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joethefoodie

How the Hipsters Killed the Market

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Debbie Weingarten made a very similar argument in Aeon yesterday.

 

https://aeon.co/ideas/foodie-localism-loves-farming-in-theory-but-not-in-practice

 

I should really trim down this excerpt, but I think the points she makes are quite worth making.

 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported in 2015 that the number of farmers’ markets increased by 180 per cent between 2006 and 2014. On the surface, that seems good. But the explosion of farmers’ markets has been driven by consumer desire and convenience. The economic realities for farmers still sit uncomfortably alongside the practice of many farmers’ markets. When an entrepreneur decides to open a farmers’ market – or a restaurant based on the concept of farm-to-table – without first considering whether the region has enough farmers able to support such a venture, the result is a scramble to fill the new marketplace or restaurant with food that can pass for local. Misrepresentation often follows.

 

When I was farming, it seemed like new markets were sprouting up all over town, often at random times and places. A fellow farmer and I began composing an op-ed under the working title ‘No More Fucking Farmers’ Markets’. In my town, where farmers had once been able to make sufficient sales with a single weekly market, additional markets created a watering down of sales. With less sales potential per market, farmers were forced to add new markets and distribution points to an already maxed-out schedule. The USDA’s aforementioned Trends in US Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress (2015) confirms this: ‘While the growth in farmers’ markets signals increased consumer interest, for some local food farmers, marketing food in multiple locations can increase marketing and transportation costs, reducing overall net farm income.’

 

Despite the popularity of local food, the average farmer is not thriving. During the years in which farmers’ markets took off (between the 2007 and 2012 Agricultural Censuses), the US lost 4.3 per cent of its farms, continuing a downward trend that began in the 1950s. This year, farm-sector profitability is forecast to decline for the third year in a row. Net farm income is projected to go down, as are farm asset values. The projected median farm income for 2016 is negative $1,473. Just about the only statistic projected to rise in 2016 is farm debt. Farmers will continue to rely on off-farm income to pay their bills. They will choose loan payments over savings accounts, chicken feed over dental care. They will face the heartbreaking decision to leave their farms.

 

While local food has emerged as an alternative to industrial food, many people have simply transferred their expectations from the grocery store to the farmers’ market. Consumers still expect a global array of products, despite natural restrictions in season or geography. Additionally, emotional expectations surrounding food have increased. People want to imagine chickens free-ranging in a pasture without knowing anything about their deaths. They want their farmers to be simple, iconic food heroes. It is awkward to burst the bubble of this romantic image by raising issues that will make or break the entire movement: wells running dry, the ballooning stress of our producers, the fact that farmer suicide rates are twice that of the general population.

 

There are farmers’ markets that require vendors to declare the origin of their products, or simply don’t allow resellers. There are also great restauranteurs who are honest in their advertising and who buy regularly from local farmers. But there are also plenty of businesses exploiting the popularity of the local food movement.

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Thanks for posting that, taion.

 

The Tampa Bay Times had an article a few months ago about the widespread fraud in farmer's markets, labels of origin and species on fish, organic farms, etc. Much of it is bunk, buttressed only by the farmer's own assurances. DNA samples on the fish show that many are not as claimed, though never a more expensive species. Organic and non-organic products are commingled, and sold as the more expensive, etc

 

The idea that somebody can pick fruit in Scoharie County NY, truck it to Manhattan or Brooklyn three hours later, and call it "local" is stretching the point a bit, I'd say.

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I don't know about that last point. I understand that my native Long Island (where I still live, in fact) has a sainted agricultural history. But I don't think anybody buying local produce at NYC farmer's markets expects or even wants the produce to be that local.

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I'm pretty sure that "official" NYC Greenmarkets don't allow resellers. Is that right? (I say this as I'm setting the alarm to get up EARLY tomorrow to go to an NYC Greenmarket.)

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Last week, I noticed a sign saying that in the case of crop loss, that GrowNYC makes some exceptions, but that they have to be clearly labelled. If I notice the sign again, I'll take clearer note of what it actually said.

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I look forward to the dystopian future when all our greenmarket produce comes from hipster rooftop greenhouses in Brooklyn. Only then will it be truly local.

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sainted agricultural history

Nobody needs that discussion to be rehashed.

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I'm pretty sure that "official" NYC Greenmarkets don't allow resellers. Is that right?

 

Correct.

 

to promote regional agriculture by providing small family farms the opportunity to sell their locally grown products directly to consumers

 

Greenmarket is a producer-only market with rigorous “grow-your-own” standards. Why is that important? Because selling directly to customers means farmers, fishers and their children can keep doing what they love and feeding growing cities. It also means you get to know who grows your food.

Greenmarket's farmers and fishers come from broad section of the Northeast, including parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and New England, providing New Yorkers with a bountiful and astoundingly diverse array of fresh foods.

 

The idea that somebody can pick fruit in Scoharie County NY, truck it to Manhattan or Brooklyn three hours later, and call it "local" is stretching the point a bit, I'd say.

 

 

I don't know about that last point. I understand that my native Long Island (where I still live, in fact) has a sainted agricultural history. But I don't think anybody buying local produce at NYC farmer's markets expects or even wants the produce to be that local.

 

Absolutely. I don't want my striped bass coming from the East River, despite the fact that they sell it on Grand St.

 

Last week, I noticed a sign saying that in the case of crop loss, that GrowNYC makes some exceptions, but that they have to be clearly labelled. If I notice the sign again, I'll take clearer note of what it actually said.

 

Yes - the stone fruits (peaches especially, from what I saw) were battered by frost/bad weather, and it's a dismal crop. Greenmarket has allowed those farmers to resell other farms' fruits, but they must be labeled with the other farm's name. The ones I saw were.

 

So, to sum up the article posted by taion along with the article I originally posted, it's not just hipsters destroying the"market," but consumer demand and those looking to supply said demand any way they can.

 

I think we're lucky here in NYC with our greenmarkets.

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Debbie Weingarten made a very similar argument in Aeon yesterday.https://aeon.co/ideas/foodie-localism-loves-farming-in-theory-but-not-in-practiceI should really trim down this excerpt, but I think the points she makes are quite worth making.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported in 2015 that the number of farmers’ markets increased by 180 per cent between 2006 and 2014. On the surface, that seems good. But the explosion of farmers’ markets has been driven by consumer desire and convenience. The economic realities for farmers still sit uncomfortably alongside the practice of many farmers’ markets. When an entrepreneur decides to open a farmers’ market – or a restaurant based on the concept of farm-to-table – without first considering whether the region has enough farmers able to support such a venture, the result is a scramble to fill the new marketplace or restaurant with food that can pass for local. Misrepresentation often follows.When I was farming, it seemed like new markets were sprouting up all over town, often at random times and places. A fellow farmer and I began composing an op-ed under the working title ‘No More Fucking Farmers’ Markets’. In my town, where farmers had once been able to make sufficient sales with a single weekly market, additional markets created a watering down of sales. With less sales potential per market, farmers were forced to add new markets and distribution points to an already maxed-out schedule. The USDA’s aforementioned Trends in US Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress (2015) confirms this: ‘While the growth in farmers’ markets signals increased consumer interest, for some local food farmers, marketing food in multiple locations can increase marketing and transportation costs, reducing overall net farm income.’Despite the popularity of local food, the average farmer is not thriving. During the years in which farmers’ markets took off (between the 2007 and 2012 Agricultural Censuses), the US lost 4.3 per cent of its farms, continuing a downward trend that began in the 1950s. This year, farm-sector profitability is forecast to decline for the third year in a row. Net farm income is projected to go down, as are farm asset values. The projected median farm income for 2016 is negative $1,473. Just about the only statistic projected to rise in 2016 is farm debt. Farmers will continue to rely on off-farm income to pay their bills. They will choose loan payments over savings accounts, chicken feed over dental care. They will face the heartbreaking decision to leave their farms.While local food has emerged as an alternative to industrial food, many people have simply transferred their expectations from the grocery store to the farmers’ market. Consumers still expect a global array of products, despite natural restrictions in season or geography. Additionally, emotional expectations surrounding food have increased. People want to imagine chickens free-ranging in a pasture without knowing anything about their deaths. They want their farmers to be simple, iconic food heroes. It is awkward to burst the bubble of this romantic image by raising issues that will make or break the entire movement: wells running dry, the ballooning stress of our producers, the fact that farmer suicide rates are twice that of the general population.There are farmers’ markets that require vendors to declare the origin of their products, or simply don’t allow resellers. There are also great restauranteurs who are honest in their advertising and who buy regularly from local farmers. But there are also plenty of businesses exploiting the popularity of the local food movement.

I'm not sure her thesis applies to places like nyc where most farmers markets are if anything over utilized.

 

Farming has always been hard. Being able to profitably sell direct isn't making it harder.

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Also her data is garbage because the kind of farms that sell to farmer's markets are a rounding error in the USDA data, which is dominated by corn and soy which were at peak profitability in 2007.

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Yup, "farming sucks" and "people lie" are not the same argument as "nobody cooks"

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The area around Bernardsville NJ southwest to Flemington and northwest to Hackettstown was once a huge peach supplier to the NY metro. The advance of the frost line and recurring pests wiped out the business in the 1920s.

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This was the sign:

 

GWQayu.png

 

We're obviously very lucky to have farmers' markets in NYC as they are. Obviously the data in the article are irrelevant.

 

But I think overall it's interesting to note the conflict between the supply and demand ends more broadly.

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