Farmers' markets and local food systems

Alexandra Link and Chris Ling
Published June 18, 2007

Case Summary

There is a movement towards strengthening the local food system on Vancouver Island. This case study addresses a key component of the local food system: food distribution by local agricultural producers. In particular, it concentrates on farmers’ markets, an important aspect of food distribution. 

Given the links between local food systems and sustainability and the desired role of farmers’ markets in local food systems, studying farmers’ markets can offer insights into the barriers and opportunities that exist for strengthening local food systems and achieving sustainability outcomes. Though it is necessary to be realistic about the ability of farmers’ markets to alter the industrial food system, farmers’ markets have the potential to be instrumental in supporting the local food system.

The study considers the creation of a farmers' market in the Royal Oak area of Saanich, BC. However, before implementing the market, it is advised that further research and consultation be undertaken with respect to concerns such as location, scheduling, products offered, features, and types of marketing. As well, key issues, such as CRD health regulations, accessibility and inclusion of low-income consumers, and market standards regarding local and organic products, must be addressed by related stakeholders, partners, and the market committee.

Sustainable Development Characteristics

Farmers’ markets, through their potential to sustain and support the local food system, can contribute to sustainability goals. This does not mean that local food systems are inherently more sustainable than industrial food systems, but that they are more apt to acknowledge the importance of relying on locally available resources and recognizing interdependencies between local producers and consumers. This can then lead to more sustainable practices.

Local food system practices such as farmers’ markets are directly tied to place and time as well as social, economical, ethical and physical systems within which they are located. The impacts of these practices cannot be distanced and externalized in the same manner that they often are in the long-distance, industrial food system. Local food practices adapt to fit natural parameters and constraints, which are perceived as limits to be respected, not obstacles to be overcome (Kloppenburg et al., 1996). In industrial food systems, natural parameters are often not even perceived due to the wide distances between causes and effects.

Local sustainability is directly related to contextual embeddedness. For instance, Kloppenburg et al. (1996) explain that a community, which depends upon its community members, neighbouring lands, and native species to provide for most of its needs has to make sure the resources it uses to satisfy those needs are maintained in a healthy state. In this situation, impacts related to food practices, such as soil erosion and water consumption, are issues of immediate concern. Thus farmers’ markets, through their contextual embeddedness, have more potential to instigate sustainable practices within the local area where they occur than do industrial food systems.

Farmers’ markets encourage local food security through their promotion and support of local food production. The more food that is grown on Vancouver Island, the more the residents of the island will be buffered in the event of disruptions of long distance food supply such as weather events or political instabilities. Local food production and distribution can assist in fostering food security for the local region.

Through reducing the distance that food is transported, farmers’ markets decrease “food miles”. The distance food takes to travel is directly related to the amount of fossil fuels required to get it there. Since fossil fuels cause pollution and directly impact climate change (Hegrl et al., 2006), reducing the distance that food travels translates into environmental (and related socio-economic) benefits.

In the Greater Victoria Capital Region, there is a high proportion of organic producers compared to other regions in BC (MacNair, 2004). This benefits the region since organic practices have various sustainability benefits. One of these benefits is supporting the land on which food is produced; for example, though prevention of soil erosion (Arden-Clarke & Hodges, 1988).

These sustainability benefits are realized to a great extent in the Greater Victoria Capital Region due to the fact that it comprises a large number of organic producers, with 25 certified organic producers in total (Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, 1999, as cited in MacNair, 2004). The region has the second highest proportion of certified organic producers than any other region in British Columbia (next to the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District), with this number increasing at a rapid rate (MacNair, 2004). This trend is exemplified in the present study, whereby 55% of producers employ organic practices (although not necessarily certified organic). Thus, the emphasis by local producers on Vancouver Island on organic practices contributes to sustainability benefits for the region.

Farmers’ markets can encourage human wellbeing through various means. One way they can accomplish this is through educating consumers about health. The type of food that is offered at farmers’ markets can also sustain human health. For instance, farmers’ markets often feature organic foods. Organic produce has been found to contain higher levels of antioxidants, substances attributed to cancer prevention in humans, than non-organic foods (Benbrook, 2005). Locally-produced and sold foods also have health benefits. When local produce is purchased locally, it is likely to be consumed much sooner after harvest than non-local produce and, therefore, have higher nutritional value when consumed (MacNair, 2004).

On a broader level, farmers’ markets can support the health of communities through emphasizing a ‘healthy-community’ approach in their operations. With this approach, decisions are made with the aim of improving the wellbeing of the community as a whole.

This community-health approach extends the notion of health beyond individuals to an interconnected network of people who together help to support the wellbeing of the entire community. A focus on community health can have broader-reaching and longer lasting benefits for people’s wellness than simply concentrating on individuals because of the benefits that arise from having the support of an entire network of people.

On both a community and individual scale, farmers’ markets can assist in sustaining human health and wellbeing. This occurs though various means including health-related education that can occur during producer-consumer interactions, healthy products offered at the market, and the ability of the market to have a ‘healthy-community’ approach in its operations.

Critical Success Factors

The continued success of local farming in the Royal Oak area of Saanich requires changes and improvements in the following:

  1. Advertising, sales, and education: improving these aspects will assist producers in raising awareness about their farm operation and products. It will also enable consumers to better locate products that they are interested in and to understand production practices of producers (such as organic practices and local production). This has the potential to influence consumers' purchasing decisions.
  2. Product and production method: suggestions by producers include increasing efficiencies in production methods, adapting to meet consumer demands, and adopting practices that are sustainable. These choices have the potential of increasing sales for producers as customers’ needs are better addressed. They may also result in greater satisfaction for consumers as they are able to purchase products that meet their demands.
  3. Construction and labour: Improved farm infrastructure allows producers to run farm operations more effectively and better display products to customers on-site, thus keeping down costs and improving product marketing. Such practices will also benefit consumers through lower prices. Other concerns include recruiting, keeping, and adequately paying labour power. Adequate labour is necessary to meet production requirements for consumer demands while maintaining product quality standards.

The success of farmers' markets in the area would rely on the following:

  1. Participation. Producers in this study suggest that farmer’s markets are ideal for producers who:
    1. Cannot or do not want to exclusively sell products from their farm stand;
    2. Are new producers or are new at selling their products;
    3. Are small-scale producers, but have enough production to sell their products;
    4. Prefer selling products direct to the consumer;
    5. Are interested in educating consumers about local food production, organics, and general farm operations;
    6. Are able to take time away from their farm to be at a market;
    7. Can afford market stall fees;
    8. Would benefit from using the market as a means to advertise their farm operation;
    9. Are confident they will be able to make enough profit at the market to cover the input costs of participating in the market (such as labour, time factors such as driving time, and market stall fees);
    10. Can make the commitment to attend a market on a regular basis; and,
    11. Enjoy interacting with customers.
  2. Organization. Producers discuss several factors to consider with respect to organizing a farmer’s market. These include:
    1. Funding for the market;
    2. A manager to run the market;
    3. Market volunteers;
    4. Support from other farmers in organizing the market;
    5. Formation of community committees;
    6. Land/site acquisition for a market;
    7. A critical mass of producers to participate in the market; and,
    8. Standards of quality control for market products.
  3. Location. The most important aspects of location according to producers include:
    1. Adequate parking for customers;
    2. Facilities (such as bathrooms);
    3. Location in a busy/central area;
    4. Access to the market for customers (including public transportation, cycling and pedestrian access);
    5. Location away from competition/Conflict of interest with nearby business (such as grocery stores and country markets);
    6. Aesthetic beauty/ambience of site;
    7. Location near traffic or “lines of flow”;
    8. Location on well-known site; and,
    9. Visibility of market to potential customers.
  4. Market scheduling. If the proposed market is held during the weekend, participants recommend it be in the morning until mid-day or early afternoon. If it is to be held during the weekday, participants recommend it be in the afternoon or evening. Overall, participants prefer to have the market four times a month on a regularly scheduled day during the summer months (such as May-October). One exception to this is if a pocket market were to be set up, which could be held all day for the entire year.
  5. Products offered. Producers wish to sell a variety of fruit, vegetables, animal products, and other items at the proposed market. All producers are in favour of having farm produce and prepared food at the market. Producers mention limiting the number of craftspeople, requiring standards, and a local emphasis. Producers have differing opinions on organics at the market: an organic market would be elitist; non-organic products would compete unfairly with organic products.
  6. Market features. All producers are in favour of having the following market features: activities for children; parking facilities; public transportation; and, food demonstrations. The majority of producers believe that music would be a beneficial feature, provided that it supports the market atmosphere.
  7. Market type. There is conjecture by producers regarding market type. Many producers appear to be unsure about how a cooperative market would operate. This could be due to the fact that there are few, if any, examples of cooperative markets in the local area. Individual stalls are favoured because producers believe they are easiest to manage and allow for a more direct relationship between producers and consumers.

For success in a wider sustainable community development context the market organization should:

  1. Foster accessibility and inclusion. The market should be accessible for and inclusive of low income consumers and marginalized groups. "Food policy councils" and related initiatives are being developed in a variety of cities across Canada including Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria. These initiatives work to connect food system issues to other key factors affecting local communities such as economic development and nutrition and public health (Dahlberg, 1993, as cited in Kloppenburg et al., 1996; MacNair, 2004; The Toronto Food Policy Council, 1993, as cited in Kloppenburg et al., 1996). In the Greater Victoria Region, the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable has been established to deal with such issues.
  2. Consult with stakeholders. Consultation with local businesses, community members, other farmers’ markets, producers, consumers, and other relevant stakeholders is recommended in order to make the market a success. These parties may offer a wealth of advice, often based on practical experience in the local area. Colihan and Chorney (2004) mention the following issues in which stakeholders may offer assistance: training and mentoring in marketing; merchandising; food safety; bookkeeping; food processing; personnel management; legal issues; team building; and, community development. Consultation also ensures that relationships with the market are positive, thus decreasing potential for conflicts in the future. Consultation allows for relationship building amongst affected parties.
  3. Consumer preferences. Consumers are one of the most important factors in a farmers’ market. For instance, consumers’ preference for food choice may act as a deterrent to farmers’ market patronage. Understanding consumer preferences may allow the proposed farmers’ market to better address, and find solutions to meeting these needs, such as  promoting the development of regional palates based on "moving diets" of locally and seasonally available food  (as suggested by Kloppenburg et al., 1996).
  4. Form partnerships. Partnerships between any farmers' market and groups such as municipalities, service clubs, chambers of commerce, community organizations, local agriculture groups, business improvement associations, government planning departments, economic development agencies, consumer groups, and non-profit organizations, can provide significant advantages to a market in the form of funding, expertise, public support, and market space (Colihan and Chorney, 2004). For example, incorporating the market into the Royal Oak community development plan would potentially enable the market to be considered in a range of different planning and fiscal considerations. As well, Lifecycles Project Society is currently researching the pocket market concept and would be a valuable resource regarding providing expertise in this regard.

Community Contact Information

Alexandra Link, M.A., B.Sc.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Email: alixlink@yahoo.com

What Didn’t Work?

  • Political support for the Industrial Food Model: Local food system movements are embedded in, and constrained by, the rules, interests and policies of local, national, and international governments. Governmental influences on local food systems include the creation of municipal bylaws related to agricultural land use, provincial changes to land designations such as land included within the Agricultural Land Reserve in BC, and food production and export decisions made by international governments that affect the purchasing choices of local consumers.

  • Cultural habits: Currently, consumers have a high degree of choice in selecting food products and are able to purchase food from anywhere in the world. They are also accustomed to spending a small amount of their total income on food products. It is difficult to overcome these cultural habits and encourage consumers to accept local food constraints, such as limited options in the wintertime and spending more of their household income on local food products.

  • Urbanization: Producers in the Greater Victoria Capital Region could have difficulties due to their close proximity to the urban core. Such constraints include urban development pressures and the high cost of land. For instance, the cost of property in the Victoria CRD has doubled in the past five years (Hill, 2007). High land costs can make it very difficult to purchase land for local farming purposes. Urban constraints such as high land costs can pose significant obstacles for local food practitioners in the Victoria CRD.

  • Commodification of relationships: Farmers’ markets may actually mimic the industrial system through similar commodification of food and commodified relations between consumers and producers. It is likely that various motivations exist simultaneously and possibly in a contradictive way, among producers and within single individuals. Hinrichs (2000) discusses how there is a tension in the way producers perceive farmers’ markets, a friction between contextual embeddedness and commodification.

  • Lack of accessibility for less affluent consumers and producers: Depending on their emphasis and management, farmers’ markets can be difficult to access for less affluent consumers. Farmers’ markets can tend toward emphasizing expensive specialty goods, exclusive products, and high-priced niche market foods, described as ‘yuppie chow’ by Feagan et al. (2004). These products are difficult to purchase by those with less disposable income. Producers may also face accessibility challenges when selling their products though a farmers’ market. Many of these challenges are impacted by those who manage the market. For instance, if market stall fees are set high and regulations prohibit producers from sharing stalls, this could deter lower-income producers from participating.

  • Minimal public understanding of local food systems: Although participation by both consumers and producers in farmers’ markets may symbolize broader support for the local food movement, Feagan et al. (2004) believe that there is a gap regarding the conceptual leap that needs to be taken with respect to consumer food choices being a direct response to broader sustainability objectives. Ideally, when the public interacts directly with producers, consumers will become more aware of these implications, such as by understanding the beneficial effects of growing local food on their community. However, the average farmers’ market consumer may not understand the broader context of the local food movement and sustainability implications as these issues may be complex to understand or obscured by the distances created by the industrial food system.

  • Food security: Although increasing local production and supply of food would protect Vancouver Island from disruptions to outside transportation routes, a food system that depends exclusively on local sources without outside connections is vulnerable to political, social, and environmental events that could wipe out the resident food supply. Examples of such happenings include pest outbreaks, natural disasters, and quarantines. Greater reliance on local food alone can lead to decreased food security if there is not a connection to outside production sources.

  • Exclusionary tendencies: Like any movement, the local food movement has the potential to become overly exclusionary and dogmatic. As Hinrichs (2003, p. 37) explains, “defensive food system localization tends to stress the homogeneity and coherence of “local”, in patriotic opposition to heterogeneous and destabilizing outside forces,… localization becomes elitist and reactionary, appealing to narrow nativist sentiments.” Thus, although the local food movement has much to offer, it must be wary of extremism and be inclusive of other perspectives and points of view.

Financial Costs and Funding Sources

Overhead and management vary in complexity based on the value of the real estate upon which they locate and the size of the market (Colihan & Chorney, 2004). Farmers' markets can be located in permanent structures, sheds, or open-air at a wide range of locations (Colihan & Chorney, 2004). There are various forms of farmers’ markets including farm produce, craft, organic, and any combination of these, as well as different types of marketing, including co-operative tables, individual stalls, and marketing board ownership. In many cases, public funding has helped to establish the markets, and in a large number of cases, public funding, in one form or another, supports their operation (Lapping, 2004).

Research Analysis

Supporting the Local Economy

Farmers’ markets support the local economy in many ways. One of these, is the farmers’ markets’ flexibility to respond to consumer demands. For instance, farmers' markets are able to cater to niche and specialty markets such as the needs of senior citizens and ethnic communities. The direct interaction that local producers have with their customers means they are able to immediately determine and respond to consumers’ needs.

Farmers’ markets also support the local economy through what Lapping (2004) describes as the ‘multiplier effect.’ This phenomenon occurs when money spent at farmers’ markets is circulated in the community, leading to multiplying effects within the local economy. For example, when farmers’ markets are located next to local businesses, there are often spillovers to the local businesses from market patrons (Lapping, 2004). As such, the establishment of a farmers’ market can result in increased economic growth in the area in which it is located.

Formation of Social Capital

The interactions between producers and consumers at farmers’ markets often go beyond economic capital gains and can lead to ‘social capital’ formation (Hinrichs, 2000; Lapping, 2004). Social capital is based on the premise that social networks have value. It refers to the “collective value of all social networks and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other” (Putnam, 2000).  The capacity to come together creates a social space where community, friendships and social networking are fostered. This social space was important for producers in the study.

Through direct social interaction, farmers’ markets aid in re-creating linkages between producers and consumers. They “shrink both the physical food chain and the sociocultural distances between the two” (Feagan et al., 2004). The social networks formed as a result of direct interactions at farmers’ markets are thus essential for personal wellbeing and the formation of social capital.

Shaping the Food System

Local production and participation in farmers’ markets can influence the food system in broader ways than building social and economic capital. One way that farmers’ markets shape food systems is by fostering free enterprise and ethically-grounded economic behaviour.

Farmers’ markets can be a way of supporting the economic viability of producers who wish to operate outside of the industrial food system (Lapping, 2004). By providing producers with opportunities to sell their goods locally, farmers’ markets enable them to operate in a way they consider ethical, while opening a path for others to do so as well.

The context of ‘food democracy’ is useful for understanding this influence. Food democracy is the idea that people “can and should be actively participating in shaping the food system, rather than remaining passive as spectators on the sidelines …[and] having power to determine agro-food policies and practices locally, regionally, nationally, and globally” (Hassanein, 2003, p. 79). Although not explicitly labelled as such by producers in the study, many of their comments appeared to express a desire to shape the direction of the food system.

Through supporting fostering free enterprise and ethically-grounded economic behaviour, promoting the economic viability of producers who wish to operate outside of the industrial food system, and fostering active attempts to create change in the food system, local production and participation in farmers’ markets can shape the food system.

Enhancing Consumer Understanding of Local Food

As discussed in the previous section, local producers often influence and support the local food system. One of the ways this occurs is through educating consumers. Several producers in this study expressed the desire to educate people about how food is produced on the farm and about the sustainability benefits of local food production. This direct educational exchange has the potential to influence how the public understands food systems, makes consumer choices, and understands the importance of local food. This has clear implications for sustainability.

Detailed Background Case Description

Introduction

There is a movement towards strengthening the local food network on Vancouver Island. The Economic Blueprint, an evaluation of the economic potential of the Capital Region, has listed encouraging the agricultural sector as one of its key recommendations, including supporting the purchase of local farm products (Thornton, 2003). The Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (2004) states, “The most pressing concern in relation to food security is the need to increase the amount of food being grown locally on Vancouver Island.” There is also an increasing interest in, and demand for, regional food by consumers in the Capital Region (MacNair, 2004).

Geographical context

The Royal Oak neighbourhood is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It is in Saanich West, in the District of Saanich on the Saanich Peninsula, immediately north of the municipalities of Victoria and Oak Bay.

The District of Saanich was incorporated on March 1, 1906 (The Corporation of the District of Saanich, 2006). With an area of 11,179 hectares, it is the largest of the core municipalities making up Greater Victoria (The Corporation of the District of Saanich, 2006).

Saanich has become a major residential area while also maintaining an important agricultural base. Half of its residency is urban and half is rural and agricultural (The Corporation of the District of Saanich, 2006). With a population of 103,654, it is the most inhabited municipality on Vancouver Island and the seventh most populated in the province (Statistics Canada, 2002).

The Royal Oak neighbourhood is divided into three main areas: Broadmead, Viewmont, and Falaise (see Figure 2). The Royal Oak area is represented by three community associations: the Broadmead Area Resident’s Association, the Falaise Crescent Community Association, and the Royal Oak Community Association. The population of Royal Oak is growing substantially: 3,445 people in 1986 (The Corporation of the District of Saanich, 2003) to 17,490 people in 2001 (Government of British Columbia, 2001).

Agriculture has traditionally played a key role in Royal Oak’s economy, has added to the local food supply, and has provided rural viewscapes (The Corporation of the District of Saanich, 2003).  However, recent suburban development has displaced agricultural uses and fragmented agricultural lands.

Local Food

An alternative to the industrial food system is the “local” food movement. Local food is more than the name implies, which is food grown, caught or processed in its regional area (Burros, 2006). According to community nutritionist Gail Feenstra (1997, p. 28, as cited in Hinrichs, 2000), local food systems “are rooted in particular places, aim to be economically viable for farmers and consumers, use ecologically sound production and distribution practices, and enhance social equity and democracy for all members of the community.” This system incorporates food production, processing, distribution and consumption with the aim of increasing the environmental, nutritional, economic, and social wellbeing of a specific locale (Wilkins & Eames-Sheavly, n.d.)

There are four main aspects that distinguish local food systems from the industrialized food system (Wilkins & Eames-Sheavly, n.d.).

  1. Food security. Local food security refers to food access within a community context, with a particular focus on low-income households. In a local food system, food access is increased due to the growth and sale of grown food within the community. On the other hand, in an industrialized food system, food consumption is highly dependent upon food grown across the world.
  2. Proximity describes the distance between different parts of the food system. Proximity is increased in local food systems where producers and consumers have a much higher potential for interaction than in the industrialized food system.
  3. Self-reliance describes to what extent a community is able to meet its own food requirements. In the local food system, food is grown for local needs and not for export as in global food systems. This ensures that the community is able to support its own food requirements.
  4. Sustainability refers to following food system practices that respect the ability of future generations to meet their food requirements. This includes environmental protection, profitability, ethical treatment of food system workers and other living beings, and community development. Local food systems meet these criterion to a much greater extent than industrial food systems, due in part to having to deal with direct consequences of food system decisions.

Local food systems include an array of market arrangements including roadside farm stands, u-pick operations, community-supported agriculture, farmers markets, etcetera (Hinrichs, 2000). They are explicitly and beneficially linked to the needs and interest of local households, neighbourhoods, and communities, such direct agricultural markets favour locality and seasonality over distance and durability (Friedman, 1993). Tailoring food production and its consumption to local conditions is believed to be a key factor in developing sustainable food systems (Cavallaro & Dansero, 1998, as cited in Feagan et al, 2004; Feenstra, 1997; Halweil, 2002).

According to the Greater Victoria Capital Region Food & Agricultural Initiatives Roundtable, there is an increasing interest in, and demand for, regional food by consumers (MacNair, 2004). One way to meet this demand is to support local producers in their production of food and in their distribution of their products. A key means is the establishment of farmers’ markets. This research will focus on farmers’ markets and related marketing aspects of these markets.

Re-Emergence of Farmers’ Markets

There has been a dramatic increase in farmers’ markets in Britain and North America in the last 10-20 years (Connell et al., 2006; Hinrichs, 2000; Sommer et al., 1980). According to Colihan and Chorney (2004), the province of British Columbia (BC) in Canada is a high-growth region for farmers’ markets. In BC, there are about 100 known markets, up from 60 known markets, in 2000 (Connell et al., 2006).  Several communities, including Vancouver and Victoria, have multi-market locations (Colihan & Chorney, 2004). There are various explanations for this renewed interest in farmers’ markets. These include:

  1. Lower prices to consumers (Sommer et al.,1980);

  2. Higher profits for local growers and a desire to support them (Colihan & Chorney, 2004; Hinrichs, 2000; Sommer et al., 1980);

  3. Consumer demands outside of the dominant retailing food environment (Baber & Frongillo, 2003; Hinrichs, 2000; Holloway & Kneafsey, 2000 as cited in Feagan et al., 2004);

  4. An exciting shopping experience for consumers (Sommer et al., 1980);

  5. A means to help revitalize urban areas (Baber & Frongillo, 2003; Colihan & Chorney, 2004; Sommer et al., 1980);

  6. An increased interest in food quality by consumers (Baber & Frongillo, 2003; Colihan & Chorney, 2004; Connell et al., 2006; Hinrichs, 2000; Sommer et al., 1980);

  7. A growing interest in fresh produce by consumers (Colihan & Chorney, 2004; Lockeretz, 1986 as cited in Hinrichs, 2000);

  8. Demand for local products (Colihan & Chorney, 2004; Connell et al., 2006);

  9. The social atmosphere markets provide (Baber & Frongillo, 2003); and,

  10. The opportunity for urban and rural people to come together (Sommer et al., 1980).

One means of sustaining the local food system is the creation of farmers’ markets, as farmers’ markets strengthen the connection between local consumers and local producers. They represent a structured organizational form of larger scale than individual roadside stands or u-pick operations.

Farmers’ markets can range from relatively simple structures with a straightforward purpose, to far larger, complex organizations with a broad public mandate and range of customer, vendors and community stakeholders (Colihan & Chorney, 2004). Lyson et al. (1995, p.109, as cited in Hinrichs et al., 2004) state that “as a social structure linking the formal and informal economies, farmers’ markets are organizationally flexible. They accommodate diverse personal motivations, products and organizational strategies. They allow producers to enter and leave easily, while enduring as an organization.”

There are a number of common characteristics of farmers’ markets. These include:

  1. high levels of repeat patronage by consumers, patronage by those who live in or near communities with established farmers’ markets;

  2. overwhelming participation by small-scale farmers who report that sales at farmers’ markets consist a significant share of agricultural income;

  3. prices close to or slightly above those found in nearby supermarkets;

  4. substantial spillovers to local businesses from patrons of farmers’ markets; and,

  5. the overwhelming importance noted by patrons on direct social interaction with producers (Brown, 2002 as cited in Lapping, 2004).

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is an ideal location to produce food locally. There is available land protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), moderate climatic conditions year-round, and a good supply of quality of water (Geggie, 2006; Thornton, 2003). The province has a dynamic small farm sector, mild climate, and a community that has an interest in fresh food (Colihan & Chorney, 2004).

This study occurred in the Greater Victoria Capital Regional District (GVCRD). The GVCRD agriculture sector has a competitive advantage due to its proximity to a large urban population, which creates a varied market for agricultural crops (Thornton, 2003). There is also a knowledgeable farming community, interest by young people in farming, as well as considerable training and support programs for new farmers (Geggie, 2006). Currently in Greater Victoria, 13,000 hectares (31,421 acres) of farmland is under cultivation on approximately 750 farms (Downtown Victoria Business Association, 2007).

Despite having a dedicated farming sector, the percentage of food grown and consumed on Vancouver Island has been steadily declining (Geggie, 2006). Whilst fifty years ago, over 90% of the food eaten on the island was produced locally, currently this figure is at less than 10% (MacNair, 2004). There are several reasons for this decline. These include lack of access to land for farming due to the high price of land, uncertain viability of farming to generate a sufficient income, questionable consumer willingness and ability to pay a price that is reflective of the real costs of local production, seasonality of food and climatic limitations, and limited diversity and supply of locally produced foods in the winter (Geggie, 2006; MacNair, 2004).

A significant limitation to locally produced foods is the decrease in available agricultural land. The Greater Victoria Capital Region is rapidly losing its viable agricultural land. In 1974, the Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was created to preserve high quality agricultural lands from development. The Land Commission Act requires that lands within the ALR be used/ retained for agricultural purposes and that alterations to land use, including the subdivision of land, must be supported by the municipality and approved by the Land Commission (The Corporation of the District of Saanich, 2003). Despite this mandate, nearly 25,000 hectares of agricultural land was removed from the ALR between 1974 and 1999. At this rate, Vancouver Island has had the highest (regional) percentage loss of ALR land in the Province of BC (MacNair, 2002). Conversion of valuable farmland on Vancouver Island to non-agricultural uses has incited questions about farm, community, and regional sustainability under such change (McNair, 2004).

Despite these limitations, there is a growing movement on Vancouver Island of strengthening the local food network. For instance, the Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (MacNair, 2004) states, “The most pressing concern in relation to food security is the need to increase the amount of food being grown locally on Vancouver Island.” The popularity of local food among consumers in the Capital Region has also grown substantially- in Greater Victoria, farmers’ markets increased from one -Moss Street Market- in 1992 to 10 in 2004 (MacNair, 2004). Farmers’ markets provide added value in the form of fresh, healthier food in an environment that fosters social interactions, community, and entertainment. These attributes enable farmers’ markets to compete with low price food alternatives, manifest in the industrial food system, that currently have a dominant hold on the market.

Current Production Practices, Forms of Sales, and Marketing Approaches of Producers

Producers are currently producing and selling a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, and animal products. The majority of producers prefer to market their products directly to the consumer. Regarding income, the majority of producers make less than 100% of their annual income from the sale of their items, and several producers have income sources other than that of their product sales.

Items produced

Vegetables

Fruit

Animal products

Other

Sweet corn, lettuce,

beans, squash, zucchini, carrots, celery, pumpkins, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, heirlooms, potatoes, radishes, leeks, onions, tomatoes, cabbages,

kale, collards, chard, herbs, tomatillos, hot peppers, eggplant, arugula, beets.

Blueberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, juneberries, strawberries, blackberries, rhubarb, mulberries, cherries, pears, persimmons.

Chickens, roosters,

meat chickens, lay chickens, turkeys, pigs, ostrich.

 

Christmas trees, seeds, nuts, crafts, flowers

Items That Producers Would Like to Sell at a Market

Fruit and vegetables

Animal products

Other items

Blueberries, raspberries, corn, peppers, black potatoes, cabbage stalks, eggplants, tomatoes.

Eggs, honey, pork, chicken

Jams, preserve products, flowers, seeds, crafts

Specific Items Perceived to Receive Highest Sales Revenue at a Market

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, corn, heirloom tomatoes, salad greens

Eggs, honey

Preserves, plants, flowers

Specific Items Perceived to be in Greatest Demand by Customers

Apples, berries, tomatoes, strawberries, pears, corn

Eggs, meat, chicken, honey

Flowers

           

Attitudes of producers to market characteristics

The main criteria for the selection of market location are:

  1. General access to the market for customers
  2. Public transit access for customers
  3. Pedestrian access for customers
  4. Bicycle access for customers
  5. Aesthetic beauty/ambience of site
  6. Customer parking
  7. Market located near traffic or “lines of flow”
  8. Market located on well-known site
  9. Market visible to potential customers
  10. Bathrooms at market
  11. Wheelchair access for customers
  12. Adequate space at market
  13. Market located near large urban community
  14. Adequate parking for vendors

Strategic Questions

  1. Local emphasis. Having local products at the market is important for many producers, specifically with respect to crafts, produce, and food demonstrations. There is a strong demand by customers in Greater Victoria for local products. However there are many systemic challenges faced by local producers such as a lack of governmental support for local agriculture.
  2. Health regulations. The current lack of education and level of awareness on behalf of both producers and consumers regarding health regulations at farmers’ markets leads to unnecessary barriers and fears as well as decreased availability of certain products and lowered sales.
  3. Pocket market concept. The idea of having a pocket market in Royal Oak was suggested by several producers. A pocket market differs from a traditional farmers’ market in that it can have fewer vendors and can be operated on a permanent basis (such as daily on weekdays) at a fixed location (Geggie & Fuge, 2006).
  4. Organics. Organics is a prevalent theme throughout the interviews and comments regarding organics span a variety of issues such as:
    1. growing demand by customer on Vancouver Island for organics,
    2. the desire by producers to incorporate organic practices into their operations,
    3. the difficulty of implementing organic certification,
    4. pricing for organics,
    5. difficulties in understanding organic terminology, and
    6. competition of organic with non-organic products.

Organic issues are complicated and are influenced by several factors including government policies, education priorities, and consumer preferences. These issues are beyond the scope of this study. However, the lack of understanding by producers and consumers about organic issues leads to barriers regarding practical implementation of organic practices on the farm, comprehension of organic product labelling by the public, and pricing of organics at farmers’ markets.

Resources and References

Arden-Clarke, C. and Hodges, R. (1988). The Environmental effect of conventional and organic/biological farming systems.  Biological Agriculture and Horticulture, 5, 3, 223-287.

Baber, L. M. and Frongillo, E. A. (2003) Family and seller interactions in farmers’ markets in upstate New York [Electronic version].  American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 18, 2, 87–94.

Benbrook, C. (2005). Elevating Antioxidant Levels in Food through Organic Farming and Food Processing -An Organic Center State of Science Review. The Organic Centre for Education & Promotion

Burros, M. (2006, January 4). In Oregon, Thinking Local. from The New York Times

Colihan, M. and Chorney, R. (2004). Sharing the Harvest. Brighton, Ontario: EpicPress.

Connell, D., Taggart, T., Hillman, K., and Humphrey, A. (2006). Economic and Community Impacts of Farmers’ Markets in British Columbia- Provincial Report. British Columbia Association of Farmer’s Markets and University of Northern British Columbia. Prince George: British Columbia.

Feagan, R., Morris, D., and Krug, K. (2004). Niagara Region Farmers’ Markets: local food systems and sustainability considerations.  Local Environment, 9, 3, 235-254.

Geggie, L. (2006). Putting Food and Food Policy on the Table- Draft Findings. (Unpublished Report). Victoria, British Columbia: Lifecycles Project Society.

Geggie, L. and Fuge, L. (2006). Opportunities for the Development of “Pocket”

Neighborhood Farmers Markets in Greater Victoria -Draft Discussion Paper. Victoria, British Columbia: Lifecycles Project Society.

Government of British Columbia. (2001). Profile of Diversity in BC Communities 2001. Retrieved on December 22, 2006 from the Government of British Columbia Website:  http://www.bcmulticulturalprofiles.gov.bc.ca/ NO LONGER AVAILABLE

Halweil, B. (2002). Home Grown- The Case for Local Food in a Global Market. Danvers, MA: Worldwatch Institute.

Hassanein, N. (2003). Practicing food democracy: a pragmatic politics of transformation. Agriculture and Human Values, 19, 77–86.

Hegrl, G., Karl, T., Allen, M., Bindoff, N., Gillett, N., Karoly, D., Zhang, X., and Zwiers, F. (2006). Climate Change Detection and Attribution: Beyond Mean Temperature Signals.  Journal of Climate, 19, 5058-5077.

Hill, E. (2007, February 2). Green dreams. VictoriaNEWS, p. B1.

Hinrichs, C. (2000). Embeddedness and local food systems: notes on two types of direct agricultural market.  Journal of Rural Studies, 16, 295-303.

Hinrichs, C., Gillespie, G., and Feenstra, G. (2004). Social Learning and Innovation at Retail Farmers’ Markets. Rural Sociology, 69, 1, 31-58.

Kloppenburg, J.,  Hendrickson, J. and Stevenson, G.W. (1996). Coming in to the foodshed.  Agriculture and Human Values, 13, 33–42.

Lapping, M. (2004). Toward the Recovery of the Local in the Globalizing Food System: the Role of Alternative Agricultural and Food Models in the US.  Ethics, Place and Environment, 7, 3, 141-150.

MacNair, E. (2002). The Garden City Handbook. Victoria, BC: POLIS Project on Ecological Governance.

MacNair, E. (2004). A baseline assessment of food security in British Columbia’s Capital Region. Victoria, BC: Capital Region Food & Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CR-FAIR).

Putnam, R. (2000). Social Capital: What is it?

Sommer, R., Wing, M., and Aitkens, S. (1980). Price Savings to Consumers at Farmers’ Markets.  The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 14, 2, 452-462.

Statistics Canada. (2002). 2001 Census Population and Dwelling Counts.

The Corporation of the District of Saanich. (2006). Visitors to Saanich.

The Corporation of the District of Saanich. (2003). Royal Oak Local Area Plan.

Thornton, G. (2003). Greater Victoria Enterprise Partnership Society Greater Victoria Economic Development Opportunities Blueprint: Technical Report.

Wilkins, J. and Eames-Sheavly, M. (no date). A Primer on Community Food Systems. Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences

Comments

Farmers Markets

I found the case study on Farmers markets and local food services very succinct in listing the what works, what doesnt work and identifying some key factors for success. the key components of a successful market appear to be that they are relevant to the local consumers and visitors alike, which there is an overlap of shared values towards social responsibility towards ones personal health and well being and supporting local producers. Values are central to how we view our place within the biosphere (Dale 2001, p. 27) and tie communities together. A farmers market promotes social connectiveness amongths the communities they service and opportuinities to showcase the good will within a community. As seen first hand, farmers markets in smaller remote or rural communities act as a draw to help raise the profiles of the communities to attract people and new businesses to help support thier economies.

The social benefits are there, financial benefits are there, and each farmers market can help showcase what can be harvested locally either traditionally or through inginuity. It provides an opportunity for urban visitors to take back to thier urban centers, potentiall some inspiration to exercise thier own personal green thumb or other practices to reconnect in thier own way, for thier own personal well being, or contribute to their own community, or community garden.

As stated in the case study, there is a resurgence in farmers markets over the past two decades. Its more than just a fad, but a phenomenom, a shift towards becoming self sufficient and not reliant on being served. It does appear that a growing segment of the population is attempting to 'reconcile its ideological attachment' (Dale et al. 2012, p. 172) to the norms and its relationship to the landscape and the communities upon it. This shift is a step towards something that is sustainable, at least in the regards that it is not compromising the needs of future generations completely, at least there will be some foundation to build upon.

Dale, A. (2001). At the edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver: UBC Press

Dale, A., Dushenko,B. & Robinson, P (2012). Urban Sustainability: Reconciling Space and Place. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Farmers Supporting Local Ecosystem Sustainability

The case study makes a number of good points about how farmers’ markets can help a community to move towards being more sustainable as a result of increasing the consumption of locally produced food. The authors point out that farmers’ markets acknowledge the importance of relying on locally available resources and point out Kloppenburg’s (1996) statement that local food practices adapt to fit natural parameters and constraints. I think that both of these points acknowledge how farmers’ markets can promote the importance of understanding local ecosystems and the related issues that affect their ability to provide food services.

I work for a land trust organization and also volunteer my time with the farmers ‘market in my town. In both of my roles I have seen how connecting local producers with consumers can benefit the community. The authors point out that farmers’ markets can encourage human wellbeing by educating consumers about making healthy dietary choices. I believe that farmers markets also educate consumers about the environmental issues that face their local ecosystem. In my volunteer work with my local farmers market I have found that consumers who buy local produce are aware of environmental issues that face our local ecosystem as a result of their interaction with food producers. This information is translated to consumers as they interact with food producers and learn about where their food comes from. The authors point out that farmers’ markets can emphasize a “healthy-community” approach that can help a community to make decisions that improve the collective local wellbeing. The knowledge that consumers gain from knowing how their local environment supports food production can help to guide decision making that supports the health of the local environment in the same way.

One example of how food producers can act as leaders on environmental issues that face their local community is the work that The Nature Conservancy has engaged in with the Skagit Valley farmers in Washington through the “Farming for Wildlife Project”. The project represents efforts of The Nature Conservancy to empower local farmers to take a leadership role in stewardship work that supports their farming operations and their local ecosystem. Here is a link to a video about the project: http://vimeo.com/31569313 and a link to a published report on the project: http://waconservation.org/dl/dl_Ffw_ProgressReport_Mar2011.pdf

This case study clearly presents information on how farmers’ markets provide support to the social, environmental and economic paradigms of the community that they are in. The ability of farmers markets to disseminate information on the health and environmental benefits of locally sourced foods further support the ability of farmers’ markets to guide sustainable decision making. Weigeldt (2012) explains that food provides support to people beyond physiological benefits to areas such as: comfort, entrepreneurial opportunities, social functions that bring people together, and the ability to improve local and global ecosystems. These benefits of food production provide communities with greater food security, and social and economic stability; which are all hallmarks of sustainable development (Weigeldt, 2012).

References:

Kloppenburg, J., Hendrickson, J. and Stevenson, G.W. (1996). Coming in to the foodshed. Agriculture and Human Values, 13, 33–42.

Weigeldt, N. (2012). Chickens in the city: The Urban Agriculture Movement. In A. Dale, W. Dushenko, P. Robinson (Eds.), Urban Sustainability: Reconciling Space and Place (pp. 149-170). Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Local food production an act of unintended sustainability

The case study presented coincides with the urban agricultural movement described by Dale, Dushenko & Robinson (2012) and supports the idea of a “place based economy” (p.138). The idea of farmer’s markets as a source of locally produced food products parallels the movement towards re-incorporating micro-scale livestock production (such as chickens) into urban landscapes, as well as the increased instances of urban home and community gardening (Anielski & Wilson, 2005).

It is interesting to note that the farmer’s market concept as well as the urban agricultural movement was result of the desire to save money and have access to nutritious, fresh alternatives to food produced on an industrial scale. Generating locally produced food, for the most part, was not done with a sustainability mindset, yet yielded results attributing to sustainability by decreasing the number of food miles, re-investing into the local economy, building a stronger community through sharing of resources and producer-consumer interaction, and educating people about the benefits of local food.

Though, as the author has indicated, a challenge to being self-sustainable is a reduction in security. Food production is reliant on a balance of natural parameters, such as weather and interactions with other species (such as insects). Too much rain or sun cause plants to fail; too many or not enough insect life causes issues with pollination or pestilence. By moving away from importing food, in some regards takes away from the ability for the local human population to sustain itself in the face of adverse conditions. However, perhaps this is a true testament to the carrying capacity of a local system (Dale, 2001); supporting only a certain amount of life for any species at any given time. If true sustainability is focuses on living within the capacity of a system, then perhaps the ability to produce local food has a much greater role than historically considered.

References:

Anielski, M., & Wilson, J. (2005). Ecological Footprints of Canadian Municipalities and Regions. The Canadian Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Edmonton, Alberta: Anielski Management Inc.

Dale, A. (2001). At the edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Dale, A., Dushenko, B. & Robinson, P. (2012). Urban Sustainability: Reconciling Space and Place. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Community supported agriculture

An interesting expansion on the farmer market concept, community supported agriculture is one of the top 100 urban trends emerging from the BMW Guggenheim Lab (http://www.bmwguggenheimlab.org/100urbantrends/#!/new-york-city). More on the concept here: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ but the point is to tie consumers into the risks/rewards usually reserved for the producer.

Having recently returned from rural Laos, it is interesting to note that the only fresh produce available is sold at what are effectively farmer markets. The extent to which the sellers @ market source produce from a number of localised producers, add a percentage and then sell daily is uncertain, but I'm assuming that is what happens.

I think that the case study oversimplifies this point: "Through reducing the distance that food is transported, farmers’ markets decrease “food miles”. The distance food takes to travel is directly related to the amount of fossil fuels required to get it there. Since fossil fuels cause pollution and directly impact climate change (Hegrl et al., 2006), reducing the distance that food travels translates into environmental (and related socio-economic) benefits."

While in many cases this may be true, there are likely other cases where importing food from a distance yields environmental benefits over growing food locally. E.g. if you wanted to grow food locally so converted part of a forested ecosystem into arable land (e.g. a la slash and burn) vs. importing food from a distance. I understand this is unlikely in Vancouver Is, but the statement does not include any qualifiers so i thought it was worth exploring this (tradeoffs and balance points) in more detail.

Reponse to Jules

I agree, the over simplification does not incorporate all of the benefits nor is it a reality for large cities. However, with the popularization of the urban farmer movement it may become more of a possibility. With respects to benefits, the connection people receive when they buy directly from their farmer is invaluable. They are able to ask questions about the farm and how the food was grown. They get a sense of the farmers personality and devotion to growing good food. This provides motivation to the farmer in a time where farm subsidies and support is dwindling. This also promotes new young farmers to become involved and learn from experienced ones. Markets provide a community connection that is becoming more important as our modern lives are so focus on individuals and isolation. Sharing, cooperation and conversation happen at markets. There is often local music and goods as well. It becomes a cultural experience that reminds people they are part of a community and there is support out there.

What is the potential for large cities to have more local food? In 2011 the Urban Farmers society was initiated http://urbanfarmers.ca/about. They are a coalition of urban farming groups that have come together to address common issues including:
- Land Issues such as access, tenure, and quality
- Business development and training for urban farmers
- Systems and infrastructure for successful growing storage and distribution of produce
- Cooperation between urban farmers and complementary organizations
- Government support of urban farming through policy and other means

So perhaps it is not too far off for large cities to also provide local food. Vertical rooftop gardening has just started in Vancouver with the first of its kind growing on the top of a parkade. http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2012/08/downtown-vancouver-rooftop-garden-fir...

The benefits of this type of system listed in the article are:

- Yields are approximately 20 times higher than the normal production volume of field crops
- VertiCrop™ requires only 8% of the normal water consumption used to irrigate field crops
- Works on non-arable lands and close to major markets or urban centres
- Does not require the use of harmful herbicides or pesticides
- Able to grow over 80 varieties of leafy green vegetables
- Significant operating and capital cost savings over field agriculture
- Significantly reduces transportation distance, thereby reducing cost, energy and carbon foot print
- Provides higher quality produce with greater nutritional value and a longer shelf life
- High levels of food safety due to the enclosed growing process
- Scalable from small to very large food production operations

My question is though, how does the poor air quality of urban centers affect the nutrition or contaminants of the food consumed from urban farms?

Farmers Markets and Remote Communities

In our small, remote community, the farmers market has seen a steady increase in market vendors over the past 5 years. Sales of local products include garden produce, chicken and eggs, homemade sausages, baked items, homemade jams and relishes, farmed scallops and oysters, and a few craft items.
In contrast to the typical barriers and “what didn’t work” in the case study, our farmers market has been facilitated by the general community. There is overwhelming support from the local residents demonstrated by the large and ever-increasing consumer attendance. As well, there has been local political support by the building of a permanent outdoor structure through community grant funding. Easy access, high visibility, wheelchair accessibility, tables for vendors, a play area for children, parking space and washrooms were incorporated into the overall design.
The creation of the farmers market has undoubtedly increased the community’s social capital, however the rapid success I believe attests to the historically high level of social capital contextually embedded within a small remote community. As well, the success may be attributed to socio-economic conditions because of our unique geographic location. Our physical isolation requires supermarket food to be transported long distances by truck and ferry. As a result, the quality of the fresh produce is poor, the variety limited and it is expensive with costs typically 50 to 100% higher than in centrally located urban areas. From a consumers perspective, the price of goods at the farmers market is comparable to the supermarket, however the quality, freshness and diversity of products is superior. Although environmental factors may not be the driving force of the market, environmental gains have been realized for each local product purchased and the reduction of GHG emissions from the usual long transport of products to reach our community.

Farmer's markets really sustainable or just a fad?

The farmer's market trend is an interesting one. Although originating from the desire to have lower-cost, fresher produce, the increased novelty of being able to buy fresher foodstuff along with the market going experience means most consumers are paying much more for similar kinds of produce as found in local community or large supermarkets.

I think these markets owe their success to the "market" experience and cultural status, more so than just having access to fresh, locally produced foodstuffs. This is evident by the increased number of artisan booths at the markets as well as the adoption of tidier, more formally layed out locations for the market (Calgary's indoor market for example).

Plus, the establishment of more organized, well established markets of this kind is a testiment to the available disposable income in a community, and the overall economic prosperity of community. The ability to have extra time to spend at the market, and the ability to spend more money on food is a luxury in North America.

I hope that these markets will continue to exist in some form, regardless of the influence of external economy. Theoretically, if economy within a community is continually re-invested back into the local economy, the ability for that community to sustain it's own economy and continue to re-invest in local production should purpetuate. However, given a good number of us contribute to the global economy, how likely is it that under economic pressure, people will continue to support local markets if prices continue to be at a premium?

I believe production at home would increase, but unless local producers were able to adjust their prices to be more competative with larger, industrial producers, this style of market could disappear over time.

Farmers Market's role in raising public awareness

In addition to several of the benefits of farmers markets mentioned in the case study, I believe that the role of the market as a means to raise public awareness around sustainable food supply issues can not be over-stated. I come from a market background myself (albeit on the other coast of Canada, PEI!) and I recall many discussions that my father would have with people coming to the market concerning gardening methods and problem solving.

I have a particular interest in urban farming and I feel that the local market can be a place where people can connect with like minded people. Small back-yard producers can be inspired by and glean knowledge from market vendors as well as like minded market patrons. When the back yard isn't producing everything you need, the local market can help to fill the void with sustainably produced items.

The farmers market can be and often is a critical meeting place for those practising or wanting to learn about sustainable food supply practices.

Farmers markets and local food systems

I chose this case study about farmers markets (FMs) and local food systems, because it is related to my own interest in developing sustainable agriculture, specifically agroecology, and the extremely challenging structural, institutional, policy, socio-cultural, and economic barriers that stand in the way of actually implementing change at the, in our case, ranch level.

I have ambiguous feelings about Farmers Markets: I LOVE going to them, but as a producer, there are a lot of barriers for us to participate in them, and, of course, there is a limitation of scale that may make them not economically viable for a family sized enterprise, as compared to a part-time or ‘hobby’ farmer. I think the authors’ hope that “studying farmers’ markets can offer insights into the barriers and opportunities that exist for strengthening local food systems and achieving sustainability outcomes” is possible. Our own experience in the last 2 years of helping to establish a local producer’s coop (the Growers Cooperative of the Cariboo Chilcotin http://www.cariboogrowers.ca/), which is open 3 days per week all year long in a store setting, may provide an interesting comparison for some of the issues raised in this case study.

Strategic question:

The creation of a local food system faces many systemic challenges, for example the lack of governmental support for local agriculture.

This issue is huge, complex and very difficult to address. Some of the barriers identified in the CS were finding a location for a FM in an urban setting and obtaining permits, loss of agricultural land to development (subdivisions and so on) due to urban development planning that is not based on sustainability, and food and safety regulations that act as real or perceived barriers to producers’ participation.

Barriers are many, and not all by any means are just governmental (the authors did list many). For us, distance, lack of time, labour shortage, lack of capital to develop this new initiative, and the lack of real potential to make an adequate income, prevent us from participating in our local FM. The same barriers prevent us from participating in FMs in the lower mainland, where there is a bit more potential for an income. I understand from a family sized rancher neighbour who does go to FMs in the lower mainland that she has found that weather can make all the difference in making the trip reasonably profitable or a large loss.

The authors mentioned food policy councils, connection with stakeholders, forming partnerships, and an idea, which I thought had a lot of potential, a broader advisory committee to support the market.

Our Growers’ Coop was created and launched with the help of these types of networks, which can cut a LOT of red tape to get things done. But, they can also get in the way of a truly farmer-lead organization, as urban dwellers with a great commitment to the ideology of these enterprises, but little practical knowledge or experience of farming or ranching, try to establish and constrain the outcome. The creation of a Broader Advisory Committee to support the FM, that is separate from the actual board of directors, could be a useful way to bring all these supportive people and organizations together to support the FM, or the Coop, in a very creative, expansive way, while the farmers themselves are in control of their own organization. Some structural and institutional barriers can be addressed by these networked groups that become a larger, more powerful force that can influence outcomes in municipal, regional and even provincial arenas.

Srtategic question:

The lack of understanding by producers and consumers about organic issues leads to barriers regarding practical implementation of organic practices on the farm, comprehension of organic product labelling by the public, and pricing of organics at farmers’ markets.

My own feeling about this topic is that becoming ‘organic’ is not enough. The complexity, cost and annual nature of certification is definitely a barrier to producers, while our consumers feel that organic is expensive, and are happy with ‘natural,’ or ‘sustainable.’ There is also some confusion because industrial ‘organic’ is not as ‘good’ as ‘local’, and buying ‘local’ is still be a better first step than buying ‘organic’ from far away.

We want to incorporate organic practices on our ranch, but certification is not worth it, and may be becoming less so. Also, organic practices are only a part of an agroecological system which is our goal, which is an attempt to fit agriculture into its larger ecological landscape, with biodiversity, resource use and impacts, emissions and other factors brought into the equation.

The other thought that came to mind on this topic is that becoming sustainable is really an unending process, not an achievement in the way certification seems to indicate. Perhaps it would be better that practices and labelling were more related to stages along a continuum of sustainability, such as ‘conventional without chemicals’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘more sustainable’, etc. (this is a huge can of worms I know!). It is more a general idea; I’m not thinking a new certification program!

Transparency in the form of a protocol can be a very useful tool. For example, many ‘natural’ producers say that they are following the organic protocol that can be found on organic organizational websites, and customers are welcome to come and visit and see for themselves what they are doing. Some ranches develop their own specific protocol for exactly how they produce their meat products. The main thing is transparency, no vagueness or ambiguity, to help the customer understand the process.

Finally, to me the pricing issue is also huge. It is extremely difficult to do, if you have no background or training. One also wants pricing to be transparent, clear and fair. The farmer needs a good income and the consumer needs affordable food. Equity in access to organic or niche foods is not really there. I was shocked, and actually disappointed, when I brought this issue up at our Coop, and was told that the answer was, that they had done some research and they were aware that the Coop would only serve the people with upper middle income and higher. That’s not my dream.

Presently we have taken the approach that we are no longer pricing for the niche, but are offering the same average price as you would find in the grocery store for beef, but not on sale. This allows us to cut out the ‘middlemen’ but leaves us short right now, because the meat packers and grocery stores have the economy of scale on their side so they can offer their food far cheaper than a family farm can produce it. Still, it is a starting compromise.

Whitehorse market survey

I thought I had just posted some thoughts but it seems to have disappeared… Am trying again but ignore this if you've already seen it in another posting...
I was sending a website, for people to check out the survey website for Whitehorse people re the farmers market and eating locally:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=A1D4n_2bQPS7kXVaGLv5v0EA_3d_3d
It asks some interesting questions- trying to get at why people make the food purchases they do. For my final comment I told them that I wouldn’t purchase locally grown chicken unless I was assured that it was at least vegetarian. We grew chickens for a few years, and had to put in special orders to get food that wasn’t “enhanced” with meat protein and laced with antibiotics. Since the food is shipped to the territory from Alberta it was probably just as costly GHG-wise as buying an imported chicken. I told them I wouldn’t be prepared to pay a premium for the chicken if I didn’t think it were better than “industrial food chain” chicken. And most of the food at the farmer’s market is more expensive that the food in the grocery store. (which, according to the organic farmers trying to make a go of it in the Yukon is because of the unfair subsidies in the agriculture system)
Which brings up the equity issue(the survey does ask your income bracket)-Whatever the reasons for the price differences, people on tight grocery budgets aren’t likely to choose to pay much more to eat locally grown chicken. The biggest communal drinking and drug use site in Whitehorse is on the river within a stone’s throw of the weekly (in summer) farmers’ market, although the users and tourists are somewhat obscured from each others view by a pumphouse…

ttanner

Stepwise Approach

Looking back through the case study compared to my notes, it seems the study could benefit from a description of activities in terms of the stepwise approach. The case study does list items that the farmers market would rely on for success that could be incorporated into a step by step plan:

Engage with the Community:
We have discussed stakeholders and networks and the importance of partnerships and education.

Understanding the place:
I think the case study does this quite effectively already in terms of factual information. It could better understand the place based on community perceptions though and keep these thoughts/feelings/interactions in mind when planning.

Creating a plan:
Again, I think this is found in the case study, but perhaps a little scattered. A list of short and long term actions could be highlighted (these can be found in the lists that discuss success in the area and success in a wider context).

Implementation:
In this case, as identified in the introduction, the implementation would be defined later on. I think this is a wise approach considering the magnitude of the issues and the number of stakeholders that should be involved. In terms of step-wise, acknowledging that this would be done in X months/years would be appropriate.

I like the linear, progressive growth approach of step-wise and while most of the information is in the case study, perhaps I would just favour a slight restructuring.

Christina

Market display logistics

Just a small point about the logistics and consistency of setting up a farmers market. The case study briefly addresses the market stalls in its success factors (7. market type). It is common for the individual 'farmer' to set up her own stall, however there are many factors to think about for success. Firstly, some consistency woul be nice, but is not likely acheivable given individual needs and styles. Yet some suggestions for successful display would include considering the product, the exchange of money and weather.
I have seen many tents blow down and product falling off tables during windy days. The design of the market stall has to incorporate weather. If the 'seller' is contiually fiddling with her product because rain or wind is causing havoc...a 'buyer' is less likley to engage.
Cash is king at a market, but how prices are displayed and the ease of the transaction makes a huge difference in sales.
Essentially the stall needs to be designed with the product in mind as not all 'sellers' may be offering produce.
And finally, many farmers want to sell their products right out of the back of their pick-up. The logistics around the design of the market and the perception buyers get from the experience is very important to the success of the market.
Ty

Networks

Ken's talk today really drove home to me the importance of networks in sustainable community development. Thinking about this case study a few nodes came to mind/came to question:

- I was thinking about whether a travelling famer's market to nearby communities would help sustain the farmers and reach out to a wider group of people.

- Networks among local, independent restaurants to encourage them to take on the local product.

- Advertise the health benefits of organic food in the community center and health clinics.

I was thinking what sort of broader advisory committee could be set up to support the market? I was also wonder if, in order to build social capital, young people could be brought in as the volunteers. In Ontario, highschool students need to complete 40 hrs of community service. It would be wonderful to dedicate time while learning important environmental and health issues AND contribute towards building community. Now there's a network!

Christina

Happiness - Valuing Relationships

Mark Anielski's presentation on happiness looked at valuing relationships as an indicator of true sustainable development. Rather than traditional economic indicators we could look at the values that a farmer's market could offer for sustainalbe development or indicator of happiness.
The relationships that I have formed at farmers markets have carried through in my lifestyle...things that I learned, like how to grow vegetables or use compost to reduce weeds. I will try to expand upon this...but i see farmers markets as a sustainable economic model for living light on the land.
Ty

Other forms of local economies

Similar to farmers markets, self-directed artist (studio) tours encourage many of the same concepts that support local economies. I guess the main drawback is the fact that most people drive from studio to studio to view and purchase goods rather than meeting at one location. Craft fairs are similar to farmers markets as these sales are generally held at community locations like a school or church. The main difference between craft fairs and studio tours is price point (usually customers of craft products are not willing to spend over $50, whereas a studio tour may offer more specialized products that are perceived to be of higher value). Another difference is the customer gets the chance to see an artist in action at their studio and offers a bit of learning for emerging artists. Either way, these small local economic 'markets' can lead to sales at neighbouring business, referred to as the 'multipler effect'.

no need for a common vision

Pille’s discussion of regulating results and regulating process seems to apply to the farmer’s market case study and to the community gardens. The farmer’s market and gardens seem to fit the model of a managed process, with the results being open and unpredictable. This approach may reveal a range of possible results that include innovative solutions to sustainability. (It may also bring about some unanticipated unsustainable results.)
Attempting to define the problem and choose a solution to the problem necessitates managing to results. The processes are open, as long as they target the end result.
Because achieving sustainability is such a complex problem, and there does not appear to be consensus on what we want to achieve, or consensus about how to approach the problem even among people with a common vision for the end result, I think this is a good argument to try a multitude of approaches to find processes and results that are more sustainable than current practices.
When I look at the farmer’s market and the community gardens this way, I think it’s a good approach to building stronger networks in which people can co-inspire each other to come up with surprising sustainability solutions- managing a process for some unforeseeable results. No need to agree on a common vision to get started…
ttanner

Four P's of Marketing and Ecological Footprint

Several of us have discussed the concept of ecological footprint both from the production and processing of food perspective and the transportation involved to bring the food to consumers perspective. I have a couple of points. First, when assessing where and whether to locate a farmers' market in the Royal Oak area, a market analysis is essential. The four P's of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) are very important considerations even in a sustainability context. Locating the farmers' market deep in an urban area where most of the clients can either walk or have a short vehicle ride will result in lower emissions than a farmers' market on the outskirts of town close to the farms. However, "place" is only part of the equation.

The next part of the equation is "product" and the practices that the farmers use to create their products whether organic or not can be done in a "green" manner. We cannot forget the role of technology in reducing emissions and our impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The next part of the equation is "promotion." This is where a sustainability focused promotion strategy can not only reach the converted but play a role in converting the unconverted. Encouraging sustainability reporting could also be part of the farmers' market principles, which would influence farmers to demonstrate their contribution to sustainable development and "promote" their products in that manner.

The last part of the equation is "price." The practices that the farmers' engage in must be economically viable and the price of the products must be within an acceptable price range for the consumers. Interestingly, the butcher I used to use in North Vancouver told me that one of the farms he uses is certified organic but has decided to market their products as natural because people think organic is overly priced.

So what does all this have to do with ecological footprint? The points made in product, promotion and place can reduce ecological footprint and identifies the role of technology and economics in reducing one's footprint. We can always refute ecological footprint definitions and tools, but increasing the percentage of local food consumed in the home and improving environmental practices in local food production will result in lowering a community's ecological footprint. A farmers' market based on sustainability principles can play a significant role in achieving this reduction.

Cheers,
Scott

Product and Legislation

Eggs, meat, chicken, honey were identified in the report as being percieved as having a high demand by consumers and some of these as a good return for the farmers. The problem with meat and farmer's markets is inspection. This may not be an issue on the island but the interior the Meat Inspection Regulation, MIR has had a real impact on small local farm's ability to sell their organic poulty etc. It works well for larger commercial farms that require inspection to sell regardless and provides consistency in product. The problem is mandated operational practices and access to inspection as part of the slaughter process. The MIR was announced in 2004 under the Food Safety Act, and is effective September 30, 2007.

retreived March 2, 2008 from: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/protect/meat_inspection.html

Metchosin farmers market - on a Sunday drive

Hi everyone, I'm in. Great discussion...a lot to catch-up on.

My experience with a farmer's market was in Metchosin (rural community west of Victoria). While the market offered excellent organic products and creates a great sense of community, the sustainability of the location may encourage driving.
The local community does support the market in a sustainable way by purchasing and not having to drive to the grocery store...the non-local traffic mostly comes from folks having to drive at least 15mins (10-15km).
Metchosin has few amenities...only one small (expensive) corner store...so the market is a bleessing for the locals. However, in order for farmers to make any real profit...they need outsiders to visit and spend money. Being 15min drive to the nearest external community (Langford and Colwood) the Sunday market actually encourages people to get in their car and drive a relatively long distance for these goods. Transit is very poor to this outlier community. Some people ride their bikes via the Galloping goose trail, but not many. So, while Metchosin's farm market does not have enough local population to support it...a Royal Oak market may have enough local people and transit options to keep the driving to a reasonable level.
Ty

Markets as Events

Though we are primarily focussed on Farmer's Markets, I wanted to bring up the idea of other 'local' markets. The Saturday Market on Salt Spring Island is becoming widely recognized. During the summer it is packed, everyone races of the ferry into town to get some gooodies for the weekend. The premise for sellers is that everything has to be produced on the island. You would be amazed by some of the things they have for sale. There are fruits and veggies as well as cheese, breads and even artistic wares. Though true social capital will not likely occur due to the number of tourists. There must be some value in having a large, friendly group of people get together. How do you quantify this value? Or is this a personal judgement? Maybe you want to hear a crazy story from a German tourist. Maybe you want to promote sustainable local food systems with the locals. The more people you have the more views and possible connections that could be made.

On a side note as Salt Spring is an island it may also be easier to conduct a footprint analysis

solution to what problem

We did talk today about it being odd to jump into the middle of the case study without being clear about the drivers for the Farmer’s Market. It seems that we started with the problem, we jumped in to examine a possible solution.
The case study does say at the start “Given the links between local food systems and sustainability and the desired role of farmers’ markets in local food systems, studying farmers’ markets can offer insights into the barriers and opportunities that exist for strengthening local food systems and achieving sustainability outcomes.” So we appear to be starting from the premise that farmers markets are good for sustainability.
The case study notes: “Though it is necessary to be realistic about the ability of farmers’ markets to alter the industrial food system, farmers’ markets also have the potential to be instrumental in supporting the local food system,” and then a bit later adds “This does not mean that local food systems are inherently more sustainable than industrial food systems, but that they are more apt to acknowledge the importance of relying on locally available resources and recognizing interdependencies between local producers and consumers. This can then lead to more sustainable practices.”
These statements seem rather contradictory to me. If the industrial food chain is not inherently less sustainable, then why would we focus on trying to alter it? It would be easier to analyze the benefits of farmers markets if we had a clearer problem identification- CATWOE?
While we can, and have been, looking at barriers and opportunities related to farmers markets, it is hard to determine whether this is where we would want to put our efforts- to compare this solution to other solutions- without having a really good idea of the problem. It seems from discussions we’ve had in other contexts (biodiversity) that agreeing on a definition of the problem is very difficult. So maybe jumping into solutions that meet a variety of needs is not a bad approach- get people with different objectives to gather around a common cause- the market- and then work on figuring out the key problems.
ttanner

The analysis seems incomplete

You and a few others touched on something that has frustrated me every time I read this.

The analysis doesn't seem to have any logical flow, it seems to rely on a lot of assumptions, and it's not entirely clear what the driver is. As I mentioned initially, it seems at first to be food security, but wanders away from that.

Trix, you have given some quotes above about assumptions. The one I highlighted was similar. "One means of sustaining the local food system is the creation of farmers' markets". They assume that there is a link.

So -- aside from content, I find the structure and format lacking.

Alternatives to farmers' markets

A couple of thoughts occur to me about what I think is p. 7, under "Formation of Social Capital" heading, and in the paragraph above that.

In Whitehorse, there are two choices for buyting organic and/or local food that are alternatives to farmers' markets. I don't know how the footprint compares to a farmer's market, and there may be less social capital produced, but in some ways they overcome problems/challenges associated with farmers' markets.

1. The Alpine Bakery brings in organic produce from local farms in summer, and elsewhere the rest of the year. You sign up for a weekly grocery bag, based on the number of people inyour household, and you can say if you don't want certain things ("I hate pears") but basically you take what is produced/available that week. You pick it up. You pay when you pick it up.

2. Wild Blue Yonder organic farm delivers to your door once a week during the summer. They deliver a set amount, for a fixed price, but you pay in the spring so that they have the money when they need it for seeds/labour etc. This might address the issue of access for seniors, mobility-restricted groups etc. but hard to compare footprints of delivery to the door vs people driving to a market. There is also less social capital, in that interaction is reduced/non-existent.

land for horses

Libby- There is now a weekly "farmers market" in the shipyards park for the summer season. It does add a great tourist shopping area, as it's a great spot to get made in Yukon arts and crafts as well as produce for a short period. (I think the preserving seminar would be great here.) But I do wonder about how to assess sustainability. I think many of the producers are from hobby farms where horses are the main focus. I suppose that if you exclude the horses from the equation, and assumed that they'd be there regardless, the farms might appear to be sustainable. But if the produce is used as evidence of farm income to allow one to turn huge acreages of "pristine" river valley land into agricultural land, when most of the resources (fertilizer, water, soil) are used to support horses, I do wonder...
ttanner

Labour and lifestyle issues in agriculture

The guy we did a field trip last year whose name I can't remember at the moment said the goal for Victoria was 3% of food consumed to be produced here, yet this paper says they already produce 10%. I will email him because he was instrumental in producing the food policy for the GVRD.

They don't mention a problem I hear about elsewhere -- that labour is a key issue in maintaining small farms. Also, people simply don't want the lifestyle -- they say it is too much work and you are too tied down. Neither of these is cited in the list of reasons why the percentage of land under cultivation has declined.

Organic is not as simple as it seems

Hi all

I was really struck last year in research for Erik/Derek that organic was sometime in conflict with GHG emissions reduction. We focucussed on dairy, and were disappointed to learn that organic milk production, because it produced fewer units of milk per cow, was responsible for much higher levels of GHG emissions than conventional industrial milk production. This was kind of disappointing to learn, and ran counter to our assumptions that organic was always better for the planet.

I notice in our case study that they do not address this issue at all.

I'm also a bit unclear about the primary motivation here. In the intro to the detailed case description, and elsewhere, food security seems to be the primary issue, although much of the paper deals with other aspects of farmer's markets. The assessment of farmer's markets and their role and structure might be quite different depedning on how Victoria identifies the key issue.

re organics and "pigness"

“Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health. “ from Polyface Farms (featured in Omnivore’s Dilemma) link: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/principles.aspx . Libby-Perhaps you can drink the organic milk knowing that you are honoring the "cowness of the cow"…
I don’t think I’ll eat another egg from non free-range chickens after reading that book!
I do wonder though, whether the person supporting the farmers market out of respect for “pigness” or “cowness” might run into conflicts with the people motivated by GHG emissions concerns- unless they reached some common understanding –a common framing of the problem-before commencement of the farmers market enterprise…
ttanner

Books

Trix

Pille also mentioned Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan today, and I was going to mention it here again, because it was a great read, easy journalistic style, but tons of good info. It also upended some assumptions we tend to want to make about organic food, and about the structure of agriculture and distribution.

The chapter about feedlots for beef cows may put you off big-business beef for awhile.

Another book that you hear about less, but that I like because it's Canadian (Pollan's book is about the US), is The End of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply -- and what we can do about it, by Thomas Pawlyk.

He thinks there is actually a nutritional crisis that is occurring -- because of how food has been modified for easy growth, transport, storage etc. The actual nutritional quality of some foods (e.g. Vitamin c content of tomoatoes) has declined drastically in a very short time. He also talks about how our food system affects biodiversity.

Which reminds me -- remember that farm we went to last year? Just by planting trees on one side of the creek bordering the field, the increase in birds that ate insects allowed the farmer to drastically reduce his pesticide use. I was amazed at how fast the change occurred, and how drastically he was able to drop his spraying -- and he wasn't an eco-guy at all to start with. It was quite an inspiring story and a good plug for local agricultural and the way that benefits intersect.

moving all my postings over here

Hi team

Sorry, I was posting on the main case studies page....so I'm moving all my postings over here, and will try to catch up with your postings!!

Libby

Eat carrot and dry peas

I thought this was an interesting concept for a research project. Although it was in Europe, still interesting results for here. Not that I'd want a meal made from potatoes, carrots and dry peas too often…

This paper basically looks at both energy requirements and GHG emissions at different stages of food production to see if a) we are measuring these impacts at the appropriate stage of the food production and b) to see where we might make a significant difference by changing consumption patterns.

One of the problems I think farmers' markets face is that people are either not willing to eat bioregionally, or they have not been exposed to the concept – perhaps if they thought about it, they would be willing to factor that into their purchasing. I know when I first heard about it, I had never given much thought to eating kiwi in January – now I do try to modify my purchasing some of the time to eat more bioregionally.

This paper takes that idea to another level, by suggesting we might modify our choices based on energy use and GHG emissions. Perhaps there would be a role at a farmer's market for information on this – maybe even a list of foods and their equivalents. I can see a research project at Royal Roads or UVic to provide some of this information.

Below are a couple interesting excerpts from the paper.

"A comparison of four meals composed of the food items under analysis shows that a meal with tomatoes, rice and pork has nine times higher emissions than a meal made from potatoes, carrots and dry peas. Emissions of greenhouse gases from consumption patterns based on the food items analysed are compared with an assumed sustainable limit of greenhouse gas emissions. The conclusion is that current food consumption patterns in the developed countries exceed the level of sustainability by at least a factor of 4. Prospects for achieving sustainable food consumption patterns are questionable in view of current trends in food demand."

Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika. 1998. Climate change and dietary choices — how can emissions of greenhouse gases from food consumption be reduced? Food Policy, 23 (3/4): 277–293, 1998. Retrieved from Elsevier Science Ltd.

Material Flow Analysis

This case-study looks more at social capital than at ecological issues. I read last year about an incredibly detailed analysis of the footprint of York, England. The report looked at whether assumptions (e.g. transportation is the biggest footprint) were borne out, and also identified where they could get the biggest bang for their buck – where the low-hanging fruit was. I'm sure it cost a fortune to assess the city's footprint in that level of detail, but it was an amazing tool. I wonder if something like this has been done for the GVRD. Although the case study makes a good argument for the social capital that is created with farmers' markets, it would be interesting and useful to figure out if farmers' markets really are the most effective tools from a resource point of view.

An ecological footprint is an indicator of the sustainability of people’s impact on the planet, a quantitative tool for measuring the total area of productive land and water that an individual or nation requires to provide the goods and services that it consumes and to absorb the waste it produces (Barrett, Vallack, Jones, & Haq, 2002).

The Stockholm Environment Institute initiated the ecological footprint study in York in 2001.They did a "material flow analysis" of the city's non-industrial sector, measuring the energy and materials the city used and the waste sinks it required for the garbage produced. The total ecological footprint of York worked out to an average of 6.98 hectares per capita. Almost one-third of the total footprint was for food (22 percent of which ended up as garbage) and most of that was from the "energy land" area needed to absorb the greenhouse gas emissions from the energy required to produce and package the food. (Cars required 0.54 hectares per capita and consumption of non-food items, 0.69 hectares per capita.)

Barrett, J. Vallack, H. Jones, A. & Haq, G. (2002). A material flow analysis and ecological footprint of York: technical report. Retrieved October 18, 2006 from http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/sei/ecofootprint/york%20technical%20report.PDF

Material Flow Analysis - Marc has snapped

Hi Libby, the definition you quote below erks me:
"An ecological footprint is an indicator of the sustainability of people’s impact on the planet, a quantitative tool for measuring the total area of productive land and water that an individual or nation requires to provide the goods and services that it consumes and to absorb the waste it produces" (Barrett, Vallack, Jones, & Haq, 2002).

It is nebulous at best. I don't see metrics, if I did I'd probably refute them. Recall I am the miner. This ecological footprint: does it include disturbance footprints where the metals come from for the IPod? Should it then, if these are reclaimed using techniques to recover native species and biodiversity? Charles taught us day 1/year 1 that this can be measured by Ecological Integrity, and anything the Polluter (ie industry) touches has been forever lost.

Follow me on my journey my Team, bringing this back to the farmer's market (is it possible?:) ... [Well frankly, maybe the intent of on-line posting while in beautiful Victoria residency is to invoke structural determinism.] Believe it or not, I am begining to wonder if this concept of sustainability has not been pushed forward as a social/ecological concept due to self motivated recursion in itself. Perhaps a simple concept of pollution reduction/prevention has been run amis by a society eager to feel good about their pathetic stressful situations. This way they can feel comfortable with the produce they acquire and carry back to their high density abodes.

Sustainable community development is an oxymoron, as nothing grows infintely. Arrogance would suggest we can de-pillar natural processes that might otherwise control human population forever. Look at the Chinese demographic nightmare as a case study. Or maybe look at the pine beetle outbreak that we observe and stand back, unable to further influence it complete demise for the boreal forest. It boils down to managing the scarcity of resources and pollution prevention. We can study it and spend money on it. Infact many of us make lots of money in study this. The fear it invokes has been a fantastic $corporate$ boost for me. If I was at home today, I would drive to the Farmer's market and enjoy the time with my kids and neighbours. That sustains me.

As my Team is my primary audience, I trust you know that I grin as I post - just for your thoughts, Marc

Criticism of the York report

Marc and Chris

Hmmmm...I don't totally follow either criticism of this report. I thought that this detailed analysis was really interesting for a few reasons.

1. It blew away some assumptions -- they found out, that the sectors they assumed were the the biggest producers of GHGs, weren't.

2. This meant that they could use their money more effectively, by targeting it appropriately. It not only identified the sectors to focus on, but where in the material flow to focus.

I wish every community had such good data to work with!

Footprints

A report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities looking at the ecological footprints of Canadian Municipalities and Regions can be found here: http://www.fcm.ca/english/qol/eco.pdf

If you want to know more about how footprints are calculated the methodology and much further information is at: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=datamethods

I think Marc is right to be skeptical such complex and broad brushed calculations are full of assumptions, extrapolations and in many cases less than 100% reliable data.

Also, as the paper recently posted by Ann on the ten commonest mistakes made in planning for sustainable community development, is it not just a procrastinational tool? Measuring something so excessively pessimistic it actually stifles the change the creators of the tool would wish to stimulate?

Finally - "Sustainable community development is an oxymoron, as nothing grows infintely." - is development the same as growth? The creation of a Farmer's Market is surely development - but it doesn't cause 'growth' economic or demographic, does it?

Silos & Stovepipes

We've been engaged in sustainable development concepts for the last three weeks and I seem to have just now started to recognize something for myself. I would have previously viewed the FM as a local economic opportunity. Certainly there have been some excellent posts regarding the environmental and social considerations. It's great! Perhaps we, as environmental practitioners, need to understand to back away a bit and get some perspective. There may be environmental costs. Likeswise there may economic costs (ie vs other forms of produce or carbon footprinting). Understated, I believe, is the social component. We seem to focus on the others, and allow the social capital component to wane at times. It truly is a pillar to community sustainability - and it the key to cohesion, coherence, and resilience of the community. I have been intrigued by the FN posts and agree wholeheartedly! I had not considered this. What an excellent opportunity for strengthening cultural respect and understanding. A gathering place of multiple cultures to share and trade!

Will they remain?

As everyone has indicated there is a tangible social impact to farmers markets for the public. But their enjoyment of this experience can be tempered by hard economic times and cheap "production" sources. Farmers must make a profit and even if they experince the same social benefit as customers they can't be loosing money to show up. The Carbon tax may eventually tip the price point for "production" foods and enable local farmers to make good profits while still providing a cost effective alternative for the public. I hope the public never looses it's passion for farmers markets and small farmers are not legislated out of being able to provide a service and make some money for their efforts.

Not so crazy. Move the Goal Posts

As pointed out earlier the loss of agricultural land has gone hand in hand with increased population creating a massive shift in the ability for local food production to meet increasing demand and thus reduced food security. That doesn't preclude the ability for reversing this trend and at least stabilizing the situation. There is an obvious disconnect between permitting development and the desire for food security.

The Agricultural Land Commission could use it's influence to require this linkage and shift from desparately clinging to the remaining undeveloped lands identified in the ALR to working with development to acheive both parties objectives. As a first step stopping the hemoraging of farmable land to non-production must be stopped. Capping development (an idea that most politicians understand but all are afraid enact), based on a food production objective would require development to participate in the problem. Where money and profit is involved a way will be found. Relying on the good nature of farmers and landowners to help someone else make millions on their land while you have to work like a dog to make a living is irrational and hasn't worked yet.

High Dynamic Complexity

I was looking back at Eric Karlsen's notes in the Governance class for some help in conceptualizing the food problems and there is a term he introduced which I think applies here.

High dynamic complexity exists when cause and effect are distant in time and space, when the link between the cause and the effect are not fully understood.

I think both these apply to the food issue. For example, the connection between non-organic food and the long-term health effects that result from that are often distant in time and space and may never be able to be linked. Similarly, connections between agricultural policy/practices and future food shortages, for example, may be quite distant in time and space.

High dynamic complexity can make it difficult to mobilize support for change. It's difficult to get people to eat turnips and carrots all winter – to extol the virtues of eating bioregionally – when the connections the effects of not eating bioregionally may not be felt here yet. For example, the growing of lettuce for our consumption in January may contribute to water shortages somewhere else, but the connection is too tenuous to have an impact on most consumers.

In my other posting I talked about a chart available at a stall that would list the GHG emissions that resulted from the production of each type of food. I was only half-serious, but it would help to close the gap between cause and effect in at least one area.

3 legs of sustainability school

Here's the post I had somewhere else in cyberspace:
I appreciate the value of building social capital through networking, and can see the value of farmers markets in providing a venue for networking across urban and rural cultures and providing a connection to the land. But what is missing for me in this study is the consideration of other ecosystem values. It seems to have a strong socioeconomic focus- but not so much environmental focus. They discuss climate change impacts due to food transportation a bit, but I think the broader impact of agriculture on the local biodiversity is not well identified. Although in this case it might not be a key issue, I think it’s worth some consideration. It could arise when discussing the question of whether the market should be “organic”. I see that the need for agricultural land is obvious and I think the value of bringing people into contact with their food production is valuable. I think the market could also be used to help people appreciate the sustainability implications of food production and the necessary tradeoffs involved.
Maybe not. Maybe the networking is enough to get out of this project, and the trade-off message is too negative- disabling, disempowering- and would have a negative impact on network formation? But I think it’something to consider if it could be conveyed in a positive, “loving” manner...
ttanner

Bridging, Bonding and Vertical Engagement

Christina brought up the important point of vertical engagement with the local politicians. The fact that 25,000 hectares of land have been removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve and only 13,000 hectares of land is being used for agriculture in the greater Victoria area (GVA)raises alarm bells. This demonstrates the lack of support that exists for local food networks at a political scale. Perhaps this is an angle the Farmers' Market organizers could use to approach the politicians.

A) Dwindling ALR in the Greater Victoria Area reduces GVA's options for producing local food in the future;
B) Benefits of a local food system;
C) Farmers' market being a vehicle to promote local food, increase social capital in a community and establish a market for local farmers, thus, making local farming more economically viable.

On another note, and sorry to keep brining it back to the earlier examples, the lecture this morning influenced a slight shift in my thinking regarding SPUD and farmers' markets. I was originally concerned with reaching the masses and now I am starting to think enough "buzz" could be generated around the farmers' market to reach the masses. Even in a locale with over 100,000 people, people talking to people talking to people could create a recursion that makes the farmers' market part of the community. I'm not entirely there yet as scale, location, timing, competition etc. all have significant influences on how well a farmers' market will be embedded in a community. However, I see greater influence on the community then I did before.

Cheers,
Scott

Bridging, Bonding and Vertical engagement

I noted that in the study, the solutions to many of the challenges and "what doesn't work" can fit under the categories of bridging and bonding.

One gap I noticed is little discussion on solutions for the first issue of the "what doesn't work" section related to political support.

Vertical engagement to garner their support would be key in this situation. In order to achieve that support, a delicious dinner hosted by the farmer's association might be a good way to break the ice with relevant politicians. Creating the space for dialogue while highlighting the product and the benefits of the market could help to open the lines of communication and see the issues from different perspectives. Dessert isn't a bad idea either!

Christina

Social Capital and Community Engagement

Really good points about relating the engagement at a farmers' market with a connection to the land. Also, linking a child's understanding of where food comes from and going to farmer's markets vs. buying milk at Wal-mart. This identifies the importance of where a farmers' market is set up and what type of engagement and follow-up engagement takes place.

From a child's perspective, having local organic food delivered to the door may not establish any direct connection to local farming. The same may be for a farmers' market set up within an urban location. There needs to be "targeted differentiated audience strategies" or focused education to establish the links between consumers and local producers beyond the act of going to the farmers' market to buy food.

To answer Chris's question, what model do you think provides the most to sustainable community development? I think both examples provide equally to SCD providing there is a focused education component and an emphasis on supporting locally grown food. They both may fill similar niches but not identical niches. However, if the farmers' market is located in a convenient location, the niches may be more similar.

Scott

Social Capital and Community Engagement

Excellent points by Marc and Scott and others with respect to the high value in terms of social capital of Farmer's Markets, which I share whole-heartedly.

The Farmer's Market (FM) in my community is the largest in northwestern BC - and it is THE forum for community engagement.
If you are hosting any type of community event or simply disseminating information (ie: a garden tour for women in development, or the anti-poverty society, etc) the place to BE is the market.
It acts as a weekly, informal gathering where cultures cross and celebrate one another, through sharing of different types of foods, produce, crafts and preserves.
I don't believe FM's should be limited to produce. It is the diversity of homemade products that make FMs such attractive social events -something for everyone, so to speak.
I am a regular shopper and occasional vendor at our market, and recognizing its social value, have worked with a small group of volunteers to develop the market infrastructure to make it a more appealing and appropriate venue for the type of interaction that inevitably occurs (ie: developing a patio with seating for people to eat and talk, installing bike racks, a stage for musicians, etc).

The ideas for the 'FM Project' came from an excellent book on community development called 'A Pattern Language' - http://downlode.org/Etext/Patterns/ or http://www.patternlanguage.com/
Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, with Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King and Shlomo Angel. Published by Oxford University Press.
This is an older book from U of C, Berkely, and remains relevant - here's a quote:

"The simple social intercourse created when people rub shoulders in public is one of the most essential kinds of social "glue" in society."

The neat thing about the book is that provides guidance for creating 'social spaces' - fundamental rules for what makes a space 'feel right' and/or encourages social interaction and community engagement. The ideas are thousands of years old - most European cities were developed using these principles, and that is why we find these places so charming.
I very highly recommend the book for anyone interested in planning or even building their own home, or workspace.
The recent wave of 'Not So Big House' books are based on the principles found in A Pattern Language.
When I applied some of the principles to our FM development it was absolutely amazing (and very rewarding) to see it really working in action.
It is also interesting to start to see and understand why some spaces or places don't 'work' socially.

But back to FM - I also agree that it is a fantastic place for kids to experience both community and 'gardening', and for interaction between a cross section of the community (in terms of age and social-classes) where insights and information is shared. The influence of the FM on my son (7) is very obvious. He is always coming up with ideas for things he can make or grow that he will be able to sell at the FM! He is definitely in tune with the economic factor.....but also drawn by the types of food available and the friendly social engagement, which make him want to be there.
I also notice that many people ride bikes or walk to the market, which is uncommon for other events in our community.

I have to get caught up on the rest of your posts. Thanks everyone.

-Sam

Urban Food Security, Planning for Gardens

As noted in the case study the loss of productive farm land through urban expansion restricts the ability for locally sourced food production and security. Though farmer's markets may provide more opportunities for sales of produce and increase profit of farmers by removal of the middle man this may not be adequate to significantly impact food security. The market does provide a critical initial step in that it's interactive nature educates the growing urban masses that would otherwise be removed from any farming experience.

Urban redevelopment and planning initiatives have the ability to build on the success of farmer's markets to create house lot gardens by individuals, (WinklerPrins 2002) and urban gardens where community residents have the opportunity to grow their own produce, (Altieri et al,1999). By redevelopment of low density lands, which were likley farm land originally, into higher density clusters surrounded by open space for gardening the overall density may be maintained while providing the opportunity to increase farmable land base and thus food security. This also would provide social benefits through localized interactions of neighbours. Obviously intiatives would be required to convert urban dwellers to even casual weekend gardeners however as demonstrated by the farmer's markets there is a resurgence of desire to commune with the land that this could expand upon and in so doing reclaim some of the original productive land base.

WinklerPrins,AMGA, 2002 House-lot gardens in Santarém, Pará, Brazil: Linking rural with urban Urban Ecosystems, 2002 Volume 6, March 2002
Altieri,MA, Companioni,N, Cañizares,K, Murphy,C, Rosset, P., Bourque, M. and Nicholls,C.I. 1999 The greening of the “barrios”: Urban agriculture for food security in Cuba … - Agriculture and Human Values, Volume 16 June 1999

re: planning for gardens

I like the ideas you suggest Ed, but have a few concerns:

1. You mention redevelopment of areas and I worry about the ecological impact of redevelopment without other rationale. Perhaps you intended that the redevelopment would not be solely for garden considerations, but then slow redevelopment might take a very, very long time. I agree, however, that this appropriate should be incorporated in the land use planning or the developpers should consider incoporating it into their plans; however

2. Imposing gardens on people is ify and while I like the idea that greater encouragement could achieve a greater constituency, no matter how many forums, posters, speeches or free shovels you hand out, there's no way my sister is going to garden. :)

3. I think we should also consider community networks with regards to food security. Community gardens in many parts of the country would not bring in the necessary amount of food (either due to growing season or demand).

Finally, I wanted to consider the importance of preserving. I believe we are not preserving food as much (as a general statement) as was done in the past since many things are available year round. The farmers market would be a great location to provide information/seminars on how to preserve (and might also mean a greater economic benefit for the farmers who might sell more to those people willing to buy more to freeze/jar for the winter).

Christina

re: Planning for Gardens

The idea of introducing gardens as part of nay re-development has a dual function. In areas where original low density, (single family homes) is no longer desirable due to growth and city planning goals to provide housing closer to the city core, preserving of open space as part of the development provides for livability of the higher density housing form. By creating a central garden area a sense of community is also ceated. This is very similar to the farmer's market where interaction is a planning objective and food becomes the medium. Though food production from these gardens can offset industrial food production it is unlikely to have any major impact unless shifted from a social experince to a production goal which would be up to the residents.

Having these areas available does help with food security as it becomes a space where food can be grown shoulld you have to. During WWII gardens were everywhere in cities as a means of offsetting rationing. It's impractical to destroy you housing to enable food production so why not ensure some space is available.

re: planning for gardens

Wow, cool point Christina re preserving. Times and demands certainly have changed with the global economy where produce can be in-season year round. I have such positive memories of getting sacks of cucumbers and helping the family pickle (->subject + verb). We did the same with everything it seemed, even fish were canned. I suppose that many of these products can be found in some form of preserve now, only it is typically just another product that is 'canned' for us - again distancing the linkage between grower and consumer. "Fresh" marketing seems to have replaced the need for season storage.

Glass canning jars, or Mason jars (named after their inventor John L. Mason) have existed since the early 1850s and today are eagerly sought after by collectors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antique_fruit_jar).
Possibly just my own distraction, but seem to recall that mason has either quit making the jars, or re-structured the sealing lids so they are not longer compatible with those used for decades.

We never, never thru out a canning jar. If sustainable development is truly a conversation of forward thinking: were these concepts not employed back then? Perhaps it has a clear linkage to scarcity of resources. Think the modern farmer's market might employ life cycle approach of products, similar to U.K.'s new legislation: End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELVD), with the intent of reuse and recycle?

Marc

food preserving

I like Christina's suggestion of including seminars on preserving. It would be transferable to local purchases beyond the farmers market, helping people to use local produce year round. And, after listening to Pille's discussion about the way we like to share food, I think the network building effects of this kind of activity could be particularly effective.
ttanner

understanding the farmer

What if the farmers at the market sold potted gardens or vegetables? The farmers could toss some dirt along with a few seeds into a planters pot and sell it at the market. Though it is probably more difficult than I put it. This way the visiting public wouldn't need a community garden as these planters pots could go where ever. This may help connect people with the difficulties of farming and allow people to value the work farmers do in a more 'real' way.

Kyle

Interactive products equals education

Kyle's idea is a good one. Visitors to farmers markets often enjoy the interactive displays as a way to understand the product offering and as a way to keep there kids busy. Much learning can come from these interactions. I encourage the idea to allow market customers to get their hands dirty and learn.
Ty