Located here "Conceptual Model for the Canadian Food and Nutrition System," used by Health Canada. This model is more complex than ours will be, as it takes into account five levels of food use: food supply, distribution, consumption, utilization, and health outcome. Our model will certainly elminate the last two, as it will not incorporate the health aspects of the food we eat to that extent.
According to Health Canada, the model "points to the potential areas for data collection, analysis, surveillance related research, dissemination and implementation and supports the need for a systematic approach to surveillance activities, which can be applied to other domains such as research and policy. The Conceptual Model identifies potential linkages across all sectors of the food and nutrition system, including agricultural, social, medical and economic sectors, and the interrelations of food and nutrition to health. It is a starting point to engage partners and stakeholders in a dialogue that can lead to a co-operative approach to surveillance. A comprehensive surveillance system based on the conceptual model will more efficiently support the development of policies in food and nutrition."
I have spent some time over the last couple days reading Jenny Kurzweil's Fields That Dream: A Journey to the Roots of Our Food. Kurzweil describes the state of state of American agriculture through the lives of a number of small-scale farmers.
In addition to being well-written, Kurzweil's portrayal of the lives of these farmers is striking. From a Mexican family who immigrated to the States to make enough money to survive, to a chef who left his home and job to pursue life on a farm, to a couple who cannot leave their house for more than two hours at a time for fear of leaving their animals without care, each farmer has a story to tell.
A few passages from the book stand out to me in terms of the relevance to the Local Food Economy Game project and/or Sohodojo itself. These passages, along with the reasons why they are of particular interest to me, are below.
When I buy food at the farmers' market, I know that it has not been shipped back and forth across the country. It has not been grown by multinational corporations, but by families. Most importantly, when I buy food at the farmers' market, I meet the grower. I have a connection, an interaction, and a place to express my gratitude. [pp. 6-7]
I selected this passage for two reasons. First, when I interviewed buyers and sellers at both the Grinnell and Fairfield farmers' markets, this was the most common response I received to my questions about what they like most about farmers' markets. Both vendors and customers appreciate not only the social aspect of the market, but also the trust and connection that is formed upon meeting the person whose food you will be eating. I am sure that regardless of where in the country I asked this question, I would receive similar responses. The people are as essential a part of the market as the food – though the two are intertwined.
Secondly, this aspect of the farmers' market is another example of what Sohodojo refers to as shopping as something other than "good acquisition." Farmers' markets are so much about the people involved that one does not attend the market only to bring food to cook with the next day. They go to farmers' markets also because of the opportunity to form relationships and to support something they believe in.
That's our bread and butter, the farmers' market. And they're fun too. [p. 12]
I highlighted the passage for similar reasons to the one above. This is exactly the impression I formed when researching farmers' markets. Though, for many customers and observers, the markets may seem a fun place to spend time, farmers depend on them for their livelihood – though they also enjoy being there. A woman at the Grinnell market told me that "most people's sales are over after the farmers' market season." Vendors at the markets I visited appreciated the markets for not only the profits that they earned, but also the connections that they made.
I have eaten peaches from the market that could stop traffic, and, as Gretchen points out, these are the kinds of experiences that make people happy and willing to stand in line to get fresh, tasty produce. Perhaps we are getting sick of our thirty-three new packaged foods a day and the disinfected, anonymous aisles of a supermarket. Going to a farmers' market is worlds away from ordering your groceries online, and people seem hungry for an authentic experience. A farmers' market is a way to get back to basics without romanticizing the past. [p. 33]
This is why food shopping over the internet will never be popular. Shopping for groceries is an experience, and this is why farmers' markets exist. Again, this lends weight to the idea of "experiential shopping."
I walked away from the protests with eyes opened. Since then I have been trying to trace back to the origins of what I consume, attempting to be aware of my own part in fueling the fire of globalization. It is an overwhelming process, and I feel entirely confused. I have been trying to figure out how I can protest something when I am part of the problem. [pp. 70-71]
I do drink coffee. But I try to drink fair trade coffee that is grown in the shade in the northern latitudes of Mexico. The bottom line is I am just trying to figure out how I consume. -- A farmer interviewed by Kurzweil
When I read these passages, I thought of Sohodojo's idea of an "alternate" e-bay, where people would consume not based on price exclusively, but would be able to see where and under what conditions a product was made. Kurzweil undergoes a transformation and begins to trace back to the roots of her consumption; if this information was readily available when we shop, wouldn't things be different? There are many people out there who are aware that they are "part of the problem" by consuming environmentally and socially unfriendly foods, but it is, in general, too difficult to do the research into where every piece of food you buy comes from. If this information was present on every good that we buy, I believe that our consumption habits would change considerably.
And if we aren't aware that we are being "part of the problem" when we buy "globalized foods:"
He is trying to make us understand that how and what we consume can be felt by small famers, factory workers, and governments around the world. [p. 75]
I have been researching online about what crops grow best in the Grinnell and Fairfield areas (in regards to Timlynn's question relating to the Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator). Though my online research has yielded no results, Jon Andelson sent me some good information in response to an e-mail:
"Among commodity crops, it's pretty clear than corn and soybeans grow best here (compared to wheat, for example, or rice). Corn can be for humans (sweet corn, popcorn), though that's a small part of what is grow here. Soybenas can, too (tofu, soy yogurt, etc.), though, again, that's a small part of what's grown here. On the other hand, wheat can be grown here just fine, as can barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, and other grains. It's just not as profitable as growing corn. Are you interested in crops that are biologically viable, economically viable, or both? Other major crop categories are tree crops (fruits and nuts) and produce (vegetables). And then melons of various kinds. Were you interested in one or another categories, or all of them? Most produce does pretty well. We're near the northern limit for peaches and grapes, but they ARE viable, both biologically and economically. Apples and pears tend to do pretty well. Let me know how/if you want to narrow your focus."
There are nine Iowa counties of interest in this project. These include the four counties surrounding the town of Grinnell (Marshall, Tama, Jasper, and Poweshiek), and the five in the vicinity of Fairfield (Wapello, Jefferson, Davis, Van Buren, and Henry).
A map of the state of Iowa with the two regions outlined is shown in the attached file entitled "Outline of Two Regions."
Total Farmers' Markets: 7
Total Number of Residents: 113,442
Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 6.17
Total Farmers' Markets: 6
Total Number of Residents: 88,918
Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 5.62
Van Buren County:
Iowa Farmers' Market directory information from http://www.agriculture.state.ia.us/farmermarket.asp
Iowa county maps from http://www.iowa.org
Iowa county population and income data from http://www.census.gov
Iowa county area data from http://county-map.digital-topo-maps.com/iowa.shtml
Dig into using the Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator a bit as it will be an important tool for the modeling project. In particular, check into two particular questions fist and then test the calculator based on what you find out in Question. See below.
From the research comes this caveat: County-level production data for several produce items were missing from the Agricultural Census. Data for these counties were estimated by comparing the undisclosed values for each item with the undisclosed values for each county. For this reason, county-specific production information may not be accurate in some cases and may affect some county-specific estimates of market potential.
Question: We will need to have a good idea of the accuracy of data used in this calculator for produce items in the two counties that are relevant to our target towns - Grinnell and Fairfield. See which produce data is estimated (if any) for each of the two counties and make note of same.
Even though all the produce items that are listed can be grown in Iowa, some perform better (using existing technologies and genetics) in certain parts of the state because of climate and other factors. For example, crops of peaches, nectarines, apricots or sweet potatoes will more likely produce acceptable yields on a consistent basis in the southern portion compared to other parts of the state.
Question: Research into the crops (grown for human consumption) that perform best in the Grinnell and Fairfield areas. In this case, do not use the calculator for this data. (We will be 'testing' the data in the calculator for these produce items for these two county areas.) Identify your source(s) for the crop data on both counties so we can go back and use them again in further research if we need later.
Then check your findings against the data used in the calculator. This should give us an indication if the calculator bases its calculations on state-wide estimates for these crops and how far off the calculator data may or may not be.
Though I have not had a great deal of success in finding local food economy projects in Iowa, I have found a couple things, which are described below. I will continue to do research on the subject, and this blog will be updated with my findings.
Woodbury County Region's Food and Farm Economy: This web site consists of key points from a presentation by Ken Meter. The document is short; it profiles the farm families in the region in terms of the amount of the states resources they use. It also discusses the consumers of food in the region, and provides a summary of the County's food economy as a whole.
Black Hawk County Region's Food and Farm Economy: A similar document to that described above; describes the producers, consumers, and provides a general assessment of the food economy of Black Hawk County.
There is much more valuable information at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University that I am busy digging through. I will post more of the important content as I encounter it in the next couple of days.
Food System Atlas for four Iowa counties: Another project by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, these papers, written by Iowa State University sociologist Clare Hinrichs, highlight the work done in each of the four profiled counties (Audubon, Benton, Johnson, and Marshall) to promote the use of local foods, as well as possible future opportunities to use locally produced food.
Some interesting things contained in these papers include:
These papers can be found at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/research/marketing.htm
This entry will contain on ongoing listing of organizations in Iowa that help to develop and support local food economies:
Practical Farmers of Iowa (www.practicalfarmers.org): "A non-profit, educational organization that began in 1985 and now has over 700 members in Iowa and neighboring states. Our mission is to research, develop and promote profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture. We carry out diverse programs to assist farmers with both production and marketing needs, to raise public awareness of where food comes from and how it is grown, and to educate youth about agriculture and the environment."
Grown Locally (www.grownlocally.com): "It's all about convenient ways to receive fresh products from our local farms." Grown Locally is a producer cooperative of 15 farms located in Northeast Iowa. Anybody within a 40 mile radius can order online from these local farms. The growers in the Grown Locally (Grown stands for Goods Raised Only With Nature) cooperative make joint decisions on markets and prices, and do the washing, packaging, and delivery of these products. Grown Locally helps to reduce the complexity and uncertainty in buying locally produced foods.
The Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance (http://web.grinnell.edu/cps/galfa/index.htm)): The Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance (GALFA) "works to encourage local institutions and individuals to buy locally-produced food items." GALFA's goal is to increase the demand for locally produced food by institutions in the Grinnell area.
University of Iowa (UNI) Iowa Local Food Project (http://www.uni.edu/ceee/foodproject/): "Strengthening the local food economy in Iowa through:
This project helps to develop markets for Iowa-grown and processed foods at the University of Northern Iowa dining services and other organizations. Students at UNI and other schools personally help to find available local food products.
Johnson County Local Food Project: In this project – which ended in 2002 – a coordinator facilitated meetings to encourage local commerce, developed directories of local producers, and promoted local food events in the county.
Iowa State University's Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management Program: The goal of this project is to help Iowa producers and food service directors learn how to develop a more efficient infrastructure for local food systems.
Farm Bureau and Sodexho Services "“Farm Bureau corporate cafeteria:Farm Bureau and Sodexho are cooperating to expand the use of Iowa-grown foods at corporate cafeterias that Sodexho services in the Des Moines area.
Local Food Systems with Business and Industry – Jackson County:A partnership between Maquoketa Valley Producers, Limestone Bluffs Resource and Conservation and Development, and a local sheltered workshop. The project's goal is to develop a structure that allows employees from local businesses to obtain locally grown foods. Employees of these businesses fill out order forms for products available from local producers; orders are filled by the sheltered workshop employees and delivered to the staff.
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State university (http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/) "explores and cultivates alternatives that secure healthier people and landscapes in Iowa and the nation." The Leopold Center researches the negative effects of agricultural practices, helps to develop alternative agricultural practices, and works to make these findings accessible to the public.
A proposal for a project to increase the use of local foods in Missouri (http://foodcircles.missouri.edu/proposal.htm): "Our purpose is to nurture and expand the emerging community-based agriculture and food system in Missouri by coordinating a network of farmers, processors, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and consumers in Kansas City, Mid-Missouri and St. Louis. We will fill the gaps in our current community food systems by 1) providing better market access for farmers; 2) improving access to local food for consumers; 3) coordinating and strengthening distribution and retailing infrastructure for community-based food businesses; and 4) creating stable and sufficient demand for local food among consumers. We will facilitate the production and coordination of locally produced and processed foods at the right price through improved distribution and retailing infrastructure, and we will promote the social, nutritional, ecological and economic benefits of this food to consumers. Our network will continue to prepare farmers to grow and market locally produced food. We will advocate for public policy education/organizing campaigns to provide incentives and a regulatory framework that supports community-based food systems." Of particular interest in this paper is its discussion of the perceived demand for local foods, and how they propose to best implement the increased use of locally produced foods.
The following site:
provides descriptions of existing programs (nationally) that help connect local farmers and local cafeterias/dining halls/lunchrooms in other institutions.
Before working any further on developing a model of a local food economy, it is clear that we need to know a great deal more about what is being done in Iowa to help develop/drive local support for local food producers.
Farmer's Markets are a pretty obvious example of a local food economy system. Do we have a list yet of how many are in Iowa, where they are located and as much information as we can find about each? If not -- there's a research task that needs some attention.
Farmer's Markets are one thing and we may choose to limit our modeling efforts to only Farmer's Markets this go round. But only understanding the role and importance of Farmer's Markets in the local food economy markets of Iowa is not enough.
There are other organizations, groups, stakeholders, etc., out there in the State working to support local food economies with various agendas and projects. Although we may not include them in this modeling effort, our background research on the "big picture" should certainly include all of them.
There are MANY variables at work in ANY model of any part of a local food economic system.
We must have a clear idea of what these variables are and how important they may be to the system we choose to focus on in OUR model.
So, after doing the Iowa Farmer's Market research and posting all that background information here, the next step would be to research into any organizations here in Iowa that are working to develop/support local food economies.
Right off the top is a must check organization called Practical Farmers of Iowa (http://www.practicalfarmers.org). Take a good look at this organization. Post a synopsis and your assessment... then do the same for any others you can find.
You should post the set of questions you want to have answered as you look into Farmers Markets across Iowa and all the other organizations as well. This will provide a clearer focus to your research efforts and your informtion here will then be useful to everyone as the project unfolds over the next year or so.
The next step before going too much further would be to do some field work. There is no substitute for direct observation of what you are trying to model.
You should plan to spend a Thursday session at the Grinnell Farmer's Market first, followed by a Saturday morning at the Fairfield market. Ask questions of buyers and sellers, take notes. Keep in mind all that you have been reading and thinking in terms of modeling the market elements. Use the blog space to share how this direct experience shapes your thinking around the system model.
Also before going further on the modeling side of this project, you should do a good bit of on-line research on the local food economy projects here in Iowa. Get a good feel for each project and develop a kind of 'mental model' if you will of how each 'system' is set up.
Identify which projects you are researching in your blog space and capture your thoughts as to what you find. Do you find any kind of "meta model" that most projects seem to follow? Are there any 'stand out' projects you come across? Where are these operating and what makes them stand out? --------- you get the idea. You should be grounding yourself over the next several weeks on the "data" before leaping back into the modeling.
Look at as many examples as you can find from Iowa, but also see if you come across interesting examples from elsewhere (see my blog post on the Michigan Land Use Institute local food economy project).
Let's spend the next two weeks in "data space" - this should help shape our modelling.
The above information comes from two articles: Farmers find new markets: Universities, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions buy locally grown food, written by Anne Fitzgerald in the Des Moines Register (the article is located at http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060514/BUSINESS01/605140336/1029/BUSINESS), and "Institutional buying models and local food markets: The Iowa Experience, written by Rich Pirog (located at http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/speech/files/100502_cafeteria.pdf)
I knew we were in good shape with regard to local food economy experts here in Iowa. In addition to Jon Andelson at Grinnell College (more on his exciting work in a follow-up post), Timlynn and I were aware of the wonderful group of social action-oriented researchers at the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State in Ames. These folks, led by Cornelia Butler Flora and Mary Emery, are doing exciting work developing the Community Capitals Framework.
The Community Capitals Framework is being used to structure a comprehensive set of assessment criteria to measure the asset value of various hard and soft aspect of local and regional communities. The NCRCRD staff then use this framework for applied research in support or rural economic and community development projects. To our great delight, one area of intense and on-going research is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Leading the charge forward on CSA research is Corry Bregendahl, an Assistant Scientist at the center. A recent report, Using the Community Capitals Framework to Study the Role of Collaborative Community Supported Agriculture (cCSA) in Iowa, is just one of a number of CSA-related publications that will be extremely helpful to us as we envision and evolve The Local Fold Economy Game.
As soon as it can be arranged, we're going to take Jelal on a field trip to Ames to meet with Corry and other members of the Community Capitals Framework research group as well as meet with Leigh Tesfatsion to discuss the intersection of our project with her interests in agent-based computational economics. Hopefully, we'll be able to catalyze some collaboration between Sohodojo, NCRCRD, and Professor Tesfatsion!