Category Archives: farmers market

3 Picks: Sustainable Cities, Floating Farmers Market, Freshii


Food Gardens, Channels, Vertical Farms – Shanghai Sustainable Masterplan

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Cities are on the front lines of climate change: By Stephen Leahy. “With the backing of their residents, many cities and towns around the world are becoming cleaner, greener and better places to live by banning cars, improving mass transit, reducing energy use and growing their own food while adding public and green spaces. “Getting cities right solves many problems,” Register said. Cities are truly ground zero for action on climate change, protection of ecosystems, biodiversity, energy use, food production and more because that’s where most people live today, he said. Cities consume about 75 percent of the world’s energy and resources. They are directly or indirectly responsible for 75 percent of global carbon emissions…”

2) Floating farmers market to revive historic trade route: By Amy Langfield. “A trade route used by the Mohawks, missionaries, fur traders and colonists will take a step toward revival this weekend as the Vermont Sail Freight Project embarks on a 330-mile journey downriver, stopping at historic river towns along the Hudson. They’ll pick up cargo from 30 farmers and sell it at pop-up markets on its way to New York…”

3) Freshii saves energy, water, and chemicals: By Dan Rowe. “Freshii is unique in that they use no dishwashers, hoods, ranges or ovens, reducing the footprint left by their restaurants. To eliminate the need for dishwashers, they have opted for 100 percent biodegradable food-safe mixing bags to create their salads and custom rice/noodle bowls, which in total—including the production and transportation of the bags to Freshii restaurants—use less than five times the electricity of even the most energy efficient dishwashers…”

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

About the Photo: Part of the Sustainable Urban Masterplan for Shanghai, this image shows the channels with pedestrian and slow traffic lanes on the right, and urban food gardens on the left. The channel transports water from vertical farm to vertical farm, cooling the city and being filtered through various plants and organisms along the way. Two vertical farm buildings sit in the background, these farms supply sustainable energy, fresh water and food to 50.000 people in a range of one kilometer around their center. The open lower floors of the tower in the middle serves as a community garden, where residents can grow their own spices and specialty crops.

Farmers Markets Locate in Metro Areas and Continue to Grow in Number


San Francisco Farmers Market

It is not easy nor is it a financial windfall to become a farmers market producer. For entry level producers or “greenhorns”, it is important to pick a smart location that has a receptive public, à la consumer.

Market growers have a large amount of preparation required before they load their products, drive sometimes great distances to their market, set up their display, sit through all kinds of weather, and then wait to see if the consumer antes up before they pack up their perishables to return home. CSA (community supported agriculture) contracts are a more secure income for these producers.

The number of farmers markets in the U.S. has increased more than four-fold since 1994, when the USDA began keeping track of their numbers. In August of 2012, there were 7,828 farmers markets operating in the United States. Nearly forty percent of the nation’s farmers markets are in metro areas which have a reliable consumer base.

The highest concentration of markets are found in California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The red areas in the map below show where the greatest increase in the number of farmers markets has occurred over the past four years.

In related news, the USDA has announced that it will begin to provide micro loans of up to $35,000 to help small farmers, minorities, veterans, and “disadvantaged” producers start-up farm operations.

The program can be used to finance hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses. As their financing needs increase, applicants can apply for an operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000.

When announcing the loan program, Vilsack said that the “USDA continues to help grow a new generation of farmers, while ensuring the strength of an American agriculture sector that drives our economy, creates jobs, and provides the most secure and affordable food supply in the world.”

As we all know, the above statement is a stretch of the truth at best, because today’s high land prices and rents which result from policies of crop insurance, direct payments for monoculture crops produced by very large farms, and the corn ethanol mandate, are reasons that it is next to impossible for a “greenhorn” to begin a farming operation. While access to credit is important, being able to turn out a profit is even more important.

Since the average age of the farmer in the U.S. is 57, and the fastest growing segment is the over-65 age group, it is clear that we need younger replacement farmers. And the new and underemployed generation of capable workers includes many who would like to enter the occupation of farming.

What a new generation of farmers really needs is policy support in the next Farm Bill. “Get big or get out” continues to be the dominant trend in agriculture in the U.S.

BPA Does NYC


Note that Big Picture Agriculture and two of her staff visited NYC for a few days last week, and this post (which is a bit off-topic) is about that. Know that three of the staff stayed home to keep this site running — one trouble-maker spent the time in the garage and two were in the house with litter boxes. A final staff member was busy studying Ag in college so couldn’t go on the trip.
~~~~~

It had been a whole decade since my last visit to NYC and now that we’re back home it is difficult to switch gears. Most consider Boulder to be a busy little town and it is sometimes referred to as Manhattan-West, but it feels very quiet comparatively.

A few sentimental observations about this city included seeing the NYPD officers and bouquets of flowers in memoriam of 9/11 in front of a station, the yellow cabs, beautiful cars in terrible traffic, the mandatory stop at “Imagine” in Central Park where the vibe never changes, the subways and their musicians, the Starbucks on every block, the new Freedom Tower lit up at night in red-white-blue, Citarella’s food market, unlimited designer fashion window-shopping, great architecture all around, great restaurants everywhere, Chinatown, busy bars, a young 25-35 year-old Manhattan street population, and people who like to dress up more than those of us who live in the Western U.S.

Kudos to city-planners for the great success of the High Line project which we walked one evening. The landscape designers did a superb job and the urban renewal surrounding it after just a few years is impressive.

I admire the walking culture of the NYC urbanites. Perhaps no other city in America can equal it and consequently you don’t see many fat people there. But, I pity the many women who follow the crowd by wearing 5 inch stiletto heels to do that walking, because in pursuing beauty today they will have ugly bunioned and hammertoed feet tomorrow.

Nine out of ten bunions happen to women and more than half of America’s women have bunions. A decade from now that percentage will be higher because of today’s fashion fad. These shoes surely violate some orthopedic health safety law. END soapbox.

Only once during the visit did I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about the food distribution system there, and it happened while I was waiting in line at Starbucks and watching people come in to order their sugar-laden $6 specialty drinks. Do they know where their food comes from and just what if??? As much as I’ve been reading about roof-top gardening and urban gardening there, I never saw any to speak of.

The water level in NYC has risen five inches in the past fifty years, and is rising faster on the Mid-Atlantic coast than elsewhere. New York City’s Office of Emergency Management predicts sea levels two to five inches higher in the next decade, seven to 12 inches higher by the 2050′s, and up to nearly 2 feet higher by the 2080s. It is a frightening reality with no easy answers.

As luck would have it, a very happening bar in town was atop our “Pod 39″ hotel. Newly opened three weeks ago, the hotel’s three elevators were usually headed to Floor 17 where this open-air rooftop bar with brick arches and walls was located. The views were spectacular both day and night, but especially at night. If you live in NYC, go.

Not to be disappointed, both our son and we were hustled by drunk brokers at bars around midnight on our second night there. The next day we compared broker business cards and stories. The one my husband and I met (in the above bar) was helping out with the velocity of money in NY big-time as he shared with us the cost of his rent, his mortgage on his Hampton’s house, his utilities, his car rental space, and his frequent bar scene tabs. He gave us a song and dance about a stock that would surely double next week. He was definitely a hamster on a wheel. His blonde girlfriend from LA showed up after twenty or thirty minutes, and then he left us. After all, it was a week-day night and he had to be in his Park Avenue office the next morning. I sympathize with these types during these tough times, really, I do.

Other than the Farmers Market, the only must-do item on my NYC visit list was to go to the Isamu Noguchi Museum in Queens. We did that the first day and we were all three captivated by this artist’s talent and life’s work. If you go, I highly recommend the one-hour documentary which runs in the museum, “Isamu Noguchi: Stones and Paper”. Very nearby to the Noguchi Museum is the Socrates Sculpture Garden on the waterfront which is pictured in the panoramic photo at the top of this post. It is the site of a clear plastic inflated Buddha floating on water which you may have seen before in photographs.

Our 25-year-old son who got a degree in architecture two years ago and is now working as a brewer in the mountains of Colorado accompanied us. His version of the visit went like this… because of an inquiry he made on Reddit before the trip, he was given a free bike rental from a friendly bike store for the three days which he then used to cover Manhattan. He loved biking there and thought it was a great way to see the city. He even participated in a “bike race” in Central Park and when I asked him if he biked against one-way traffic, like I scarily witnessed on some busy streets, he answered “yes”.

For lodging, he couch-surfed across Brooklyn at friend’s places. They covered the bar scene which ends at 4AM quite well which landed him at a post-fashion-week party on the first night. He met up with more friends from his past at a Manhattan Husker bar to watch the Saturday football game. For clothes shopping he hit a “Housing Works” thrift store for a new button-down shirt and for a book to read on the plane ride home he dumpster dived with some “nerds” at 1AM while walking three miles to meet up with a friend getting off work as a bar tender. He envied her for making $400 in tips that night. He experienced the city that never sleeps.

On Saturday, we visited the Farmers Market at Union Square. In our opinion, it surpassed every Farmers Market we’ve been to so far, including ones at SanFrancisco, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Charlottetown, Boulder, Lincoln, and SantaFe. The produce reflected the richness of the growing region in climate and soils. The booths looked totally authentic, the growers were savvy, and at this time of year softball sized heirloom tomatoes, squash and amaranth flowers made for colorful displays.

If you go, just north of the Farmers Market was a great fast casual dining Asian restaurant called “Republic”. Sure wish I could have brought that eatery home with me to Boulder. Food trucks also lined that street.

I love NYC. We thought that the people we met there were great, too. But when we got to LaGuardia and saw how the Coloradans were dressed for their flight home, I breathed a sigh of relief and knew that I belonged with them.

A Visit to the Final Longmont Colorado Farmers Market of this 2011 Season

Last Saturday, November 5, 2011 I just so happened to find myself at the Longmont Farmers market for my first time ever. This was its final outdoor selling day to close this season, and it was about two-thirds the size of when it peaks late summer. Most of a recent heavy snow had melted, offering a pleasant market day. I took some photos and thought I’d share them here.

The flavor of the Longmont Farmers Market is a nice contrast to the Boulder one, which I attend regularly. I found that a number of farms from the Colorado high plains, an hour to the east of Longmont, present their produce here. There was a moderate amount of overlap between Boulder and Longmont’s markets.

The town of Longmont is also in Boulder County and derives its name from Longs Peak, which is prominently seen from here.


photo: wikipedia cc

Though this following list is by no means all-inclusive, these are some of the booths that I visited.


Eating local in November in Colorado means eating the root vegetables and squashes.


It amazes me how rapidly blue pumpkins have become popular. They are also common in the grocery stores this fall.


Dakon and regular radishes.


Carrots and beets.


Lovely heads of cauliflower.


Heirloom tomatoes. Since it froze here a couple of weeks ago, these were harvested prior to the frost and allowed to ripen.


Honeyacre farm had beautiful peppers and tomatoes. They grow these in a greenhouse.


These are not small acorn squash. They are HUGE onions – from Miller farms.


Potatoes in recycled onion bags from Miller farms.


Aged cheeses.


Lovely apples from the west slope of Colorado sold by Morton’s Orchards of Palisade.

I spoke to the couple who owned Ginger Cat Farm about their dried beans, as any booth anywhere which sells dried beans always gets my attention. When I asked what their biggest pest problem is with growing the beans they answered “grasshoppers” and when I asked if they shelled them by hand, they answered that, yes, they do so while watching movies.


Though this Heirloom from Farm to Truck food truck also visits Boulder, I had never seen it before and thought it was a great idea – a food truck using fresh and local ingredients. Though their menu looked wonderful and the truck was doing a good business, I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t altogether local, with Ahi tuna and shrimp on the day’s menu.

Last year, I blogged about the last Boulder Farmers Market of the season here.

A Commercial Mushroom Grower in Colorado

Hazel Dell Organic Mushroom Farm ~ Fort Collins, Colorado

Owner Jim Hammond started growing mushrooms in Santa Cruz, California in 1980, and also grew mushrooms commercially near Watsonville, California at Moss Landing. But since 1991, he and his wife have run Hazel Dell Mushrooms near Fort Collins, Colorado, providing the region’s Farmers Markets, Whole Foods stores, and Boulder’s eat-local restaurants with six main varieties of organic mushrooms.

Hammond started out learning to grow mushrooms out of a garage before advancing to commercial growing.

To grow the mushrooms at Hazel Dell, mycelium are grown in petri dishes and innoculated into jars, and then into bags filled with sterilized hardwood sawdust mixed with water, wheat bran, rice bran, gypsum, and limestone. This process takes 4-13 weeks at 70 degrees, and binds the sawdust together.

“All of our mushroom culture lab work is performed in a super HEPA filtered clean room to also minimize contamination after we sterilize our sawdust bags. Our employees even shower and change into sterile lab clothing before the innoculation process. We keep our harvest rooms clean and our crop cycles short to avoid pest problems which means that we do not need to use any pesticides.”

Next, the blocks are removed from the bags and allowed to “fruit”, or grow the mushrooms in a humid 60 degree harvest room, taking another 1-2 weeks.

Hazel Dell grows Shiitake, Oyster, King Oyster or Royal Trumpet, Lion’s Mane, Portabella, Button, Cinamon Cap, and Maitake mushrooms.

This operation has fourteen employees and grows 3,000 pounds of mushrooms per week, which Hammond says “is not very much” compared to larger commercial growers. Wholesale mushroom prices range from $6-$10 per pound. What doesn’t sell fresh gets dried and sold. They also sell a mushroom rub for meat.

Their sawdust source is local, as they utilize Alder sawdust from nearby cabinet makers and door manufacturers. Previously, this sawdust went to the dump instead.

After the mushrooms are harvested, the sawdust mixture is composted. After three years it is either sold as compost or used for growing Portabellas.

This mushroom “farm” operates year-round, using evaporative cooling in the summer and natural gas heat boilers in the winter to maintain optimal mushroom growing temperatures of 60-70 degrees. Humidifiers, air exchange systems, HEPA filters, and sterilizing systems are all used in the growing process.

To contact Hazel Dell, visit their website.