Farm Food Facts

Ben Feldman, Jodi Gauker, Farmers Market Week

August 07, 2019 Episode 36
Farm Food Facts
Ben Feldman, Jodi Gauker, Farmers Market Week
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Ben Feldman, Jodi Gauker, Farmers Market Week
Aug 07, 2019 Episode 36
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

This week's thought leader is Ben Feldman, Executive Director at Farmers Market Coalition

The stories you need to know:
• Organics are still showing a surging Demand.  
• What can be done to utilize “Ugly Produce” and minimize Food Waste?

This weeks farmer is Jodi Gauker, Executive Director at Lundale Farm Inc. and Local Food advocate.



Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to form food facts for Wednesday, August 7th. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. This week, it's all about farmers markets. Later in the podcast, I talk with Jodi Gauker, the executive director at Lundale Farm and a local food advocate. But first, our thought leader this week is Ben Feldman, executive director at Farmers Market Coalition. Ben, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.
Ben Feldman:
0:32
Yeah, thanks for having me on, Phil.
Phil Lempert:
0:34
So, you know, this is National Farmers Market Week. I am so excited, you know, as a lot of our listeners know, I live in Santa Monica. I am very lucky. I have an exceptional farmers market right around the corner from me every Sunday. What should we be thinking and talking about when it comes to National Farmers Market Week?
Ben Feldman:
0:54
That's a great question, Phil. And yeah, you do have a wonderful market there in Santa Monica. So, National Farmers Market Week is really a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate all of the incredible things that farmers markets do for farmers, for consumers and for communities. And this year, we're in particular focused on the role that farmers markets play in helping to support new and developing businesses. You can think of a farmers market almost like a small business incubator. We have so many farmers and food based businesses who come into farmers markets because they are, compared to other ways to sell your product, they are relatively low barrier to entry. And it really provides them a great opportunity to scale their business, learn what their customers are looking for, and then grow that business. And many times through the farmers market they also receive other opportunities, whether it's to sell to restaurants or to publicize their CSA programs. And then we see many of those businesses go on to develop brick and mortar stores or online sales or other outlets that compliment the work that they do at farmers markets. And sometimes they'd grow into national businesses like OTTO Foods or Blue Bottle Coffee, or some of these other businesses that got their start in farmers markets and now have become well-known national brands.
Phil Lempert:
2:18
So Ben, what I love about having you as the lead for the Farmers Market Coalition is you actually spent a lot of time on the other side of the table, selling produce and baked goods at farm stands and farmers markets. So, you really understand both the consumer side as well as the farmer side of this.
Ben Feldman:
2:41
Yeah, I've been really fortunate in my career. When I started in farmers markets, I had no idea that I was gonna have the opportunity to have a career in farmers markets. It's a pretty wonderful place to have spent a career. I continue to work in this field because I love food and I love the people who are part of it. But yeah, definitely have had a colorful background in terms of all different aspects of farmers markets, which again, I think for many folks, myself included when I started, didn't realize how many different aspects of farmers markets there are.
Ben Feldman:
3:17
And the work as a market manager in particular is very eye-opening. I think many folks think of farmers markets and they don't think about what it takes to put a farmers market together. Certainly sometimes when they have conversations with people about market managers and their job, you can kind of see the wheels turning as people are realizing in the moment that of course it takes someone behind the scenes to be coordinating with the city and setting up the vendors' spots and making sure that they're in the right spot, not in somebody else's spot. And dealing with the customers and sort of doing that facilitation and management role that's so critical to any successful event or business. But that is often unseen in particular at farmers markets.
Phil Lempert:
4:02
Well, what I love the most is when I walked through my farmers market and I see consumers talking to the people behind the tables and asking about it. And really, in this era of transparency, being able to discover where the food comes from, how it's grown, whether it's organic or not organic. And the level of experience and expertise that is on the other side of the table, being able to educate consumers is huge. And I, and I really think - and I could be wrong, this is just, observational more than anything else - I really think that farmers markets have done an enormous job in educating consumers about food.
Ben Feldman:
4:52
Yeah, certainly. And you touched on the fact that consumers want transparency now. They want to know where their food comes from and how it was raised, how it was produced. And then, you also touched on another important point that, for many urban dwellers, really their primary engagement, the primary way in which they interact with agriculture in today's modern world, is at the farmers market. There's very little opportunity for most people - and most people in the United States now do live in cities or other urban environments -aAnd they don't interact with agriculture otherwise. And the farmers market is such a wonderful place for that. And so for many people, it is the face of agriculture today.
Phil Lempert:
5:39
One of the things that I've noticed throughout the country is there certain supermarket retailers who have now opened up their parking lots to have farmers markets right in their parking lot. And while that might seem that it has taken business away from the supermarket, it actually isn't for those retailers that have done it. And I've spoken to them, they say it really reinforces local, it builds a better relationship, to your earlier point, a lot of these farmers markets are now selling their product into the supermarket itself. And I think that that kind of partnership is fabulous. What's your take on it?
Ben Feldman:
6:20
Yeah, I think it's an interesting development and one that I think smart grocers recognize that anything that they can do to get more people into their parking lot is likely to improve their bottom line. And if there's a way to make that work that supports both the farmers at the farmers market and then the grocery store as well, it's certainly something we're all for. We don't consider farmers markets to be the only place that people can or do shop. I think recognizing that is important, that we have allies all across the food system and working together when it makes sense is certainly appropriate and wonderful thing for us to be doing. Our focus of course is strengthening farmers markets. And I should have probably should have mentioned earlier, our mission is to strengthen farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, shoppers and communities. So again, if the market there is meeting that goal, then we're all for that. There's certainly complimentary aspects to it, and we recognize that certain markets, there can be a challenge for shoppers and getting all of the products that they want at the farmers market. And sometimes they need to stop by a grocery store afterwards. So, why not have them in the same parking lot?
Phil Lempert:
7:38
So, your background is undergraduate agro-ecology and sustainable food systems, and your Masters is environmental science from the University of California. Give me the picture, look into your crystal ball from an ag standpoint, from a farmers market standpoint; what do farmers markets look like in five years from now?
Ben Feldman:
8:02
Hmm, that's a great question. One of the things that I think is interesting in the farmers market world is where we're seeing a lot of changes in development in the way farmers markets think of themselves. And I think that's important. One of the rising tide and in our food system in general, there are a few different currents, one of which of course is how people get their food. We've seen, obviously, the rise of delivery box programs, mail delivery programs, and people have a wealth of ways that they can get foods directly to their door. And so, one of the biggest questions for farmers markets is, how do we address this question? Because, for so many of the core shoppers at a farmers market, the thing about it that is most enticing and most wonderful is that opportunity to experience your food in a different way and interact with the people who grew it and really make that connection.
Ben Feldman:
9:09
And for many people, it's also something of a refuge from the increasingly busy lifestyle that is the growing trend or sentiment in our society. At the same time, many people, that does influence how they shop as well. And because there is this feeling and this overwhelming sense of not having enough time for many people, that plays out with a need to get their food straight to their door. So, this is definitely something that farmers markets are grappling with. The other piece of course is a growing wealth inequity in our society. And so, farmers markets are struggling with questions of how do we ensure that farmers markets can be access points for low-income shoppers? And these are two threads that are very much on our radar and one that markets across the country are developing innovative programs to try and address.
Ben Feldman:
10:10
So, we do see markets developing more infrastructure, for example, in order to extend their hours and increase the convenience aspects of farmers markets in order to get to that first point. And then farmers market have really been on the cutting edge in terms of developing solutions, in order to improve access for low-income shoppers in a way that, you know, I don't think we've seen in other parts of the food system. So, for example, that looks like testing out the incentive programs that you may be familiar with. Those are programs where individuals who are shopping with federal nutrition benefits, in particular the SNAP program, are able to get those benefits doubled by shopping at their local farmers market. And that's something that is now moving its way into grocery stores, but originated at farmers markets and a way in which farmers markets are really trying to push the envelope and be proactive about supporting their communities.
Phil Lempert:
11:10
And I think, probably most important, is we never want to lose that connection between the consumer and the farmer and really reinforce that. And I know, at my farmers market - and I'm there every Sunday - just from a community standpoint, you see everybody, you see everybody there with their kids, with their grandparents, whatever else, and it becomes the center of the universe, at least in Santa Monica. So, Ben, thank you so much for all the work that you do. It's a celebration National Farmers Market Week and a happy to have you here on Farm, Food, Facts.
Ben Feldman:
11:53
Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate the time.
Phil Lempert:
12:00
And now, the news you need to know. Organics are still showing a surging demand. About 30 years ago, it was nearly unheard of for shoppers to find an extensive array of fresh organic produce in a major grocery store. Although previously organics were simply viewed as a niche market, today organics are considered mainstream. As per the Food Marketing Institute, organics can now be found in 82% of supermarkets, with billions of dollars in sales to prove it. Millennials are being credited with much of this rising popularity, in particular, those who are married with children. Additionally, this particular subset of shoppers is willing to pay a premium for organics and researchers believe this trend will continue to grow as the younger wave of millennials also begin to marry and start their own families. Consumer demand for organic products is expected to keep growing and not just here in the U.S., but across the globe. Fresh produce is forecasted to remain one of the top food categories. It boils down to giving shoppers what they want. And convenience, choice and year-round supply are crucial to keeping fresh, organic fruit and vegetables s focal point of the produce department. And let's not forget, what grocers need to know is local is where it's at. Because when they have local produce, you have lower prices, greater nutrition, and more flavor.
Phil Lempert:
13:25
And although organics are enjoying a surging popularity, not all produce is regarded as desirable. What can be done to utilize ugly produce and minimize food waste? Lately, there has been ongoing increased attention surrounding the global problem of food waste. And while there are various causes for wasted food, some are unavoidable - for example, an unforeseen hurricane which causes a ship carrying bananas to be unable to get to port until the fruit is overripe - there's also a lot of food that goes to waste for foolish reasons. One of the most egregious is that of cosmetic imperfection, fruit or vegetables that simply don't meet buyer specifications for color, size, shape, or ripeness. At the retail level, several ugly produce companies have appeared; buying these undesirable items, refered to a second-hand produce at a discounted price, then passing on the savings to their customers. However, shrewd chefs and managers have already been doing this at food service for many years. On a small scale, operators will let farmers and farmers market staff know that they're willing to take these products off their hands at a discount. And on a broader level, programs such as the National Food Groups Opportunity Buys will identify overruns and imperfect products and offer them to food service buyers at a deep discount. So, let farmers and farmers markets know what you're looking for, because farmers often experienced frustration when they're trying to sell these seconds. Reach out to farmers, aggregators, and farmers markets to let them know that if the flavor's there, and the price is right, you're willing to do business. What grocers need to know is it's time to reach out and build a relationship with the farmer.
Phil Lempert:
15:14
Jodi Gauker is the executive director at Lundale farm in Pottstown and co-owner of Gauker Farms, an eighth-, ninth-, and tenth generation, 260-acre farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where she and her family raise crops and dairy steers. Lundale Farms is a sustainable farming community in northern Chester County, a place of inspiration, innovation, and opportunity for farmers, landowners, and others committed to locally grown food. Jodi, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.
Jodi Gauker:
15:45
Thank you for having me.
Phil Lempert:
15:46
So, first of all, I love your title. You are the Doer of All Things. Does that what it says on your business card?
Jodi Gauker:
15:53
If I had business cards for Gauker Farms, I'm sure it would say Doer of All the Things, but I don't,
Phil Lempert:
16:00
Well you got to get it. You gotta print them up, just to really impress people. So you know, you and your family pride yourselves on locally grown food. We've seen local become a huge trend. Why is that?
Jodi Gauker:
16:16
I think- I've been saying for years there's never been a more exciting time to be in agriculture, because consumers have decided that they need to know everything about their food. And I think that local food has seen an increase because more people are caring about it. And farming is cool all of a sudden. People are leaving the corporate world and starting gardens and small farms. So, it's a pretty exciting,
Phil Lempert:
16:45
You know, what consumers are finally recognizing is that, if you buy something that's local, and let me just talk about produce for a second cause I know we want to talk about more things than just produce, but if they buy produce that's local, it's in season, it's usually more affordable because it's in season, it's more tasty and it's more nutritious. So, the fact that these light bulbs are going off in people's heads I think is so great for the whole local movement. So, talk to me a bit about your farm and why you decided to really do a major outreach in farmers markets.
Jodi Gauker:
17:26
Our farm, obviously eighth-, ninth-, and tenth generation farm. We've been in this farming game for a long time. But my husband and I were trying to find our place in the family farm. It's very difficult to get additional acres. We were a dairy farm until 13 years ago when we sold the cows, and trying to figure out what's the next step. My husband really enjoys crop farming and that's what he would like to do and continue to do. But we needed to bring in another income to the farm to bring in the next generation. So, the family wanted to get more steers or more animals on the land. And they were used to having steers in the past, so I suggested that they do start raising steers again and direct market them through farmers markets. Previously, I had worked for Penn State Extension and working with their beginning farmer and rancher program. And also worked for the Chester County Economic Development Council as their agriculture project manager. So, I was working with these farmers and farmers markets and assisting them with connecting them with farmers, and business planning, and marketing already in my job. So, that was a natural idea for me to add another income to the farm. So, we started doing that in 2013. And it's really grown every year and we've really grown a revenue stream for the next generation through it.
Phil Lempert:
19:05
Very cool. Now, talk to me a bit about farmers markets and how they've changed. I think when most people think of a farmers market, they think about produce. But farmers markets today are a lot broader than just produce, right?
Jodi Gauker:
19:19
They sure are. If you think about a farmers market, our job at a farmers market is to be a one stop shop for consumers because we want consumers to do their grocery shopping at the market and gain more of their food dollar there instead of having them have to go to both a farmers markets and a grocery store per se. So, in order to meet that need, a farmers market really has to diversify itself and not just have produce, but meat, and eggs, and pastas, and beverages, shelf stable products. Lots of value added things that consumers would buy at a grocery store, but trying to capture that dollar at the market so they can do their primary grocery shopping there and then maybe supplement with a grocery store, for example.
Phil Lempert:
20:17
So Jodi, being in farmers markets, obviously one of the reasons that consumers love it is they get to talk to people like you and really find out a lot more about their foods and the impact. What are some of the questions that you're hearing these days from consumers?
Jodi Gauker:
20:33
Well, us specifically, we raise beef. So, the number one question that I typically get is, is it grass-fed? Is it organic? Are your cows happy? Questions like that.
Phil Lempert:
20:47
And are your cows happy?
Jodi Gauker:
20:49
They are happy cows because happy cows eat and ours do. But I also like to say dairy farmers would like you to know that we raise steers and not cows. But yes, our steers are very happy.
Phil Lempert:
21:01
Terrific. Well, Jodi, thanks so much for joining us today on Farm, Food, Facts.
Jodi Gauker:
21:06
Absolutely. Thank you.
Phil Lempert:
21:07
For more information on all things food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media tab and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.
×

Listen to this podcast on