Thursday, March 05, 2009

Local Food Systems Update

I've been doing more research on the web since my other blog post, and I've found some new avenues that I hope to explore further.

First, I found two "off-the-shelf" systems for setting up a local food market website. One is which gives a pre-packaged site hosted on the website. The second is which has created an open source software package that can be customized and deployed on one's own server. I'd like to compare and contrast these two a bit more. I just discovered them yesterday. If there is interest, I can set up a version of the software on my own site and customize it for Cincinnati, so folks can see how it works.

Another site that I found very interesting but still haven't had time to go through in depth is which is a discussion site about the many aspects of local food systems. It looks like a good source of knowledge. It was created as a coordination point for a workshop held by OSU’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in February of 2008, but has since grown substantially. There are discussion forums on the site for such exciting topics as "Logistics, particularly transportation for increasing volume of local foods" and "Local Food Systems Computer Modeling, GIS, Data(mining)" as well as many others. I tried to join the site, but the signup process didn't work right for me, so I'm still waiting. Still, it looks like all the conversations can be viewed without joining the site.

Yet another site I found worth mentioning here is which is the Ohio version of the Market Maker website I mentioned in my other post. This one provides access to the analogous data sets for Ohio. Also, if you go to the "Buy & Sell" forum it shows the same entries as if you browse via the Indiana site. I guess that explains why the entries are from all around the country. I tried searching in the forum for listings in Cincinnati, but didn't find any.

Finally, I'll mention that I probably won't be going to the Food Congress next weekend, but it does sound really exciting. If anyone is going, I'd love to hear from you about how it goes.

So, everyday is bringing new and interesting ideas out on this topic! I'll keep digging around and keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Plans for 2009: Update

In part inspired by this post by Bre Pettis on the Cult of Done, I'm checking back in on the things I wanted to get myself to work on this year and seeing how far I've gotten with 1/6 of the year gone already...

Making stuff:

-goal: "been trying to really cook at least one real meal (not pizza rolls) every week"
-status: fail. still find it hard to prepare real food very often.

-goal: "been keeping one sourdough alive, want to start another one (or two)"
-status: started up a second sourdough starter; made bread with it once. i need more practice.

-goal: "made beer once, want to try it again"
-status: haven't made beer, but i've made a lot of root beer:

-goal: "not huge into dairy, but find cheese-making to be as fascinating as bread and beer making"
-status: fail. haven't made any cheese yet. did join the cheesemakers mailing list though.

-goal: "want to get my hydroponics rig going again and also start a real outside garden if someone will let me use their land"
-status: haven't grown a thing yet. there is still time to make a plan before it gets too late.

local food:
-goal: "been a member of the cincilocavore mailing list and loving it; want to make more of that"
-status: been thinking a lot about this one. i've been putting feelers out about some sort of alternative distribution project, and that may go in some interesting directions. very exciting.

-goal: "visit a bison farm and maybe get some bison meat; bison are so awesome"
-status: need to find a boring weekend to go out and visit some bison. put it on the calendar.

-goal: "maybe join a CSA (or herdshare)"
-status: fail. haven't joined anything, but i have been thinking a lot about this.

farmers' markets:
-goal: "visit these more regularly despite not being very close to one"
-status: fail. only visited one market one time this year (at pea pod cafe). i will definitely try and visit more often when the move up the street to the "green corner".

recycling paper:
-goal: "found some super-easy instructions on how to do this online; want to try it"
-status: i got a used paper shredder from goodwill. i either need to get a used blender to do this with, or just go ahead and use my main blender.

-goal: "i am working on turning a busted ikea hamper into a folding table; needs more work"
-status: my ikea hamer -> folding table is falling apart. needs some love.

-goal: "i'm fascinated by weaving and would love to give it a try in some spare time"
-status: fail. haven't even thought about weaving since writing this list.

-goal: "tried collecting kitchen scraps but it doesn't work too well if you don't have an outside compost place to take them"
-status: have re-started my kitchen scraps composting. need to build an outdoor compost bin to transfer the scraps to or possibly venture into vermicomposting.

rapid prototyping:
-goal: "i want to try getting something made from ponoko or similar (also maybe papekura); i'm a big fan of everything bre pettis does"
-status: fail. gotta find a neat design to have made. even something pointless. just to do it.

Making online stuff:

hereincincinnati blog:
-goal: "update the blog more frequently and let people know it exists"
-status: updated the blog a few more times. changed the layout on my blogs so they prominently link to one another. gonna blog about some of these ideas over there maybe.

hereincincinnati wiki:
-goal: "keep it up-to-date and use the articles in blog posts; maybe reach out to others to help contribute"
-status: been adding, but it's hard to find enough time. been mentioning the wiki in conversations, blog posts. traffic is going up; edits by other people, not so much.

virtual vine st.:
-goal: "tried it with omeka, wasn't really that great; maybe try another cms or roll my own. also, may need to get approval from CMP"
-status: fail. haven't touched this project. still need to find right way of building the site. needs research. i have not enough time.

-goal: "started a local "chapter"; need to find others to join in with me; do projects on something other than transit"
-status: win. :) got involved and participated in conversaitons. rolled out twitter bot traffic_cincy. looking forward to more projects here.

-goal: "blog needs love; find ideas, blog them."
-status: made an attempt to write a stimulus-in-cincinnati post, but it was a bit weak. blog's concept is still viable.

-goal: "i'd like to streamify the city council agendas and other stuff they do; needs a weekend of planning and doing; also maybe a team to help"
-status: some progress has been made. a real rss feed is emitted. minutes have a cool contextual link feature that makes use of the wiki.

wikipedia photo hunt:
-goal: "got started with the project, but ran into hangups; need to kick it up a notch or let it die"
-status: fail. haven't touched this project in a while. BUT, win because i got really involved with wikipedia loves art project.
-goal: "figure out a way to get the data into the site "fresh" and automatic"
-status: fail. haven't touched this project either. next action still somewhat uncertain.

New ideas:

hackerspace - got some interest in doing some kind of hackerspace / co-working space / free geek / tool library / free culture shop for local makers, etc. gonna keep working on this.

local currency - found an awesome open source project that allows people to create an online complementary currency. need to explore the possibilities there.

Not Too Shabby

I was actually a little bit surprised how many things I actually worked on considering how many things I normally do when I make lists like this. I have made a conscious effort this year to say "yes" to projects more often. And I've also tried not to spend as much time as I used to "keeping up-to-date" on things, and instead going out and doing new things. I've got buckets of ideas of things I could work on and they will never get anywhere unless I go out and start trying stuff.

If I think of it, maybe I'll update again in another two months.

Cincinnati Food Congress - March 14th, 2009


From CinciLocavore:
"The Food Congress aims to gather delegates from Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana concerned with local land use, public policy, health, environment, and economic development as they relate to food production, distribution, and consumption. The general objectives of the Food Congress are to foster a culture of collaboration between urban and rural stakeholders concerning local food systems in the Cincinnati area."

Saturday, March 14, 2009
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST

Community Design Center
2728 Vine St
Cincinnati, Ohio
United States-45219

$10 registration at Registration is by invitation only. Contact for details.

More Info





March 14, 2009 95pm : Cincinnati Regional Food Congress at Community Design Center 2728 Vine St Cincinnati, Ohio United States-45219
The Food Congress is a day-long event aimed at developing a shared vision for the future of the tri-state's local food system. The Food Congress will bring together urban and rural stakeholders from non-profits, citizen groups, governments and businesses to identify opportunities for food system development, share best practices, and set goals for the local food economy.

This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cincinnati Local Food Distribution

I'm pretty excited about the city's Urban Gardening Pilot Program. I'd really like to help out at one of these plots, so I'll be keeping my eye on the project. Let me know if you know of any groups that are planning on applying. ( Predictably, I've started a page for this program on the wiki. )

I've been thinking a lot about local food lately. I've been a part of a discussion with some people from, I've been reading a few threads on the CinciLocavore mailing list and I've been reading The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz and I just read the chapter on urban food production. I also recently dug out my copy of Toolbox for Sustainable City Living by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew.

Right now there are farmers markets, and CSA's. And there is what some people refer to as RSA - Restaurant Supported Agriculture. In Cincinnati we have many farmers' markets and CSA's. I know there are some restaurants out there that have relationships with local farms too. It seems to me that there are many, many producers of local food as well as many, many different consumers of local food that can be matched up to each other in creative ways.

Producers / Products
- farmers / vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, dairy
- gardeners / fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, seeds
- beekeepers / honey, pollination services
- value-adders: winemakers, cheesemakers, bakers
- mushroom growers
- fish farmers

- chefs
- school cafeterias
- restaurants
- teaching kitchens
- party planners
- individuals
- churches
- soup kitchens
- food co-ops
- caterers

I'm imagining that there may be room for other forms of distribution to be tried. I found a number of exciting projects around the web that don't seem to have any local equivalent in our area.

Indiana MarketMaker MarketPlace Buy&Sell Forum:

A project of Purdue University New Ventures Team, Indiana Market Maker is "an interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in Indiana, providing an important link between producers and consumers." In addition to being a large database of business and demographic data for the state of Indiana, there is an area of the site that lets buyers and sellers find each other directly. The Buy & Sell Forum lets sellers (all across the country) list goods and services that are available. Buyers can also list requests for items they are looking for. The listings can then be browsed by buyers searching for products in their local area or sellers looking to sell to locally. In addition to produce and other farm products, listings can be created for value-add services or transportation services.

Fresh Fork Market

Fresh Fork Market in the Cleveland area is an organization that provides a supply chain solution that matches up the needs of restaurants that would like to buy locally produced food with those of local farmers. In this system farmers set their own prices and restaurants can search through the listings by farm or by product category. Fresh Fork also gives farmers the opportunity to detail their growing practices so that restaurants can be choosy. Fresh Fork delivers products twice a week and requires a 2-day lead-time for all orders. Since products are delivered straight from farm to buyer and never stored, the produce is always delivered within 24 hours of harvest. Over 20 restaurants and over 50 suppliers have joined Fresh Fork.

City Fresh

City Fresh is a nonprofit program of the New Agrarian Center a 501(c)3 organization focused on growing a sustainable local food system in Northeast Ohio. "The City Fresh program impacts the local food system through the development of neighborhood food centers called Fresh Stops, nutrition education, facilitation of garden installations in urban areas, the cultivation of direct farm to business connections, and the City Fresh Youth program." City Fresh guides a network of urban farms, educating people about food production and business in the process. City Fresh also operates a series of "Fresh Stops" that act like traditional CSA pickup points but they are different in that they allow buyers to purchase on a week-by-week basis. City Fresh has a network of around 22 supppliers. I really, really like this chart of how food flows through City Fresh (inspiring!):

Farm Fresh To You

Farm Fresh to You is a set of services in San Francisco based around the distribution of food from their farm Capay Fruits & Vegetables. Amazingly, they offer their products via home delivery, office delivery, restaurant delivery, wholesale, farmers markets, and a retail store.

Door To Door Organics

Door To Door Organics is a direct-to- home, office, and co-op delivery service that offers variously sized subscriptions in several markets in mid-west / east coast. The service allows subscribers to select a box size and a few vegetable/fruit types when ordering, rather than setting up individual relationships between each buyer and supplier. The products are not all produced local to the buyers, but they are organic certified.

Sprouts Box

Sprouts is a student-run organization at the University of British Columbia. They've started a basic CSA that they're calling the Sprouts Box. I include it here because of the unique distribution method. They've teamed up with a local bike co-op to have all the weekly deliveries carries out by bicycle. Nifty!

Where to go from here?

I'd be interested in any efforts similar to the ones that I've mentioned going on in the Cincinnati area. I really think there is an opportunity for some sort of service to spring up, whether it be a website for locals to buy and sell or some sort of supply chain solution. My guess is that there may be other novel ideas out there for better connecting locally produced food to local eaters. Comment here or join the discussion at the CinciLocavore mailing list if you have any thoughts on the subject.

UPDATE: I've posted again on this topic with some more ideas here.