higher profits, especially if you can still grow in the traditional way. In NYC, healthy local food has been co-opted by the wealthy and has become a way for people to cement class boundaries. When you go to a blue-collar neighborhood, the grocery stores have some mass-produced potatoes and bananas, and sometimes no other produce. It's a class thing. I would rather eat delicious heirloom tomatoes every day of the week, but as long as they're selling for several dollars per pound, it has to be a once-a-month expenditure.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Local growers Reply with quote

That's exactly what's happened in Chicago, which is why I rarely go to the Farmer's Markets HERE, any longer. Every stupid Saturday morning, like lemmings, the perfectly coiffed and Buns-of-Steel crowd load up with a Starbucks, the Dog-of-the-Moment and their darling $1000 baby pram, and stroll to the Farmer's Markets. They must think that life is a Photo Op, for a shopping trip isn't complete unless you or your husband (or the top of the baby's pram) is loaded with bouquets of lilies and roses, along with some bottles of wine, some cheese and a few fresh vegetables. It's THEE "IN" place to be seen by your neighbor.

I remember that only 5 years ago, fleets of old Polish and Mexican ladies would head down to the markets for bushels and pecks of peppers and apples to dry or can. No longer. Now, if there's apples in the house, they are sitting in an Indonesian bowl on top of the Pottery Barn's latest offering.

I shop in Indiana and Michigan now. Chicago's North Side Farmer's Markets have become too Paris Hilton for my tastes.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 11:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Local growers Reply with quote

carriedean wrote:
In NYC, healthy local food has been co-opted by the wealthy and has become a way for people to cement class boundaries. When you go to a blue-collar neighborhood, the grocery stores have some mass-produced potatoes and bananas, and sometimes no other produce. It's a class thing. I would rather eat delicious heirloom tomatoes every day of the week, but as long as they're selling for several dollars per pound, it has to be a once-a-month expenditure.


carriedean- I don't know your area and I (believe me, I have STRONG feelings about this!) don't want to let clotilde's lovely forum devolve into an ugly diatribe on where American culture has gone off line.

Sometimes we gotta do an end run around these things. Can you grow a plant on a balcony or rooftop? I don't ask that in vein -- I have known a NYC apartment dweller who grew tomatoes on her 23rd floor balcony and developed quite an interested audience for her saga. Is there a plot in a community garden nearby? Are there others who are looking for something better? Could you combine your efforts? For example, if you grew a tomato plant, is there someone else who could grow a cuke and you could share? If you live in a building with an accessible roof top, would your owner/board let you set up raised beds in exchange for a share of the garden yield?

If those aren't options, could you learn to bake killer bread or cookies or something and trade that with one of those growers for a fair price on produce? Is there a magazine or newspaper who would take a look at the issue -- like the Garden Writers, for example? It sounds like there's a theme to this in different areas of the country and that interest in addressing this problem might be widespread enough for them to take it on. Is there a school or community rehabilitation project that would look at setting up a garden product to provide produce at more affordable prices?

I wish I could share. I genuinely do! But I think it's time for us all to think about how we support one another in livable lives. I'm pulling for you to find options.
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carriedean



Joined: 27 Jun 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Brooklyn, NY

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 12:28 am    Post subject: Making Time Reply with quote

Rainey -- You are right; there are ways that one could, with a great deal of time, effort, and cooperation, establish a community within which one can afford good produce. To some extent I'm doing that since I joined the Co-op. I have time to work there, so I get to pay less for my farm-raised stuff than most people. The class problem is, I think, less of a money issue than a time issue.
I'm lucky -- although I earn little as a college instructor, I do have time to do the Co-op thing. Therefore I can at least afford a nice head of locally grown red-leaf lettuce per week. But I've seen so many poor people, attracted by the good food and low prices, get kicked out because their work and family obligations are time-consuming. Gradually, the place gets taken over by yoga-mommies with nothing to do all day.
I'm just saying that the options for getting good food are either (a) get rich, or (b) set aside a lot of time, neither of which are options for a lot of people. It seems if something more widescale could be done to help small-yield farms (tax breaks?), there wouldn't be such a dire need for astronomical prices.
Anyhow, I don't mean to make this a big political thing. I just want to know where the buck stops with the prices for good healthy food. Is it like real estate? Is there a farm-food "bubble"?
In the meantime, it is good to know that so many local farms have found restaurant partners and a mainstream consumership. I think that revolution is just going to spread and spread. (I mean, seriously, once you've had this locally-grown red-leaf lettuce I'm about to go purchase, everything else tastes like tire rubber. Mmmmmm.)
best,
c
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Pesto Man



Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 185
Location: New Orleans Louisiana

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 4:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the end of today, some 219 American Farms will have gone out of existence. Its not that today was special in any way, no America has been losing farms at this rate for the last 50 years! (for those without a calculator handy that is a net loss of 3996750 , yes boys and girls, that is almost FOUR MILLION farms, in that last 5 years alone (that Dairy Queen has noted a change in the Chicago Mkts) that is over Three Hundred Thousand fewer farms!!! Most of which have become condos, shopping malls, and exclusive housing developments. The independent family farmer is becoming an endangered species. Taking his place is the vast corporate conglomerate factory farms that are highly efficient, but have long-range social and ecological implications. (not to mention that everything tastes like cardboard)

For those remaining, the market place is rapidly changing, the solutions and strategies that worked 5-10 years ago just no longer cut it. Selling bulk at cheaper prices is by eliminating the middle man is no longer a viable option as there no longer is a middle man! Most Farmers I know have been cut of the local grocery chains (hyper marts like Wal-Mart buy in much larger quantities, and at a price that the smaller farmer can not come close to matching.) To survive, he has to find a different niche for his wares, boutique crops, value-added products like cheeses, and preserves (and yes, pesto) . That these are purchased by those with greater available income is I guess inevitable. After all if it was simply a matter of price the little guy would lose almost every time That these products have caught the eye of the “fashionable” may seem unfair but it is also probably the one thing keeping a lot of folks afloat!!

In other words, I don’t see anyone getting rich!! I realize this may vary from place to place but most folks I know are hanging on. If there are any “obscene profits” to be had, please show them to me!

That is not to say that all Farmer’s markets are some sort of elitist only “Fortnum’s and Mason’s” for the rich and fashionable. Ours has a good mixture of all income levels. Fresh produce vouchers for low income senior citizens help put good food in needy mouths, and we recently starting taking food stamps!!
But if other, more wealthy folks want to contribute to my well being, buddy, I will not turn it down!!

Once again, I have started preaching, SORRY!!!!
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Shanti



Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 32
Location: Duluth, MN

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Carriedean - have you by chance looked into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) food "basket" or food shares?

The jist of this is you sign up/pay for "shares" from a local producer for a varity of homegrown veggies, eggs, and possibly meat (depending on what they have to offer and how much you wish to pay. Then, once a week (or every other week - again depending on what schedule they offer) you go and pick up your basket of goodies.

I know that sometimes costs can be shocking, but I know of folks who split share then divy up the food as most often it's waaaayyy more than one couple can consume comfortably in one week.

I'll see if I can't dig up some more information on this, as it's a great way to work directly with the producer.
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Shanti



Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 32
Location: Duluth, MN

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, here was an article I found from April of this year:


The Farmers' Market Hits Your Doorstep

New Food-Delivery Services Offer Organic Produce;
Eating a Box of Radishes
By KATY MCLAUGHLIN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 13, 2005; Page D1

It's one of the stalest marketing terms in the book: "farm fresh." But today, a new crop of food-delivery services is promising just that.

A variety of small, fast-growing operations are carving out a niche business by offering groceries that have traveled quickly from the fields to the dinner table. Typically the services bypass the traditional warehouses that dominate the food-distribution system, and instead buy straight from farmers during the growing season.

The outfits take many forms -- some are Web-based delivery companies, while others are essentially membership clubs run by individual farms, known as Community Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs.

Members pay an up-front fee, and in return get a box of fresh produce every week. Some programs even boast that their carrots and tomatoes were picked only a few hours before they reach customers' hands. In addition, the produce can be less expensive than specialty grocery stores offering similar goods.

The delivery operations are growing quickly. Currently, at least 1,200 farms nationwide offer CSAs, according to the Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources in Chambersburg, Penn. That's more than double the number listed by the organization six years ago. One CSA launched last month by Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, which operates on a New York estate formerly owned by the Rockefellers, has already sold out its 60 memberships -- at $800 a pop. For that amount, members get a large box of fancy produce, including arugula and radicchio, for 20 weeks a season. Other CSAs charge much less; Hog's Back Farm in Arkansaw, Wis., charges $450 for 18 weeks of fruits and vegetables, for example.

Arrangements like these do make some demands on consumers, however. Most CSAs don't deliver; instead, consumers must collect their boxes at the farm or a designated pick-up point. Some farms also require members to pitch in and help pack and distribute the boxes for a few hours each season.

And if the farm's strawberry crop is a bust, but there's a bumper crop of kale, you had better like kale. Kathleen Weldon, an administrative assistant who joined a CSA in Cambridge, Mass., recalls last year receiving one box that was almost all greens and radishes. "It does push the boundaries of your culinary expertise," she says. "I didn't know you could cook radishes."

The booming popularity of CSAs and other providers is the latest evidence that consumers are in the market for both organic and specialty produce, and are willing to change their shopping habits to get it. In recent years, specialty produce has become increasingly available not only at gourmet chains and traditional supermarkets, but also farmers' markets. In five years, the number of farmers' markets nationwide rose nearly 30%, to 3,706 in 2004, according to the Department of Agriculture.

A share in a CSA usually costs from $300 to $500, according to the Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources. It operates a national directory of CSAs on its Web site www.csacenter.org (click on "Directory"). For more search options, there is a listing of resources at www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa.

Joining a CSA is generally straightforward. Contact the provider, and it will usually provide a membership form that lists prices and describes what a member can expect to receive.

Farms aren't the only ones angling for the farm-fresh dollars. A handful of online grocery stores are specializing in direct-from-the-fields food. Westsideorganics.com in the San Francisco Bay Area, which delivers organic groceries to consumers' doors, says it has doubled its customer base during the past six months. Meanwhile, other specialized produce-only delivery services are reporting steady growth.

In May, Freshdirect.com, an Internet grocery store operating in the New York metropolitan area, plans to roll out a mobile version of a farmers' market. The company says it has struck deals with a number of farms that ordinarily sell in New York City's farmers' markets. Now they will sell part of their crops to Freshdirect.com, which will market it as "local" produce on its Web site.

The traditional route for supermarket produce is from the farm to a truck, then to a warehouse, then onto the storage room at the back of a supermarket, and finally out onto store shelves.

Small delivery companies say they are able to knock several days off the supply chain because they buy directly from farmers and deliver to consumers, without detouring through warehouses. "There's virtually no handling," says Ash Sud, president of Westside Organics.

Small companies that specialize in farm-fresh product can deliver on their promise at least some of the time, says Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Perishables Group, a consulting firm that specializes in perishable groceries. That's because many supermarkets are so large that they are often forced to truck in supplies from big production farms in California or Mexico. But in the past 10 years, many supermarket chains have greatly improved freshness by handling produce at the right temperatures and reducing the time it spends in the warehouse and storage room, says Mr. Lutz.

But some produce isn't fresh no matter who sells it, says Mr. Lutz. For example, apples are almost always picked in the fall and stored in cold rooms during the rest of the year.

A recent test of five services that deliver a weekly box of organic produce to the door indicates that organic produce has come a long way since it first developed a reputation for looking more pockmarked and less perfect than conventional produce. All five companies delivered fresh, shiny fruits and vegetables. But the services varied widely on price (one charged $6 a pound for a mix of items) as well as convenience. (For more results, see nearby chart.)

And some of the companies have some primitive aspects. To register for automatic payment with one service, lovedelivery.com, we had to first snail-mail an imprint of our credit card, which we were told to make by putting it under a sheet of paper and rubbing it with a pen. But once we were signed up, the produce -- including lots of blackberries and exotic mushrooms -- worked out to be a bargain.

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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like your ideas Rainey. There's an article in yesterday's New York Times about low-cost housing in New York. A woman had a budget of $275,000 to buy or $1600/month to rent. That gave her a studio of 12 x 19 feet with a bathroom and kitchen. Imagine living in a home of size 12 x 19 feet?

The article showed places she visited from the outside. None had a balcony. Hence, no tomatoes or cucumbers.

The big food producers have made food so inexpensive. Some claim that's why people are fatter. Food is too cheap and pleantiful. Good for some and bad for others.

Think I just want to say that we have more options. We can find low prices at Wal-Mart. We can find fresh produce other places. Depends on how you want to spend your money. I think it is still possible to create your own ideal world, though it may mean you have to use your imagination.

I don't think this letter is very coherent. Not sure I understand what I'm trying to convey. Oh well.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm glad we agree about some things, sarape, but Wal-Mart will NEVER be one of them! I have NEVER shopped in a Wal-Mart and I NEVER will. They are destroying American companies one by one and will probably, ultimately, be one of the identifiable entities that undid the American economy.

Not to mention how truly RAPACEOUS, HORRIBLE and EXPLOITIVE they are with their employees. I would NEVER encourage anyone to shop at a Wal-Mart. The money one saves short term will cost jobs and the American future in very short order.

Besides, it's hard for me to imagine that they have one natural, authentic thing offered for sale.

My deep and sincere apology to EVERYONE for getting on a soapbox. I promise you I keep myself from making political statements every single day but I'm not able to let endorsements of Wal-Mart go unchallenged. I've said it and I'm done now. I won't do it again. I promise!
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JustMe



Joined: 13 Apr 2005
Posts: 213
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I live in a "small" town (at least it was until 2 years ago) just outside of Toronto. Every summer from the May holiday weekend until the end of October our Main Street (about 2 city blocks?) is closed from 7am until noon on Saturday morning when the local farmers and vendors set up for market. Whenever I am in town I make a point of going. It's a wonderful venue. We have lots of orchards, strawberry farms around so those people set up shop. There's a great cheese vendor and several butchers. For several years a family set up a stand selling fried back bacon and a bun & called it the "Scholarship Cafe": they were raising money to send their child/ren to university. Since then the local Chamber of Commerce has taken it over & uses the profits for scholarship funds within the community.

My favourite time is in August when the corn comes in. The market isn't huge but the fresh veggies & fruits are wonderful. If you show up late (around 11:30) there are bargains to be had because they don't want to pack up their wares. I grab a coffee at the local cafe (not a chain) and walk down Main Street....oh yes...have to buy some cider donuts. It's a true farmers market and I am so glad that the tradition continues.

I am also fortunate to be within an hour of St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto and the St. Jacob's Market (a Mennonite market). The food is wonderful at both places, though not at all the same as our local one.
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