6 December 2015 – training US small farmers to up-scale

Civil Eats has an interesting article, written by Kristine Wong, on a US training programme run by  Family Farmed . It aims to help small farmers break into larger wholesale markets. The training revolves around US food safety certification, such as Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices and is supported by a manual called ‘Wholesale Success’.  The struggle to meet exacting food safety and hygiene requirements by small farmers and producers also applies in Europe, and this seems like a worthwhile initiative that could be worth a look.

You can read the article and find out more here: http://civileats.com/2015/12/03/training-farmers-to-be-better-business-people/


16 August 2015 – evolution of US farmers’ markets

Civil Eats has an article, written by Steve Holt, on the evolution of farmers’ markets in the US. He considers five ways they are changing.

  1. Most markets are thriving, but they are no longer the primary way to sell local food
  2. More markets are using technology
  3. Farmers’ markets are becoming more accessible
  4. More farmers’ markets are offering education to go with their produce
  5. Now, more than ever, farmers’ markets help build community

How does this reflect what is happening in other countries?

You can read the full article here


2 May 2015 – The Final Mile: Food systems of New York

The Final Mile: Food Systems of New York is a new initiative by OpenHouse and is a year-long series of public programs,  intended to shed light on New York City’s dynamic and multi-layered food economy. The series of tours and events aim to help New Yorkers  better understand how food shapes the city in critical ways that all too often go unnoticed.

There is a good introduction on the blog which talks about how  ‘every plate of food that we eat represents a vast network of interconnected spaces, large and small, that facilitated the flow and preparation of the ingredients of that meal‘. It provides some staggering statistics about the city, including 24,000 restaurants, 5,500 supermarkets, groceries and convenience stores; 1,730 food wholesalers and 120 farmers’ markets.

The city’s largest produce market (Hunts Point) handles 210 million packages of fresh fruit and vegetables each year and the fish market (New Fulton) sells millions of seafood daily and annual sales exceed one billion dollars.

Why the Final Mile? This is what the blog says:

The final mile is a phrase borrowed from the telecommunications industry to describe the challenges of distributing goods and services—in this case, food—from a central hub to multiple end-users. It is commonly understood as the most problematic and expensive leg of any supply chain; whether literal or metaphorical, the last “mile” is the most difficult because it is where the system makes its final transition from the large scale to the finely grained. The average journey for food sold in New York City is 1,500 miles, because it is actually easier to ship ten tons of produce around the world than it is to get a banana from the warehouse to the bodega shelf.

You can read more about it here


21 March 2015 – Farmers’ and fair trading market combine

My trip also took me to Bristol and this morning I saw the Whiteladies Road Farmers’ and Fair Trading market that operates twice a month as part of Sustainable Redland. It’s an interesting combination mixing the local with traceable exotic produce in a busy and long-standing community market.

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7 March 2015 – short films on Real Food Media

I have just been watching some of the short films selected as finalists for the US Real Food Media Contest. These include a film about Los Angeles baker Mark Stambler who got involved in changing the law to legalise sales of home made food in California in 2013. He remarks that changing the law was child’s play when compared with getting his bread marketed and sold!

You can see the Real Food Media Contest films here and read more about Mark Stambler here


28 February 2015 – Sausage: the animated short film

I have just come across the short animation ‘Sausage’ by Robert Grieves on the Dutch Food Film Festival website. It’s a really great film – winner of many international awards – that shows the trials, tribulations and, ultimately, the triumphs of artisan food traders when fast food (with a lot of bells and whistles) tries to take over their trade in the market square. It’s well worth spending a few minutes watching it. You can access it here


21 February 2015 – are farmers’ markets peaking?

There is a new US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) report on ‘Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems’, published in January 2015. In a recent article on the Salt – the blog from the NPR Science Desk – Luke Runyon presents key findings from the report that suggest ‘while more farmers are selling directly to consumers, local food sales at farmers’ markets, farm stands and through community supported agriculture have lost some momentum’. Quoting the lead author of the report, economist Sarah Low, the article suggests that farmers are finding face-to-face sales do not provide the same opportunities as going through middlemen and food hubs to sell to restaurants, grocery stores and distributors. Figures from the report include:

Between 2007-12, the number of food hubs — local groups that connect farmers to food-using businesses — increased 288 percent;
Since 2006, the number of school districts with farm-to-school programmes increased by 430 percent.

If you want to find out more, the USDA report is here and the Salt blog is here