farmers market

Faves No. 194

favorite finds from the front lines of food

The Olive Oil Edition

Olive oil tasting at  Long Meadow Ranch  in Napa, California

Olive oil tasting at Long Meadow Ranch in Napa, California

Right now, in the middle of summer, there is really no better time to enjoy "simple" suppers that refresh and help beat the heat...for example a perfect heirloom tomato with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. Ahhh, so peaceful. So easy. Right? What? No....

Put simply, climate change is having a huge effect of olive production in the Mediterranean olive producing regions.  (New York Times)

In addition, the incredibly fast spreading disease, Xylella fastidiosa, I attacking olives, grapevines, citrus, almond, oak trees and more, across the region. According to the European Commission, "is one of the most dangerous plant bacteria worldwide, causing a variety of diseases, with huge economic impact for agriculture, public gardens and the environment."  

But you can't fight it is you can't see it. There has been a recent tech development which is giving some hope to farmers. A hyperspectral camera is being used to identify infected tress so they may be culled. The camera is flown 500m over the groves and each tree can be analyzed (250 bands of infrared light) to see how the trees are photosynthesizing.  Because there is no cure for this disease, it is vital that farmers be able to identify infected trees in order to cull them from the orchard.

Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterium, not a virus, and some farmers in Puglia are not happy with the practice of uprooting otherwise healthy trees to curb the spread of the infection. Some of the older farmers are looking to natural remedies such as fertilizing with cow manure, pruning and using copper and iron sulfates during the farming process. 

But not everyone agrees with this natural approach. Giovanni Martelli, a plant virologist at the University of Bari, who has conducted studies for the authorities and supports uprooting, said: “People who claim that Xylella can be treated with natural remedies are not right. There is no cure for Xylella. The immediate removal of infected trees and surrounding healthy trees is an indispensable measure to block the spread.”

So what to do?  from a recent article in the Guardian: 

“I am very encouraged by this new research,” said Richard Buggs, a plant health research leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK, and not involved in the new study. “Plant pests and pathogens are on the increase around the world, and we desperately need new tools.”

“Xylella can infect a very large number of plant species, including cherry trees, plum trees, lavender, and rosemary,” Buggs said. “When you buy a live plant for your home or garden, you should make sure you know where it has come from and avoid buying a plant that has not been grown [domestically].” (Guardian)

So folks, as you eat that tomato with the drizzle of oil, just remember the challenges that the farmers face to bring it to your table. Don't take any of it for granted.  That means, the oil, the tomato, the salt or the dining companion you might be sharing it with.  Enjoy all of it. Give thanks and eat with awareness and recognition because these are changing times.

Sing Along Snacks: Jamaica Jamaica

It's never too early or too late for a snack, so crank up that volume on your computer.

As farmers market season gets into full swing, Brigadier Jerry sings about veggies and marketing in Jamaica Jamaica. It's like a shopping list you can dance to.

"I-man borrow my brother van
was making a truck going over these hills, man
to check my grandfather who is a farmer
Lord! who live inna Manchester area....

(He) give me 17 bunch 'a 'di green, green banana
34 pound 'a 'di Irish potatoe
55 pounds of the sweet sweet cassava
Lord, 'im neva have no tomatoe
'im neva have no tomatoe"

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 40

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • August 15 marked what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. PBS Digital Studios honored her with a Keep on Cooking remix video. Bon Appétit!
  • There is still time for a good summer read. Check out the Grist food reading list for some tasty ideas!
  • Finally a cell phone policy that pays off. EVA Restaurant in LA explores giving diners a discount if they turn over the phone for the duration of the meal. 
  • The Diawa House takes urban gardening to a new level. The agri-cube can grow 10,000 portions of vegetables per year in a hydroponic unit the fits into the size of a parking space.  Now if they could just incorporate a vending machine component.



Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 33

 weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Another idea that we're excited about: Local Food Lab, a California based incubator and collaborative workspace for early stage sustainable food and farm startups.
  • Hands Off our Special Regions, says the European Commission to an American initiative calling for the unfettered use of what are currently protected food and drink monikers, such as Parmesan and port. How 'bout we put some creativity into creating new names. One of our favorites: Quady Winery's Starboard, a port-style wine made in California.

Hosting the Market — Tips for Farmers Market Managers

this piece was originally published March 15 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research

It’s March and spring is just around the corner. As communities begin to thaw out, and regional farmers markets prepare to start offering their first spring crops, it’s a great time for farmers’ market managers to start planning their season. Farmers already have a lot to do, and market managers can play an important role in unifying and promoting the market.

It’s no secret that farmers markets are becoming more and more popular. According to the USDA, as of mid-2011, there were 7,175 farmers markets operating across the US. This is an increase of 17% from 2010. A new local food system is growing, but it needs a boost of more robust marketing and promotion to compete with the industrial food system. Many market managers come to the job through a love of food and farming and a desire to be part of a new food movement. This is a great call to action, yet to take promoting local food to the next level, managers need to take a page from the marketing and PR units of established companies. To pull in shoppers and create buzz you can’t just be earnest — you have to be fun.

Embrace the Role of Host

We explain our philosophy of promotion to new clients as hosting a party. We don’t push a product or service at people. Instead we cultivate an atmosphere around the product or service that makes it something people want to be a part of. Inviting people to be part of something allows them take ownership and builds loyalty.

A market manager is essentially a host of the market. Treat the market like your party. Welcome your guests. Make introductions between people who should know each other. Keep an eye on who’s getting along and who’s looking left out. Then invite more people.

Create a Strong Information Hub

Most farmers markets have a table or kiosk where market goers can find a variety of local information.  Some markets sell produce bags, feature recipes or information on regional tours, classes or places of interest. While that is fine, honestly it’s the bare minimum.

Market managers should make this the hub of information for both vendors and the public. Give the customers a place to go for reliable information for the days events or specials as well as what to look for in the future, thus giving customers something to look forward to. This is also a good place to clearly communicate the mission statement of the market along with its history. Consumers want to know the back-story of their food community and market too.

In promotion, you need to create events, which is most easily done by turning stuff that’s already happening into EVENTS! The distinction is largely a matter of presentation and enthusiasm. Signage should feature current market reports on what’s fresh and what’s coming next week:

“FIRST BERRIES are here! We are looking forward to a strong season. Bring on the pies.”

“Incredible asparagus across the market! Predicted heat alert — this may be one of the last weeks to have these tender tips!”

Start a countdown sign for a particularly popular item, especially at the beginning of the season when every new crop is eagerly anticipated. Advance notice helps build anticipation and buzz. Giving a heads-up about the end of a season encourages people to buy now.

Build Links Within the Food Scene

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: great things happen when you connect the dots.

If there are chefs who regularly patronize the market, take it upon yourself to help promote that link.  Call out a local farmer-chef spotlight of the week on a chalkboard.

“Get your arugula at Farmer Jane’s stand, and taste it on the pizza special at Mario’s all week.”

By having rotating “local spotlight” menu items, patrons can taste the product prepared by a professional, which in turn validates their decision to purchase the product as well. It’s a tie-in to the local community that can be maintained beyond the day of the market. By bringing together the chefs and the farmers, consumers have access to a greater connection to both.

To keep the good feelings going past the “event” itself, start a binder for past menu spotlights, available at the information stand.

Invite Opinion Makers

Don’t be afraid to make your own connections with bloggers and local food writers. A good market manager can help spot trends, coordinate a story, and give a head’s up about what’s coming in or out of season. (For tips on how to set up and pitch a story see our DIY Press Savvy series.) It’s a great way to generate buzz for the market and a good skill for your resume.

To be a good promoter, think beyond what is required to what kind of impact you can have. Be bold, grab attention, and whatever you do, make it fun.


About Alisha & Polly’s company: Polish Partnerships

Polish is a branding and communications company for the new gastroconomy. By creating strong partnerships with food and beverage producers, hospitality groups and industry innovators, we go the extra distance, transforming hopes, dreams and expectations into tangible, sustainable and polished realities.

Making a Stand-Out Market Stand

this piece was originally published December 22 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research.

Welcome to the second installment of Alisha Lumea and Polly Legendre’s advice column for sustainability-minded food entrepreneurs who are seeking answers to questions about product branding, marketing, development and more.

This week’s questions come from Ryan in San Diego, CA.


How can a direct to consumer seller at a farmers market make their products stand out more for consumers and/or attract more restaurant buyers?


At a farmers market there’s a lot of repetition of goods. If cucumbers are in season, you probably have a lot of them — and so does the stall next to you, and the stall after that.  To sell your cucumbers, you can compete on price, or you can compete on style (otherwise known as perceived value). You can build your style and a better user experience with two basics principles: communication and cultivating relationships.

An easy way to communicate with your customers is better signage, including simple tasting notes. A favorite root vegetable vendor at Union Square Market in New York City sells a dozen varietals of potatoes, each with it’s own tasting note and suggested cooking method. The notes are minimal, like: “Peruvian heirloom, great mashed,” but they help encourage people to try something new and sample multiple products.

Signage, though, doesn’t substitute for conversation. Rather, it helps jump-start questions. Not everyone chats easily with strangers, and a little bit of information can be an icebreaker.  Guaranteed, if you hang a sign that says “ask me about my expert knowledge of hot peppers” you’ll have more conversations about peppers than ever before.

The in-person connection with customers at the market is great, and you can further that bond with an email newsletter and Facebook. More frequent communication with customers allows you to stay front-of-mind, so on market day they come right to you. A newsletter is good because it allows you to capture the customer’s information at the moment when they’re thinking of you instead of relying on them to remember to “like” your page once their back at their computers. And Facebook makes it easy for people to share the information with their friends and introduce you to new audiences.

Updates needn’t (and shouldn’t) be long and involved. Let people know what’s going on at the farm and especially what’s coming into season. In cold climates, foodies wait for the first asparagus like kids wait for Christmas. If you have a favorite way of preparing something, share it here. The more time they spend thinking about you growing their food, the more invested they are in buying from you.

Use your display to draw connections between your farm and products and what else is going on in the good food movement and within your community. Restaurant customers are powerful endorsements, both for consumers and other chefs. If your products are called out by name at a restaurant, have a copy of the menu laminated and at the stand and called out as, for example: “best melons, as seen on the menu at Bistro X.”

If you would like a restaurant to call out your products by name, talk to the chef and offer to display their menu and call out the connection from your stall. The foodies at the farmers market are the same foodies they want dining in their restaurant. Cross promoting helps everyone.

Once you have chef customers, cultivate those relationships. Stay in touch about what’s coming into season. Talk to your chefs about what they’re cooking and what they use. Ask them if there’s anything they wish they could source locally but can’t find.

If you don’t have any customers yet, use a donation to jumpstart some buzz. How about giving apples for snack to your local kids sports team, getting a picture of the kids with apples, and making a sign that says: “Your Farms’ Cortlands — the official apple of the soccer team.” A sign like that will get you attention and goodwill.

Submit Your Question(s) for Next Week!

You can submit your questions via emailfacebook or Twitter.


About Alisha & Polly’s company: Polish Partnerships

Polish is a branding and communications company for the new gastroconomy. By creating strong partnerships with food and beverage producers, hospitality groups and industry innovators, we go the extra distance, transforming hopes, dreams and expectations into tangible, sustainable and polished realities.