From the May 2006 Idaho Observer:
Corporate capture of organic food market?
Seattle’s Pike Street Market—since 1897
Rebirth of farmers’ markets in America?
A survival imperative.
"If the food supply changes, so does the organism eating it."
There is no argument to counter the statement above. Our food supply is changing—and so are we. We are becoming increasingly overweight and malnourished,more vulnerable to acute illnesses; dying after long bouts of chronic illness is a fate we, as a culture, have come to accept. Many of us, however, have chosen not to accept a fate of dying slowly from illnesses caused by mindless consumption of genetically-altered, chemically-processed and plastic-packaged products. We have consciously altered our diet to accommodate government-certified organic food. But when the corporate food supply adulterers lobby to reduce organic standards and then take over production and packaging of "organic" food, what then? Our choice: Continue changing for the worse at the supermarket or return to the farmers’ market.
by Bob Nicholson
Responding to their customers’ increasing demand for better food, many supermarkets across the nation have established "organic" sections in their stores. WalMart recently announced it will begin selling organic food at it’s stores because organic food is the fastest growing category in food sales and the world’s largest retailer wants a piece of the action.
More people are associating the state of their health to the quality of their food and are avoiding genetically-modified/chemically-processed products while actively seeking organic food. Organic shoppers should not be fooled by products labeled "organic" as its definition varies from state to state—even county to county. Considering corporate food suppliers’ well-established ability to justify the poisoning of our food to serve the material interests of their stockholders—and their ability to influence the language of regulatory standards—the only thing organic about corporately-certified organic food may be the label.
We must interpret the growing corporate interest in organics as a sign that it’s time to initiate the next phase of our national awakening to the importance of good food: Getting back to growing and marketing organic food "locally."
Fortunately, the framework for this phase is already in place as many, if not most cities and towns throughout the country have been hosting weekly farmers’ markets for decades. But many lack adequate varieties and quantities of produce to serve the needs of their communities at this time.
The farmers’ market advantage
In farmers’ markets, growers sell directly to the consumers and consumers can talk directly to growers. Such interaction provides consumers with the best access to quality and freshness and provides growers with an opportunity to meet their customers. Basic consumer expectations is that the market will be dominated by growers selling fresh produce which they raised on their own nearby farm and that all processed foods and crafts sold will be made by the vendor.
Brief suggestions to enhance markets
With more and more people recognizing the value of quality food, participation in both the supply and demand ends of the equation will increase if organizers can increase their markets’ visibility. We all remember our younger days, driving around looking for parties; if we came upon one with only two cars, we didn’t stop. If there were 10 or 15 cars, though, everyone stopped. Our task is simple: To get two-car markets to the 15-car level.
First, of course the market needs to look inviting so people will stop. Perhaps a large canopy, 18’ x 40’ at least. One could possibly be donated on a temporary or permanent basis. Add some flags to attract attention. Ideally, renting, leasing or purchasing an older building in town would be best, where permanent booths could be built and rented by farmer/vendors for a few dollars a day. A two story building would be even better where the middle of the 2nd floor could be opened up to the first level with balconies. Most vendors prefer protection from the weather.
Second, a full spectrum of produce should be available. Organize vendors to each supply a different item, or advertise in your local paper what vendors are needed until that goal is reached.
Third, try to work up to three days or more per week and regular hours for the markets. Consider advertising for special events once a month during harvest where the crafts people from your area attend and make certain all categories of produce are available.
Fourth, talk to market organizers to see where they may need help, or make suggestions. Become a vendor yourself or encourage friends with gardens to be vendors.
Anyone with additional suggestions or experiences are encouraged to forward that information to The IO. Also, farmers’ markets are networking in cyberspace. Just do an Internet search for "farmers’ markets" and "networking."
Growing and marketing produce is seasonal, of course, but crafts markets and other events could take place throughout the winter months to keep markets alive in the off season. The Amish people have some very impressive, year-round markets that we could do well to emulate.
General guidelines for farmers’ markets
Vendors may include: Farmers - Those who raise plants or animals which they sell. To minimize the chance someone associated with a corporately-owned farm may use the market to liquidate adulterated surplus product, produce available at the market should come from land in the vicinity of the market that is owned, leased or rented by the farmer.
Processors - One who sells processed foods which they have personally prepared on their owned, leased or rented property. Included are those who offer fresh food products (such as meats or seafood, etc.) or value-added products from their produce (such as jams, ciders, baked goods, etc.) that have some sort of "hands-on" processing (e.g., hand filleted fish, smoked or butchered meats, handmade candies, etc.) Also included are farmers who raise the basic ingredient(s) of a product but who must send it out for fundamental processing (e.g., plant or animal oils, smoked meats, soaps, etc.) All processors must meet all federal, state, county and local health requirements. All appropriate permits and licenses shall be displayed whenever a processor is selling. Processors must produce their products in the vicinity or in neighboring counties and should use ingredients from local sources as much as possible.
Re-sellers - One who buys produce from farmers in their state or neighboring counties and resells directly to the consumer. The re-seller is expected to be the only stop between the grower and the consumer. They are not expected to deal with shippers, warehouses, wholesalers or jobbers. Re-sold crops should be those that cannot be grown reliably or in sufficient quantities in the local area so as not to compete with crops of local farmers. Re-sellers must have information available to the consumer as to which farm(s) produced those products.
Crafters - Those who craft with their own hands the products they offer for sale. To qualify as a crafter, a majority of the tools and equipment used by the crafter to produce their products must require skills, personal handling and/or guidance by the crafter. Crafters must create their craft products in the vicinity from materials obtained from local sources as much as possible.
Prepared Food Vendors (Concessionaires) - One who offers freshly made foods available for sale and immediate consumption on site must comply with all federal, state, county and local health requirements. Concessionaires are encouraged to offer a variety of healthy foods and to use ingredients produced in their own state or neighboring counties as much as possible.
No commercially produced items, including franchise items, imported items or second hand items are to be sold by any vendor.
We must awaken to the understanding that bad food strengthens "them"’; good food strengthens "us."
See the article this month about the corporate takeover of the "organic" food market. We will not be forced to eat corporately-defined organic food if we start rebuilding farmers’ markets today. Farmers’ markets can re-establish our rural communities as social gathering places where people meet each other and exchange ideas. And with tough economic times on the horizon, this should certainly be the course we take. If we are strong at the local level, the globalists’ attempts to control us through our food will fail.
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