April 2012

April 13, 2012, 10:30 AM -2:00 PM,  Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

MEETING CALLED BY      Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program

TYPE OF MEETING        Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting

FACILITATORS           Roy Mitchell, Judy Belue

NOTE TAKERS            Nathan Rosenberg, Debbie Smith

ATTENDEES

  • Deja Abdul-Haqq, My Brothers’ Keeper
  • Priscilla Ammerman, Mississippi Department of Education
  • Nicole Bell, Alcorn State University
  • Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative
  • Ryan Betz, Delta Health Alliance/Delta Fresh Foods
  • Beneta Burt, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • Anna Cagle, Hattiesburg Farmers Market
  • April Catchings, Mississippi Office of Healthy Schools
  • Samantha Cawthorn, Mississippi Farm Bureau
  • Courtney Choi, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Christine Coker, Mississippi State University
  • Jammie Collins, My Brothers’ Keeper
  • LaShaun Crook, Southern Miss
  • JoAnna Danzy, Southern Miss
  • Frank Farmer, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Purvie Green, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
  • Emily Greene, Farmer
  • Leann Hines, Levee Run Farm
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Shelly Johnstone, City of Hernando
  • Rhonda Lampkin Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
  • Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association
  • Peggy Linton, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi
  • Paige Manning, MS Department of Agriculture
  • Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Leslie Moss, Grenada Farmers Market
  • Velma Oliver, Alcorn State University
  • Beth Orlansky, Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Dustin Pinion, Beaverdam Farms
  • Hollidae Robinson, consumer
  • Nathan Rosenberg, Mississippi State University & Harvard Law School
  • Will Scarborough, MS Department of Agriculture
  • Dantrell Simmons, My Brothers’ Keeper
  • Debbie Smith, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Donna Speed, Mississippi Department of Health
  • Daniel Teague, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
  • Lydia West, Mississippi Department of Education
  • Tonitrice Wicks, University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Darlene Wolnik, Farmers Market Consultant
  • Nancy Woodruff, Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi and Winston County Self-Help Cooperative
  • David Yowell, Copiah County Farmers Market

AGENDA TOPICS

INTRODUCTIONS    Roy Mitchell

DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves and explained their organizational affiliations.

RECAP OF LAST MEETING    Roy Mitchell

DISCUSSION     Roy gave an overview of the January 20, 2012 meeting, which focused on Farm to School. Priscilla Ammerman, Director of Purchasing and Food Distribution for the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Child Nutrition, began the discussion by describing her office’s role in supplying food to schools, the Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE) statewide Farm to School program, and MDE’s interest in further Farm to School programming.

Next, Nate Rosenberg, Director of Delta Directions, gave an overview of Farm to School, the Mississippi Food Policy Council’s involvement in the program, and efforts to increase Farm to School’s presence in Mississippi.

Ona Balkus, a student at Harvard Law School, described the Farm to School project that she and other Harvard Law students are doing this spring through the Harvard Law School Mississippi Delta Project. At the request of MFPC, Ona’s team is developing a Farm to School purchasing manual for school food service directors. MFPC identified the need for a purchasing manual after completing a survey of food service directors. The survey found that many food service directors were interested in Farm to School, but needed guidance on regulatory, logistical, and contractual issues. Ona also gave an overview of MFPC’s legislative recommendations, which resulted in bills aimed at establishing a Farm to School interagency council and a Farm to School week, as well as bills designed to clarify that county and municipal governments can legally donate money to farmers markets.

PRESENTATION: BEST PRACTICES & CURRENT POLICY ISSUES FOR FARMERS MARKETS     Darlene Wolnik, farmers market consultant

Judy Belue introduced Darlene Wolnik, an independent researcher and analyst for farmers markets throughout the United States. More information about her current work can be found at http://www.helpingpublicmarketsgrow.wordpress.org. From 2001 to 2011, Darlene worked at marketumbrella.org, creating and running their direct marketing outlets for farmers, and designing their groundbreaking marketshare project, which builds resources for public markets everywhere. Darlene said that her work in local food systems started with farmers markets and she believes that they are central to local food systems. Prior to working on farmers markets, Darlene focused on consumer and environmental organizing and retail anthropology. She was drawn to the farmers market movement because she believes that food systems work integrates a variety of important social issues.

Darlene began by explaining Market Umbrella’s definition of “regional,” which isn’t based on the mileage that food travels per se or political lines, but focuses on bioregions. They consider the region in which they operate the “gator region,” which is defined by the habitat of the American Alligator, and traces the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida.

Next, Darlene discussed the founding of the Crescent City Market in 1995. Crescent City Market is Market Umbrella’s sole farmers market and the “public face” of the organization. She said that it was incredibly difficult for the founder, Richard, to find farmers that were willing to sell at the market because they didn’t think that New Orleans residents actually wanted to buy local food. The market began with only six farmers and three value-added vendors. Seventeen years later it is able to boast of a 9.8 million dollar annual economic impact in the community.

As an aside on the pragmatics of measuring the economic impact of markets, Darlene said that the Market Umbrella website contains a tool that measures the economic impact of markets. The tool, called marketshare, can be found at http://www.marketumbrella.org/marketshare/. Marketshare utilizes a survey that asks consumers seven questions and produces a thirty-seven page report with a wealth of information.

The growth of Market Umbrella’s farmers market activities over time reflects the expansion of farmers market activities around the country. In 2001, six years after they began, they started to measure the market’s impact. In 2004, they created a market share, and in 2005 they started to analyze and address barriers between farmers markets and low-income populations.

Early into the new millennium, Market Umbrella decided to address policy challenges. They believed that markets were the best way to incentivize healthy behavior change and that farmers markets can have a tremendous impact on communities with an extremely small amount of funding. Market Umbrella, for example, started piloting EBT machines at farmers markets long before public health officials were interested such initiatives. Initially, their pilot programs were not very successful. According to Darlene, reaching low-income shoppers has been a challenge for them, as it has been for markets across the country.

Darlene proceeded to share best practices among farmers markets, which include:

  1.  Putting producers first
  2. Increasing access to all consumers
  3. Acting as a town square
  4. Innovating and sharing

Darlene also shared a logic model for Market Umbrella’s projects:

  1. Decide on audience and impact
  2. Pick useful partners
  3. Select campaign season
  4. Build back office system
  5. Measure, before, during, and after

Darlene reviewed what she perceived to be the goals of the farmers market movement:

  1. Incentivizing and encouraging healthy behavior
  2. Using the market as the mechanism to show cultural connections
  3. Making sure producers are key players in the creation of food systems

Finally, Darlene shared the lessons she has learned in her extensive experience with farmers markets:

  1. Strengthen fulcrums
  2. Organize in campaign spurts
  3. Don’t obsess over tactics
  4. Reach for new partners every season – she’s noticed that all great markets have one thing in common: they have great partnerships
  5. Collect useful data internally – don’t just rely on anecdotal information
  6. Balance needs
  7. When markets are run well, they balance needs of all stakeholders

Darlene recommended the following publications for further reading:

Flaccovento, Anthony. “Is Local Food Affordable for Ordinary Folks? A Comparison of Farmers Markets and Supermarkets in Nineteen Communities in the Southeast.”

Stephenson, G. 2008. Farmers Markets: Success, Failure, and Management Ecology. Cambria Press.

The above article by Flaccovento found that farmers markets in the southeast often offer fresh produce at lower prices than neighboring grocery stores. The latter book by Stephenson looked at what separates farmers markets that fail and those that thrive. It turns out that the two biggest factors in the failure of markets are not having enough vendors and not having a paid market manager.

After her presentation, Darlene took questions from the audience.

Q: What proportion of farmers markets are operated by government bodies and what proportion are operated by the private sector?

A: The majority of farmers markets are non-profits, although there are a significant number that are run as for-profit entities. Municipalities are running fewer and fewer.

Q: How helpful was the city when markets in New Orleans first emerged?

A: The city told Richard that he couldn’t run the market initially because “food is a pathogen.” Fortunately, Richard had connections and the market was classified as a fair, bypassing the “food is a pathogen” problem. Today, their relationship with the city is much improved. Her organization recently wrote recommendations for the city on promulgating regulations specifically for farmers markets.

Q: Could you discuss how and when markets to should consider operating on multiple days?

A: We focus on keeping the market at the scale of the neighborhood that they’re located within. When the organizers feel as a team that they’re ready to operate on additional days, they start looking at locations that are suitable for expansion. We don’t rush it: each new location costs about $30,000.

Q: How do you handle food safety issues? Do the markets do the regulating?

A: There’s no agency in New Orleans that regulates food safety at markets. We wrote a food safety guide called “From the Field to the Table” that’s written for market managers. It’s kind of an uneasy situation because the Crescent City Market follows the practices recommended by the safety guide, but other markets do not necessarily use it or follow it strictly. We’re currently updating it.

MFPC SUBCOMMITTEES “REPORTING BACK”    All

The following subcommittees then reported on their activities:

Farmers Markets Subcommittee (Judy Belue): The Farmers Market Subcommittee drafted a survey for farmers markets around the state to see what barriers and obstacles they face and to identify policies and trainings that MFPC can advocate for in order to help markets be more successful. The survey was sent to the majority of farmers market managers in Mississippi via email and was also handed out to farmers market managers present at the meeting. If you’re interested in learning more information about the survey, please email Judy Belue at jwbelue1@gmail.com.

In-Home Processing Subcommittee (Roy spoke on behalf of Dita McCarthy): Roy explained that MPFC submitted a letter to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) and the Mississippi Department of Health outlining the MFPC’s concerns about the Acidified Foods Training for Farmers Market Vendors class. He stated that Paige Manning, Director of Marketing and Publications at MDAC, sent a thoughtful and thorough response. Paige was present at the meeting and asked if she could say a few words. Roy granted her the floor and she said that MDAC really appreciated MFPC’s comments. She stated that the acidified food training courses are new and that they are eager to improve the course and to incorporate suggestions into it. She also asked market managers to let their vendors know that if they have any questions about home inspections, MDAC would be happy to try to answer them.

Legislative Task Force Liaison Subcommittee (Mark Leggett and Rhonda Lampkin): At the time of this meeting, HB 535, the bill allowing county and municipal governments to donate money to farmers markets, had been approved by both the House and Senate and was waiting to be sent to the Governor. The bill was amended to stipulate that farmers markets receiving donations from county and municipal governments must be certified farmers markets. On April 24th, Governor Bryant signed this bill. Rhonda and Mark thanked Rep. Toby Barker’s for introducing the bill and for assuring its passage. They also noted that Rep. Barker introduced HB 520, HB 828 and HC 112, discussed in turn below.

HB 540, a bill permitting local school boards to allow the public to use school property during non-school hours for recreation and sports, had also passed both houses of the legislature. Governor Bryant subsequently signed the bill into law on April 24th.

HB 828, which would have created an interagency Farm to School council, died in committee on March 6th.

HC 112, a resolution declaring the first full week in October “Mississippi Farm to School Week,” was introduced by Rep. Barker on April 12th and referred to the House Rules Committee. After the MFPC meeting, the resolution was adopted by both houses of the legislature on May 3rd. Mississippi’s first Farm to School Week will start on October 7, 2012.

Farm to School Subcommittee (Nathan Rosenberg): Nate briefly mentioned HB 828 and HC 112, mentioned above in the Legislative Task Force Liaisons Subcommittee report. He also discussed Mississippi’s first Farm to School Summit, hosted by the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi on February 25, 2012, which featured many MFPC members. Nate also asked Beneta Burt, MFPC board member and Executive Director of the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity, to speak about Roadmap’s Farm to School efforts. Beneta described Roadmap’s April pilot Farm to School program with Jackson Public Schools. Nate also noted that three organizations, Delta Fresh Foods, Delta Directions, and the Delta Health Alliance, had combined resources to create a Farm to School coordinator position for the Mississippi Delta. The Delta Farm to School Coordinator, Ryan Betz, introduced himself and described what he will be doing in that position. Ryan is currently working to have Farm to School pilot projects operational by next fall.

UPDATE ON BOARD BUSINESS     Roy Mitchell

Roy Mitchell reviewed MFPC’s board business, noting that MFPC is looking for grant and other funding opportunities. In March, MFPC was awarded an $8,500 grant from My Brother’s Keeper as a part of their Project Change initiative. Deja Abdul-Haqq from My Brother’s Keeper then took the floor to discuss Project Change, which is funded by a Community Transformation Grant. Community Transformation Grants were awarded to different organizations around the country by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to address 5 concerns within local communities: (1) tobacco free living, tobacco-free living, (2) active living and healthy eating, (3) evidence-based quality clinical and other preventive services, (4) social and emotional wellness, and (5) healthy and safe physical environments.

OPPORTUNITY TO POSE LEGAL QUESTIONS TO MDAC    Nate Rosenberg

MFPC members had several questions for Mississippi Department of Agriculture (MDAC) representatives during MFPC’s October meeting. In order to answer these questions in thorough and organized manner, MDAC offered to formally answer any legal questions on farming, food production, and food safety put forth by MFPC. We solicited questions for MDAC during the meeting. If you have any additional questions that you want to add to the list, please contact Emily at emilybroad@gmail.com.

Several people asked questions about the requirements for selling different animal based products such as red meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and milk at farmers markets. Will Scarbrough, manager of the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, suggested that all of these concerns could be addressed one question: What are the requirements for selling beef, chicken, pork, lamb, seafood, eggs and dairy products? He also suggested we ask what the requirements are for transferring animal based products from on place to another in order to sell them.

Many attendees were particularly interested in laws and regulations affecting the marketing of poultry products. At least five poultry growers attended the meeting in order to learn more about the poultry exemption. In particular, they wanted to know why they could not sell on-farm processed birds at farmers markets under the poultry exemption and what sort of policy change, if any, would be required in order to sell poultry under the exemption at farmers markets.

During the discussion, several attendees brought up other comments and non-legal questions for MDAC. Nicole Bell of Alcorn Extension asked whether MDAC could assist in facilitating the modification of USDA GAP/GHP requirements so that they conform to the Global Food Safety Initiative requirements used by Wal-Mart. Charles Houston noted that the cantaloupe foodborne illness cases have made food safety concerns more salient for many farmers. Shelly Johnstone, market manager for the Hernando farmers market, also stated that she believes that MDAC regulations should take into account the size of the market that is being regulated. A large market with a staff, for example, might be regulated differently than a small market with only a volunteer market manager. She also stressed that rules and regulations should be evidence-based.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND PROGRAMS    All

Upcoming Events:

  • MDAC Farmers Market Managers Workshop, Sparkman Auditorium, MS Agriculture and Forestry Museum, May 10, 2012. Call 662.359.1159 for more information.
  • 2012 Southern Foodways Alliance Oral History Workshop, Bernard Observatory at Ole Miss, May 29 – June 1. Call 662.915.5993 for more information.
  • 6th National Small Farm Conference, “Promoting Successes of Small Farmers and Ranchers,” Tennessee State University, September 18 – 20
  • Fall Flower and Garden Fest, Trucks Crop Experiment Station, Crystal Springs, MS, October 5 – 6

***The next MFPC meeting will be in July.

Please let us know about any upcoming events that may be of interest to MFPC members and we will help get the word out.

For information about upcoming events, grants, and more, visit the website of the Mississippi Food Policy Council at www.mississippifoodpolicycouncil.com.