Guest Blogger Mitra Sticklen
2010 was my first year at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference, and I was blown away by the organized networking events, workshops, hands-on activities, and panel discussions. Over 800 attendees this year meant that tickets completely sold out! If you missed the conference or want to revisit the main discussions and speeches, check out the new CFSA podcast page and leave comments! You can stream or download each event.
Or listen to a few sessions here:
SAC Guest Blogger: Sarah Sinning
If “no man can be a patriot on an empty stomach,” as William Cowper would have us believe, then the same logic must be true for local food advocates, right? This idea certainly seems to have been behind Kris Reid’s delicious offerings at this year’s SAC, for the variety of dishes at every meal was simply staggering. For those of you who couldn’t make it this year, here’s a little sampling of the goods:
Sweet potato bisque, collard wraps with winter vegetables and honey pecan dressing, shrimp and grits, autumn vegetable strudel, braised greens with apples and caramelized turnips, spiced pumpkin with Sea Island Peas and goat cheese salad, whole pork braised in rootbeer, carrot cake with goat cheese frosting…and trust me, the list goes on! Are you hungry yet???
But while this autumnal feast was certainly impressive given the fact that Reid had to source enough food to feed over 600 attendees more than 5 different meals over the course of a weekend, one of the biggest challenges was simply in finding it all! For those of you who are not familiar with how the food service industry typically operates, here’s a quick crash course. For most major hotels and restaurants, the most difficult part of ordering food for an event is generally in crunching the numbers. Once you have a menu drafted with the amount of prospective guests, placing your order can be as simple as filling out an online form with your distributor and hitting “send.” While a lot of establishments actually use a variety of distributors to assure the best quality and price, the key word here is DISTRIBUTOR. When Reid was asked to source the food as locally as possible, the luxury of using a pre-established distributor network pretty much went out the window! The problem is simple: although there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for local food across the state, we still lack an adequate infrastructure to make it truly accessible across all avenues. When CFSA introduced Eastern Carolina Organics a few years back, this was a huge stride in the right direction, for it finally gave time and cash-strapped restaurants and retailers access to the local food producers they desired. While it has certainly been no secret to professional and home cooks alike that local, seasonal ingredients taste better, most restaurants simply couldn’t afford the time and extra cost associated with not only tracking down the products, but also coordinating their delivery on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. But today the tides are changing, and as ECO and businesses like it continue to grow and more and more farmers are contributing to the overall supply, the infrastructure is slowly but surely filling in the gaps. This doesn’t unfortunately mean that Reid had the luxury of simply filling out an online order form and hitting “send,” but it’s because of the tireless efforts of chefs like her that the rest of us will one day be so lucky.
SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis
Author Deborah Krasner spoke to a small crowd of farmers and cooking aficionados on Sunday with cheery enthusiasm and expertise on sustainable gourmet. The James Beard Award winner discussed her latest book, Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat, the first published guide and cookbook to take an unadulterated look into how we raise, source and (better) cook grass-fed and pasture-raised meat.
Attendees were just as excited as Krasner about Good Meat. “A lot of the other books out there [on organic meat] are dreadful,” said one farmer.
“I wrote Good Meat for a number of reasons,” Krasner told the room. “One of which, I really understood that cooking pastured and grass-fed meat is very different than conventional.”
She also recalled an article she read in the New York Times in which the writer didn’t know what to do with lamb shoulder. “Wow, we have really dumbed down cooking if nobody knows how to cook anything except for a steak or a chop,” she said.
She was also a bit irked that sustainable meat was difficult to find in most U.S. cities. “I was angry that good meat went from being a birthright to everyone, to good meat being something that we have to search out.”
Her book, however, is anything but angry. After one brief peek into the pages of gorgeous photographs, beautifully executed recipes (lamb with ginger, cinnamon and apricot, anyone?) and recommended, affordable kitchen equipment, it’s no wonder this book is being touted as a complete how-to guide for sustainable meat. For three years, Krasner cooked meat from various farms out of her Vermont home to compile a tested recipe collection of beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, poultry (ducks, chickens, turkey, pheasant). Aside from retail cuts like flank and chuck, her book also features the bits and pieces many of us are hesitant to try cooking: lamb’s tongue, pig’s ears and tails, chicken feet, hearts, gizzards, sweetbreads and more.
“You’re obliged to honor the animal’s sacrifice by cooking the whole animal,” said Krasner. “That means cooking every part that is edible, not just cherry-picking the choicest cuts.”
On Sunday, Krasner unlocked a treasure trove of cooking secrets when dealing with meat. Among them: cook low and slow (with a tight fitting lid) or fast and hot; don’t cook anything past medium rare; distilling a half cup of red wine, apple cider, vermouth or beer into a hot pan of caramelized leftover meat bits makes for a “baseline fabulous” reduction; a $10 Chinese sand pot from an Asian grocery is just as good as a fancy Le Creuset.
The retail price for Good Meat is $40, though Krasner is offering wholesale prices for farmers. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. For an online excerpt, click here.
“In the end, what matters to me is that we make a sustainable meat movement in this country and we help everybody get healthy. It’s good for the health of yourself, your family, and guests at your table. It increases the health of small farmers and diversified farms, preserves your land from development. It saves the planet; its carbon footprint is correct. Land that cannot be used for farming can be used for grazing animals. I don’t care if you eat a lot of meat or a little bit of meat, whenever you choose to eat it, eat good meat.”
For gourmand folks looking to learn more about cooking sustainable meat, NC Choices Casey McKissick informed the crowd that there will be artisanal cooking classes for home cooks at the Carolina Meat Conference, March 25-27 in Concord, N.C.
SAC 2010, Guest Blogger Lisa Poser
I thought canning was for old ladies. Like sewing and knitting is…. right? Wrong. On both assumptions.
First of all, knitting has actually made its way into the spotlight over the past few years as a hobby for people of all ages. For evidence, see this fun site that has successfully helped to form social knitting clubs all over the world!
Canning is also arguably making its way into the spotlight as the push towards local food and gardening gains momentum. (After all, we need something to do with all that fresh, local, nutritious produce we’re growing!) Evidence? For starters, the Canning 101 workshop at this years Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
Granted I don’t know too many canners other than my Mom who use to make strawberry jam every summer and the lady at the farmers market who I buy pepper jelly from, but Dr. Anne Marie Scott, Kitchen Educator at the Edible Schoolyard Project, is definately one of the most passionate canners I’ve ever met! During this session she gave us a run down of what it takes to start canning. For those of you who are like me and haven’t tried it yourself yet for various reasons (don’t have the time, don’t know how, are scared of a pressure canner) read below and then give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Dr. Scott’s Main Message about canning was pretty clear and simple. Just do it! And don’t let that pressure canner scare you! If you follow the recipe directions to the T, your end product will be safe to eat.
- There are two approved canning methods. The type of food you want to can decides which method you use. Use Boiling Water Canning for high-acid foods like fruits. Use Pressure Canning for low acid foods like vegetables and meats.
- Start with Boiling Water Canning because it’s less complicated than using a Pressure Canner.
- Bad things like botulism can happen, but rarely do. If you follow the directions exactly, your product will be perfectly safe to eat.
- If you unintentionally make syrup instead of jelly, just smile and enjoy….it will taste equally as yummy!
- A tested preserving recipe
- Canning jars (like Ball Mason jars) with appropriate lids and bands
- Deep saucepot with a lid and a rack (for Boiling Water Canning)
- A ladel
- A jar grabber to remove jars from boiling water
- A magnetic wand to remove lids from boiling water
Where To Buy Canning Tools and Equipment? Online, your local hardware store, or your local grocery store (Weaver Street Market, Food Lion)
Where To Get More Information.
You can find everything you need to know including How-To Guides and Videos, a Problem Solving Guide, Recipes, Tools, etc to start canning at Ball’s website. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest are also invaluable resource books.
SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis
CFSA made a good call in including the Labor Issues for Farmers session at SAC 2010. The issue may not be riveting (it wasn’t a packed house like the Why Farms Fail session down the hall), but it’s a very important one, both in complying with state labor laws and treating farmworkers justly, running your small farm fairly and smoothly.
Digesting all the information given to the group by Rick Blaylock of the NC Department of Labor can be a headache, though the department’s Web does a pretty good job in providing resources. We were all given a packet of detailed information (see links below) regarding wage laws, employment laws concerning migrants, youths and volunteers and farm labor contracting (FLC).
FLCs were the first big topic. “If you’re a farmer and you need workers, a lot of times you’ll contact somebody that can supply you with workers. That person is a Farm Labor Contractor,” explained Blaylock. “I really appreciate you all being there today, because I wish I could get this out to every farmer. We investigate farmers independent of FLC leaders. We revisit farmers we found violations with in the past. “
The discussion quickly led to a Q&A session with Mr. Blaylock.
Q: Can farmers pay in cash?
A: Paying in cash is fine, but it’s hard to document. If you have a list, fine. But if the people say, no they weren’t paid, then the records are tough.
Q: I’m hiring some people right now and I’m using a receipt book on a carbon form. I need to get them to sign it?
A: Cash is perfectly legal. My only concern is documentation for yourself if they get amnesia.
Q: Can you pay FLC directly? So long as there’s a paper trail, is that perfectly fine?
A: Make sure there is a good paper trail. You need to show us how many hours these people worked, and how much they got paid.
Q: Do you pay FLC directly or farmers directly? Is that something you negotiate with them in providing the service?
A: If you’re dealing with a reputable FLC, and everything works out, then you’re good.
Q: What prompts an investigation? Is it a random audit?
A: We are doing large investigations during what we see are the peaks of that industry. In the four years I’ve been here [in North Carolina], I’ve been very fortunate to develop a great list of resources who contact me often to see if it’s a concern. If it’s safety related, we go that day or the next day.
Q: Does the DoL check the immigration/legal status of farmworkers?
A: When we interview migrant workers, we do not ask if they are here legally or not. Regardless of if someone is here legally or illegally, they are required to be paid fairly. People know that when they talk to our agency, they are protected. Many workers are subject to human trafficking. We have a real problem here, and it’s our job to help the people who need our help – whether they are here legally or illegally. I don’t know if they’re illegal. I don’t care that they’re illegal.
For those of you unable to attend, here are links to all the information we received:
The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs49.pdf
MSPA Transportation http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs50.pdf
MSPA and Farm Labor Contracting (FLC ) [Go to EDIT in the tool bar and use the FIND Tool to search for FLC certificates] http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/FLCList.htm
MSPA Ineligible Farm Labor Contractors http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/mspa_debar.htm
Wage and Hour Division http://www.dol.gov/whd/
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/index.htm
MSPA, FLSA and Farmworkers Rights http://www.dol.gov/whd/FLSAEmployeeCard/FarmWorkerEnglish.pdf
General Agriculture Page http://www.dol.gov/whd/ag/index.htm
Compliance Guide/Worker Protections in Agriculture http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/mspa.htm
SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis
“Just-hatched” young farmers and seasoned producers packed Farm Marketing 101: Starting a CSA and Other Hot Topics on Saturday. Led by Judy Lessler of Harland’s Creek Farm, the slide show presentation quickly led to a dynamic dialogue, Judy lending her expertise to farmers and market managers interested in expanding into a successful CSA.
Ana Parra, Executive Director of Hub City Farmers’ Market in Spartanburg, S.C., attended the session to help her market’s farmers. “We did a pilot CSA, but I felt like there was a lot of room for improvement. I wanted to learn the basics of a successful CSA and take that information to farmers in Spartanburg County to plan for a successful collaborative CSA for 2011.”
Harland’s Creek started a flour CSA ten years ago and a produce CSA just one year later, both highly successful. The trick? Direct marketing strategy, collaboration and communication.
“Your customers have paid. Even if promised crops are not available, be up front about what could happen,” she said, citing examples of a hail storm creating a limited variety, or even better weather causing an extra production of one crop in the mix. “Have you communicated with the customer? If you continually say, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,’ they are gonna leave you.”
· Make sure you have enough products every week – Judy actually grows 50-60% more than she needs for the CSA, just so she has enough to sell at markets and to restaurants.
· Collaborate – you need a variety in your basket. If you only specialize in five items, collaborate with three or four other farms with their five specialized products for market variety to customers.
· Throw in a “piece of gold” – Judy includes value-added products, like recipes and a meal plan to help people figure out how to transform a basket of produce into meals for the whole week.
· Detailed planning required – determine how far you’ll travel to deliver, how often you’ll communicate, how many customers you’ll take each season, the additional costs to special products (meat, dairy, etc.) – and stick to it.
· BIG decision: customer choice or farmer choice? Judy suggests tailoring the box as a farmer and educating your customers on what to eat seasonally
Direct thoughts from Judy Lessler:
On what to grow: “What I would recommend, if you are starting out, is to set the share items yourself. And grow some products that can be stored. I love it when potatoes are harvested. They’ll have that fresh new potato taste for about 4 months. Other things, garlic, sweet onion can store for about a month. Carrots, beets can be stored. A lot of things like that are good to have available.”
On how to gain customers, and keep them: “Start by advertising at the farmers market. Now CSAs are so popular, people are Googling. I don’t think you’ll have trouble if people know of your farm. Once you have them, you gotta treat ‘em well. It doesn’t mean if there are flea beetles on your arugula, and it’s perfectly fine to eat, you just put them in the box. You have to tell them it happened, that it’s fine. It’s really important not to just slip something in, you have to let them know. Offer farm visits, cooking classes. Lots of people do potlucks and dinner for their CSA customers. And that value-added product; for example, meal preparation booklet 2009:“How to cook a pizza no matter what is in your CSA box.”
SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis
SAC 2010 did not skirt around any issue. The soul of the movement is on the line, and on everybody’s mind. And 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday was a perfectly acceptable time to address it, first thing in the morning.
THE PANEL: “Taking Sustainable Agriculture to Scale without Losing our Souls”
THE PURPOSE: Local and organic is a growing movement. But can we grow the supply of sustainable food and fiber in this country without losing our values?
THE MODERATOR: Scott Marlow, RAFI-USA
Rick Larson – Natural Capital Investment Fund
Ruffin Slater – Weaver Street Market
Matt Boulanger – Enterprise Farm (Massachusetts)
Sandi Kronick – Eastern Carolina Organics
Uli Bennewitz – Weeping Radish Brewery
Phil Barker – Operation Spring Plant, Prize in the Harvest Coop
If any of the audience members in the Grand Pavilion that morning felt groggy, they masked it perfectly with wide-awake faces and an eagerness to listen. The farmers, consumers, organizers and activists among the attentive audience and experienced panel discussed the changing, growing market and how the smaller players can win. The bottom line: yes, the game is changing. Buzz words saturate brands and media, and the movement has become a trend. For everyone involved from the beginning, “shouting into the wilderness” as Scott said, it’s their job to protect the values behind it, so as not to “lose our soul”. At the end of the day, everyone in that room, at the conference, is considered “an activist entrepreneur with the power to bring about social change.” Below is a list of highlighted topics and tips from the panelists, in their own words.
Protect our values. Scott Marlow: “Markets do not stay static – ever. As there becomes more and more value in what we do and what we’ve created, and we address certain problems [climate change, peak oil, obesity] there will be more and more people who want to take advantage of that value and cut out the piece themselves. So the big question is: How do we do this and make it real?” [After the panel, he added]: “If we don’t protect our ground, our values get syphered off, our integrity gets eroded, it all goes away.”
Keep it local. Ruffin Slater: “It’s important to look at the supply chain. I think we have amazing success stories at every part of that chain. When these parts of the chain are locally owned, there are no problems with values, with the soul of the movement. It’s a big loss when locally-owned stores are bought out by national chains. If we can learn how to grow grapes and produce wine organically, we can learn how to run an institutional cafeteria.”
Know your neighbors. Phil Barker: “I think that we can’t just move in our pastures anymore. We have to look at what our neighbors do, and how do we work together to make this work? There’s a big difference now in the way we think about how we make profit. The dollars are going to begin to drop down for certain growers. As we move forward, I see ourselves as pulling together and investing our dollars in the community.” [Later he added]: “Our small farms are the backbone of our agricultural system. We have to keep our small farmers on the land as owners.”
Drive the volume. Sandi Kronick:” Greatest innovation is the direct market distribution. There’s obviously a lot of challenges in it, but what’s exciting is there’s nothing linear about it. We’re all kind of bumping into each other in the market, but we’re blessed by having the same values. It’s trust, it’s what happens when you’re working with people. We’re all moving in the same direction. How do we maintain the identity of that farm and the integrity, so the prices are what they need to make and not driving it down? It’s ultimately how quickly it can get to the vendor. The fewer steps, the more money goes to the producer.” [Later she said]: “Network. There’s no reason why the middleman can’t be a food advocate.”
Sell in more than one outlet. Rick Larson: “I think it’s important as growers to have more than one outlet for your product. The market is fluid, it’s always changing. You have to have more than one way to move your product. It helps a lot if you do. If you’re just a CSA farm, and you have a few consumers, that’s it. In coming up with capital, a cost share can be very effective.”
Maintain relationships to maintain integrity (versus the big guys). Uli Bennewitz: “One thing we are completely underestimating is the trust of the public in small farms. That’s the biggest asset we have – integrity and trust. There is no way Smithfield or Tyson can prove where their product came from. “
Guest post by PL Byrd, The Byrdfeeder
Messages delivered, received; seeds exchanged, planted; old friends reunited, new friends united; back room deals made, squeezes played; money well spent, money well earned.
Hope ignited, confidence rebuilt; love shared, humans bloomed; tweaks tweaked, business bolstered.
Call it an exercise in intrinsic value profit-sharing at its very finest and highest level, and call it a day.
THE HAIL MARY PASS
Thank you for allowing me to participate.
Thank you for the stairs.
Thank you for the padded chairs.
Shout Outs (in no particular order, and certainly not complete, but my legs are numb):
Kris Reid, Executive Chef Extraordinaire, count me among the big girls who’ll hold your hair back anytime. You are one cool cuke in a pressure-cooker industry. Take a bow.
Ron Wilson, CFSA BOD President, you are a gracious and big-hearted Southern man who expertly wears a properly fashioned bowtie.
Frank Hyman, who the heck are you? I owe you lunch. Grins and hugs, GIGO Man.
Cheryl “Santa Fe” Ripperton Rettie, given half a chance, you could rule the Universe.
Brett Grohsgal, you are a Super Even’Star, on your way to becoming a supernova. (Man bought his own product and stuffed my Christmas stocking…fancy that!)
Roland McReynolds and Fred Broadwell, good on you!
Dick McKellog, Lowe’s is a homegrown grocery chain. The challenge is on! Think small!
Ashley, Guyana is missing a touchstone. May your heart soon find its compass.
Amy Armbruster, you command a communication station with finesse and grace.
John Bryan, missed your face, but loved your Krankies coffee. Decaf’s not wimpy when you make it. What? That wasn’t decaf? OH, SH………!
Paging Drew Harrison…
From the bottom of my food activating, community health educating, cheerleading heart, I thank you all.
SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis
Growing up in Clemmons, I remember trotting over to Old Salem in guided school tours as a kid. By the time I hit my teenage too-cool-for-school phase, I wasn’t interested in the nerdy history, except for that one tasty bit: the bakery. Once the leaves started to fall and the air turned crisp, my friends and I would take a trip to sit under the fiery orange trees and devour a gooey Moravian sugar cake, the crystalized, indulgent evidence splattered on our chins.
The sugar shock must have been more like a haze, because from bakery to favorite tree, we completely bypassed another historic food gem. It wasn’t until now, a decade later, when I learned the Moravians did more than just bake to earn a place in gastronomic history. The very first Moravian settlers cultivated vegetable gardens. Our tour guide, gardener Eric Jackson, led us through the newly revamped Single Brothers Garden on Salt St. The original garden was first started in 1769 out of necessity to provide the boys choir with food grown in their backyard. After 45 years, it became a community garden (there’s that trendy buzz word!). The original plot no longer exists, but the recreated landscape on Salt St. serves as the museum’s example of Moravian sustainable agriculture. The enormous, sprawling kale, cabbage, lettuce and other vegetables aren’t treated organically in the greenhouse, though Eric did make it clear that after planting, they are cared for with organic methods only. Old Salem currently employs three vegetables gardeners, one greenhouse manager and one flower gardener. Unfortunately, the gorgeous, edible leafy greens are usually left to wilt, only there for show.
The museum does, however, maintain heirloom seeds and conduct extensive research on a variety of native NC crops. We were lucky enough to snatch some heirloom onions to plant in our own backyards, as well as get special access to the Horticulture Workroom. There I spotted a former JIF peanut butter jar now slapped with a handwritten label touting the Southern heritage inside: “Peanuts. Pre-Civil War.”
We then slipped over to the Reynolda Gardens (formerly of the Reynolda house; now of Wake Forest University). While wealthy industrialist R.J. Reynolds only enjoyed his estate for just a few weeks before he died, his wife, Katherine, took advantage of her wealth and the popular Country House Era sentiment to create an expansive model farm from 1912 to 1924. According to our guides, Preston Stockton and David Bare, 350 acres were under cultivation by 1917. The farm itself included all the best meat and dairy: Jersey cows, Tamworth swine, Shropshire sheep. The Reynolds-Conrad family, neighbors and employees all enjoyed the fruits — and vegetables, milk, meat– of their labor. Our particular SAC tour led us through the Formal Gardens. Mrs. Reynolds strategically planted the most beautiful, noteworthy and exotic vegetables in the “upper garden” within view of the town, using cutting-edge methods. When in season, fig trees, grape vines, asparagus, strawberries, leeks and more adorn the rows along Reynolda Rd.
“Mrs. Reynolds specified that she wanted the gardens open to the public to represent modern horticulture,” said David Bare.
Most of the produce goes to volunteers who tend to the garden, but Winston-Salem residents can catch their share of history and fresh, local produce at the Reynolda Village Farmers Market every Friday. The grounds are open from sun up to sun down to the public. Take advantage if you’re in town, and don’t forget to get a glimpse into the impressive greenhouse –vanilla beans and Meyer lemons are just a few of the gourmet treasures inside.
Guest post by PL Byrd, The Byrdfeeder
Michael Shuman may think it strange that SAC 10 invited him to be this year’s Keynote speaker given his past experience as a Twinkie mascot, but that unique line on his resume tends to perk a listener up. Expertly bridging serious business and lilting playfulness, his message ascended from the ordinary to the sublime. Somewhere in this highly intelligent man’s psyche resides the hybrid spirit of Groucho Marx and Julia Child.
After masterfully gaining the room’s confidence through a personal story of youthful inexperience and self-effacement, Michael settled into laying bricks by dispelling myths about local food, by sharing his experience in scaling up efforts to bring clean, safe food to the public-at-large, and by addressing the biggest challenges lying before us.
The Myths Dispelled:
- · Local food is a fad
- · Wal-Mart sells local food
- · Local food is unsustainable
- · The concept of local food is uniquely American
- · Local food is more expensive
- · Local food can’t compete in today’s market
Just The Facts, Ma’am:
- · Local means fresh, safe, and clean
- · We have a unique handle on solving the burgeoning epidemic of obesity through providing nutrient-dense, whole food to the masses
- Local farms provide an avenue to increase tourism dollars into financially compromised communities
- · Communities that support local businesses experience less crime, more satisfaction, and a greater awareness of fair political practices
- · Wal-Mart local food is an oxymoron
- · Local means proximity of ownership, and supports a value system that leaves more dollars in a community than it removes
- · Supporting local businesses is a wealth-building strategy because they stay put
- · Local equals little or no carbon footprint
- · Local food is taking off around the globe (America is well behind many other countries in this effort, but not for long!)
- · Local food is generally more expensive (I argue that Americans spend less earned dollars on real food than any other country; it’s about time we place a higher value on good health and an honest day’s work; therefore, this point is debatable. Hold fast, farmers; stay your course!)
- · Local foods are already competing in today’s market, and many growers are finding creative ways to make a comfortable living while helping heal our nation through outreach, education, and altruism
Next, Michael discussed how local foods are undercutting Big Ag Biz through innovation, direct delivery, aggregation (simply put, aggregation means uniting efforts), vertical integration (growing deep rather than wide by creating food clusters), owner loyalty (Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC, for example), better access to all, better taste, better stewardship, better labor practices, better service; better, better, better! Local businesses also promote social change and creativity, and are just plain, downright fun to support.
We can accelerate the food revolution, Michael insisted, by identifying where dollars are leaking from the local economy. The biggest leaks come from grocery chains and big box stores. We should consider building business alliances to increase competition by refinancing our local food businesses, specifically the ones that support local farms. (Get vocal. Ask your grocer where his/her food comes from, and if you aren’t satisfied with the answer, politely, but firmly, express yourself. Knowledge is power, so let’s empower our grocers.)
The takeaway: we are facing the most dramatic financial transfer we’ve ever had the chance to make. The time to make change is now! Entrepreneurship opportunities abound, so do your homework.
Two ideas that hold promise for the future:
- · Put your IRA money into local food co-ops
- · The current tax system makes no sense from bottom to top. Do away with it all, Michael advises, and establish one simple energy tax for everyone.
Michael Shuman is passionate, committed, intelligent, and funny to the bone. Strange in a good way, unlike a Twinkie. He’s the real deal.