How Design Can Help Farmers' Markets Feed a Growing Demand

A century ago, you probably wouldn't have spent your Saturday morning lugging local produce back from a farmers' market because chances were, like...

A century ago, you probably wouldn't have spent your Saturday morning lugging local produce back from a farmers' market because chances were, like the other 95 percent of America, you lived on a farm. But today the numbers are flipped: Now most of our country's population lives in cities, and less than 1 percent of our population are farmers. For any major city, it's the same story: As our food production slips further and further afield, our urban residents have suffered—physically and economically—from a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Luckily, according to a story about farmers' markets in our 12th issue, the number of markets nationwide is almost 5,000 (up from 1,755 in 1994) which certainly demonstrates that demand for local, fresh food has increased. I don't know about you, but I've never seen my local farmers' market so crowded. But even as a cultural shift has occurred in our relationship with food, the open-air farmers' market as we know it hasn't changed all that much in the last 30 years. How will these local farmers continue to supply our urban demands?

Thirty years ago, Vance Corum was one of the founders of the first authorized farmers' market in California, which opened in Gardena in 1979. The weekly, open-air market became a model for farmers' markets across the state and rippled inland. "Farmers' markets are coming of age. Customers want beautiful, abundant marketplaces and farmers need large crowds of people," he says. "Farmers have plenty of production; the challenge is for us to create strong markets in cities and towns across America that recreate and improve upon the local food systems of the past." But to serve those crowds, the traditional market is begging for innovation at every stage, from pieces that can aid the loading, packing, and transporting of foods, as well as the vending systems, which Corum says farmers have been ingeniously building themselves. "What would be especially valuable is a compact, easy to assemble, interlocking table and display system that is flexible, strong and rigid to show off two or three tiers of product on a slant."

Due to the locations and accessibility of farmers' markets, fresh fruits and vegetables aren't always reaching the often-underserved communities who most need affordable, healthy produce. Mobile produce vehicles are finding their ways into cities as a cheap and efficient way to bring produce to the people. The Greener Grocer's Veggie Van delivers its wares on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, and is equipped with technology to accept credit cards and EBT credit, the electronic equivalent of food stamps. Small business advocates Mercy Corps worked with the branding agency Saatchi & Saatchi helped to design food carts in Jakarta to help vendors make healthy snacks as attractive as ice cream trucks. And there are many farm-to-school programs like the one in Santa Monica, California where the public school district has bought farmers' market produce for their salad bars for 11 years. Corum says even kids really do know the difference: "When really fresh farmers' market produce was substituted for produce from the wholesale terminal, the number of kids choosing the salad bar quintupled from eight percent to forty percent."

Even if farmers can get their produce to a local, temporary market they're still selling at smaller scales—farmers' markets themselves only move about 1% of the food consumed in the United States—and their audience is mostly single families and chefs for smaller restaurants. Websites like Foodzie—an online farmers market where small food producers and growers can sell their product—might help, but for farmers who want to move larger quantities of produce, getting local tomatoes made into local tomato sauce, for example, is extremely difficult. "Currently the potential supply of local food is restricted by an economically monolithic system of production, processing and distribution," says Vanessa Zajfen, program manager for The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College in Los Angeles. So, especially for large metropolitan areas, there's the need for a "hub," or terminal, for local farmers to deliver, distribute and process their produce.

"We need market designs that will provide year-round direct marketing opportunities for farmers and create vibrant public spaces with food at its core," says Zajfen, who points to a space like the Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona, Spain, which received a beautiful renovation and shimmery ceramic roof by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue in 2005. The Barcelona market functions as not only a wholesale terminal, but a beloved retail and dining destination where local food is processed into delectable tapas served under the same roof. "This is the oldest market in Barcelona; it was opened in 1848," she says. "Its modern redesign has kept this market relevant and functional." (For more innovative permanent market designs, see Peter Smith's story on GOOD: "The Public Market Renaissance.")

A contemporary answer to Barcelona's example might be the New City Market, a concept by Vancouver-based citylab, that will create a 21,000 sq. ft. year-round indoor-outdoor farmers market, wholesale food distribution, commercial processing facility, business development, local food advocacy and, conference space, and will also push the form when it comes to sustainability. A market like this could be at the center of a sustainable food policy for a city, like the one recently unveiled in San Francisco. Instead of the traditional farmers' market channel, farmers would have multiple options to sell to consumers, says Zafjen. "A shift in our system of food delivery to an increased variety of direct marketing methods would be an important step in the development of a sustainable regional food system."

Of course, another option is bringing those rural farms closer to the people. Dickson Despommier's Vertical Farms concepts, towering skyscraper greenhouses in high-density areas, and the The Science Barge (above), a floating sustainable farm in New York, are both non-traditional ways that family farmers could produce and deliver their food to growing city populations. And there are hundreds of outdoor classrooms across the country that bring food production right into schools, the most famous being Alice Waters's Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California. These teaching gardens tap the engaged expertise of community chefs, producing local food that can be given back or sold to neighborhood restaurants. And they might even be recruiting a few future farmers along the way.

Can you design a better way to bring locally-produced food to urban residents? Enter our Redesign Your Farmers' Market contest by September 1.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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The Planet
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

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via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

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