anthropology · behavior · community · culture · education · health

Different reactions to urban farm economics

Downtown Bellingham as observed from Sehome Hi...
Bellingham, WA, which prides itself on buying, selling, and producing locally. Image via Wikipedia

The question of how to connect us back to our food is commonly asked these days, from local communities to big companies like IDEO and their Open IDEO challenges. One way to do this is through urban farms, or bringing the farm and local food production to the people. But the logistics of doing this can take on very different looks and feels.

I came across three stories in the past couple of days that all showcase a different reaction to the concept of economizing on local food growing and selling. The different styles seem to be very pro, con, or “social wellness” focused:

For example, in Bellingham, WA, local farms are offering kids classes on local farming practices, and make more money locally through education than actually selling their produce:

Common Threads’ goal is to connect children to food, their community and the environment through what she called seed-to-table education.

At Farm Camp, that included plenty of hands-on stuff for the 3- to 10-year-old children, who split into groups and take turns caring for the turkeys and chickens – do they have enough food and clean water? – as well as the garden.

“Growing stuff takes work and attention,” Plaut said, which is what the camp’s workers and volunteers emphasize to the children.

more via Bellingham program teaches children where their food comes from – Top Stories – bellinghamherald.com.

In Seattle, WA, the approach is definitely more entrepreneurial focused with backyard egg sellers and bee keeping:

CORKY LUSTER is hard-pressed to explain why his beekeeping idea turned into a full-time business and then some.

“People are interested in pollination and food . . . and honey bees have become the poster child for environmental concerns,” he muses.

Luster had a German roommate in college who introduced him to the idea of keeping a few chickens and beehives in the backyard. So when Luster heard about bees dying off and colony collapse disorder a few years ago, he decided to do his bit and set up a few beehives in his garden. Friends were fascinated with the bees — but not so much with all the work involved. The Ballard Bee Company was born, and two years later Luster doesn’t have time to remodel houses anymore.

more at Keeper brings bees to Seattle gardens.

In Missoula, MT, regulations make it a little bit tougher to sell wares:

Owners of small food enterprises continue to face hurdles doing business in Missoula even as the local food movement grows. At the state level, an effort is beginning to methodically review food safety laws and regulations. Leaders in Missoula say it’s time for some scrutiny on the local front, too, and one food vendor is already on the move.

Kim Olson, the “Empanada Lady,” is working to change at least one rule she said is arbitrary and hurts food vendors. Olson said the Health Department is obligated to enforce state laws, but the rules favor big franchises and leave homegrown shops adrift.

Which approach makes for a better experience of community food selling overall? With the E. Coli outbreak in Germany recently I understand the need for good food regulations, but what if they accidentally favor one kind of business model over another? I’m also curious if a more education focused approach works better than throwing local food sellers into the deep end with all the other commercial ventures? Thoughts? Experiences?
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