Progress report for LS18-300

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $267,972.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Kentucky
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Keiko Tanaka
University of Kentucky
Expand All

Project Information

Abstract:

This project aims to expand Fresh Stop Markets (FSMs), developed by the New Roots, as a mechanism that enables farmers to achieve both agricultural sustainability and social justice in the food system across the Southeast region.

FSMs are “pop up” farm-fresh markets organized biweekly for 22 weeks during the season at local churches, community centers and other public spaces in food insecure neighborhoods. FSMs provide local fresh produce to each market’s shareholders on a sliding scale based on income. Unlike traditional community supported agriculture schemes, there is no expectation for shareholders to purchase all shares in the beginning of the season, nor are they committed to participate in every market day. FSMs offer farmers a low-risk outlet which helps them diversify their marketing portfolios and transition from farmers’ markets and CSAs to wholesale markets. FSMs allow farmers to become active leaders in their community to build food systems that promote environmental stewardship and social equity.

In Year 1, the research component will take place. First, phone interviews with national and regional leaders of farmers’ and consumers’ cooperatives, independent business associations and non-profit organizations will be carried out to identify potential models for agribusiness partnership and assess their applicability to build a regional network of community based organizations who wish to operate their own FSM. Second, we will evaluate potential instruments for replicating a FSM model to other communities through focus group interviews and listening sessions held during the FSM retreat, organized by New Roots, our field visit to potential FSM sites, and at the Annual Conference of Southern SAWG, with farmers and leaders of existing and potential FSMs in the region. Third, to understand economic viability of FSMs, we will conduct a survey of farm enterprises from the 14 existing FSMs and 5 case studies.

In Year 2, four types of instruments will be designed and piloted, including: a “community readiness assessment toolkit” to assess the readiness of a CBO to organize a FSM; a “community capacity building toolkit”, used by a CBO, to build the community’s readiness to organize a FSM; operational manuals and training materials to share knowledge with and train community leaders and farmers to successfully operate a FSM; and an “audit system”, used by New Roots, to ensure that FSMs operated by various CBOs meet the mission and values of FSMs. These instruments will be implemented in Years 2 and 3. We will visit each of the newly established sites at least once to evaluate the effectiveness of these instruments and make necessary adjustments on them to improve their effectiveness.

Project Objectives:

This project will:

  1. Develop a model, including toolkits, for replicating FSMs to increase the participation of small-scale, limited-resource farmers in the Southeast region;
  2. Design instruments to monitor the effectiveness of the model in enabling farmers to achieve their vision of ecological, financial, and sociocultural sustainability;
  3. Create opportunities for farmers to become leaders in their community and local food economy.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Bree Pearsall - Producer
  • Barbra Justice
  • Whitney Sewell
  • Charlotte Tolley
  • Jenny Williams
  • Lisa Munniksma
  • Jeremy Porter
  • Courtney Boyd
  • Susan McKinney
  • Lauren Kemp
  • Bill Keener - Producer
  • Jen Russomanno - Producer
  • Rae Strobel - Producer
  • Ford Waterstat - Producer
  • Keith Richards
  • Nathaniel Messer (Researcher)
  • Maggie Bowling - Producer

Research

Materials and methods:

Between April 2019 and March 2020 we investigated the New Roots Inc. organization and Fresh Stop Market model. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville team also began its case study research on farmers who used to sell to fresh stop markets and those that currently do. They also completed financial analysis for two of our the case study model food hub organizations we interviewed in 2018. The following represents all of the research activities completed during this year. 

  1. In the Summer of 2020 the UK team conducted interviews with New Roots Inc. leaders. In total, 14 organizational leaders participated including 1 farmer, executive director, volunteer market leaders, board members and 1 past organizational partner. Interviews were transcribed and thematically coded. This year, the data findings were presented as a poster by our Undergraduate Research Assistant, Nathaniel Messer for SSARE and at the Southern Rural Sociological Association conference. 
  2. Participant observation at two markets in the summer of 2019- notes transcribed and coded by undergraduate research assistant. 
  3. Case study interview data has been analyzed and results were used in Teya Cuellar’s Master’s Thesis, shared with advisory board members, shared at the Southern Rural Sociology Association conference and have been used for a publication forthcoming in the Rural Sociology journal. 
  4. Two food hub model case studies were completed by UT-Knox.
    1. One that focused on a decision the organization made about stopping the management of a specific operational segment in 2018, specifically the food share program. The case study is completed, but we are unable to publish the manuscript without the approval of the organization. We obtained the information for the case study from Gini Bell, the executive director of the organization in 2019. Unfortunately, Gini is no longer the executive director of the organization and we have not been able to receive approval from the current organization leadership. We are in the process of modifying the manuscript so that we can publish it without violating privacy considerations.
    2. We completed data collection for a second case study on New Roots that focused on the structural changes this organization had to make to overcome challenges associated with losing a significant source of income supporting the organization. We expect to complete the manuscript associated with this case study within the next reporting period.
  5. On January 2020, we conducted a focus group with two out of the three farmers working with New Roots in providing fresh produce to families in Kentucky through the Fresh Stop Markets. Undergraduate students are currently transcribing notes from this focus group.
  6. On January 2020, we had to modify focus group protocols to conduct personal interviews with farmers and organizations who participated in Fresh Stop Markets but are no longer participating in Fresh Stop Markets. We completed four interviews. Undergraduate students are currently transcribing notes from these interviews.
  7. On January 2020, we collected information from two farms, one selling produce through the Fresh Stop Markets and one that used to sell produce trough Fresh Stop Markets, but it is no longer selling through Fresh Stop Markets. We are completing the profile of these farms specifically as it relate to their experience selling produce through Fresh Stop Markets.
  8. Between November and December of 2019, we designed and tested a survey instrument to assess farmers willingness to sell produce through Fresh Stop Markets in a region where no Fresh Stop Markets exist (Knox County and other adjacent counties in Tennessee), and an area where Fresh Stop Markets exists (Jefferson and Fayette counties and other adjacent counties in Kentucky). We used a mixed-mode survey employing alternative methods for different respondents (web and mail) in the same period of time. The online survey was first distributed through Qualtrics, a web-based survey tool, on February 19, 2020. Two reminders were sent on February 28, and March 12. We also sent the survey via mail to those farmers in our contact list that did not have an e-mail address or did not respond to the web survey. We have received 73 completed surveys. Data collection will be completed by mid-April, 2020.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, we investigated the Fresh Stop Market (FSM) model, developed by New Roots, Inc.: how it works; what processes and mechanisms are involved in creating, maintaining, and operating FSMs; how decisions are being made; how sound its financial base, etc. After we began research activities in July, the research team from the University of Kentucky (UK) and the University of Tennessee (UT) discovered that the FSM model was not as financially sound for farmers as previously believed because New Roots, Inc.’s dependence on grants and gifts to support the operation. New Roots, Inc. was planning to reorganize FSMs in order to simplify its financial operation.

Instead of our original goal of developing tools for replicating FSMs, we have decided to focus more on identifying processes and mechanisms that are considered as best practice in engaging small-scale and limited-resource farmers work to a food hub operation that tries to address both sustainability and social justice goals. Instead of using FSM as “the” model, we have decided to investigate multiple models in use. To achieve that, we first attended the annual meeting of FSM leaders in November, 2018 to conduct participant observation. This helps us understand the dynamics of how FSM leaders interact and make decisions. In November and December, we identified several organizations (non-profit and for-profit) in the region who have a food hub operation with a strong social justice/food security mission. Between January and March, 2019, the UK team completed interviews with six organizations about their histories, leaderships, organizational structures, and operations. The UT team is currently interviewing these organizations about the financial aspects of their operation.  Also, during this time we have organized our advisory board to include farmers interested in the FSM model, farmers currently selling to FSMs, leaders of community-based food organizations in the Southeast, FSM market volunteers, the New Roots Inc. Executive Director, one representative from SSAWG, a representative from the Appalachian RC&D Council and the research team. The advisory board is providing the research team with direction on research protocols and instruments as well as communications and community outreach. We also hosted two workshops at the SSAWG annual meeting in January to introduce the FSM model to other food justice organizations in the Southeast, provide a leadership platform for FSM farmers and market volunteers and connect New Roots Inc. with additional farmers and potential resources. This opportunity also provided the research team with additional data to help us understand how the market model is communicated to diverse audiences.

Research results and discussion:

For 2019/2020 we have findings from our in-depth interviews with model food hub organizations and New Roots Inc. 

New Roots Inc. Fresh Stop Markets: 

Through interviews with 14 different organizational leaders and participant observation at two markets, we have learned about the diversity of market operations depending on the community context and leadership as well as the differences in how the organization’s mission is interpreted, the challenges of sustaining the financial viability of the markets and how organizational decision-making and knowledge systems are concentrated with one or two people. Related to diverse mission interpretations, we learned of the gap between staff, board and volunteers. For example, some volunteers and staff feel that the board is “out of touch” because they do not represent the communities the organization serves. We also learned that contrary to the desire for their to be an exemplary “model” for the markets to operate under, it appears that most markets reflect the neighborhood or local town context in which they operate and this especially the case for the rural markets. Finally, what we learned is that the farmer roles in the organization have evolved tremendously in the ten years since its inception. In just three years, the markets have gone from procuring directly from over 20 producers to working with three primary growers. Additionally, the leadership role these three farmers play has expanded and does not follow a traditional food hub model. Instead of New Roots aggregating and serving as market coordinators, these three lead farmers coordinate together to aggregate and distribute produce. One farm is the lead organizer and provides their procurement software to New Roots Inc. This means that New Roots shareholders and volunteers have moved away from direct contact with farmers and the three growers have more responsibility and control over pricing and volume. This change happened after New Roots lost a key grant and had to fire their farmer liaison. New Roots is now primarily focused on organizing shareholders and managing operations at the markets. 

Due to the ever-evolving operational model of New Roots Inc. and the variations of markets, we have determined that there is no singular fresh stop market “model”, which has required us to shift our outreach and education efforts away from “toolkits” on replicating the model. 

In order to better understand the dynamics of food hubs with social justice missions, we looked at four other hubs in the Southeastern region as case studies. Below is a data table we have created, which reflects the similarities and differences across each hub. 

Table 1. Key Characteristics of the Case Organizations

Case

 

Southern Food Hub

Full Circle Food Hub

Upward Arc

Perry Center

Justice Mission

 

Implicit

Implicit

Explicit

Implicit

Location Features

 

Small rural Southeastern coastal area; 51% white

Mid-sized Southeastern college city; majority non-white

Mid-size Southeastern city; racially segregated; white majority

Small rural Appalachian communities; large white majority

Enterprise Type

 

501c3

501c3

501c3

501c3; membership Based

Service type

 

Wholesale food hub2; farmer technical assistance; mobile market

Wholesale food hub; farmer technical assistance; waste recovery; hybrid CSA

Hybrid CSA

Wholesale auctions; farmer technical assistance; grocery and hospital pop-up markets

Producers

 

Multi-county; no number given

Statewide; 600 farmers 

3-10 farmers within 100 miles

Regional in two states; 190+ farmers, 

Consumers

 

Rural & urban; Mobile markets @ 10 public- housing locations

Urban; 20,000+ college & food-insecure consumers

Urban & rural; Hybrid CSA with 700 shares

Rural; Institutional buyers; 9 pop-up markets

The table illustrates the incredible diversity of operations at each hub and especially how the location of the hub and how its regional food system and local demographic contexts shape what is possible. Additionally, we found that the role farmers have in the organizations and the direct services provides to producers is dependent on the organization’s funding model. This includes the market portfolios of the organization (wholesale, retail, auctions, CSA, etc.)  and the types of funders who were supporting specific parts of the organization’s mission. This is concerning because of the risk it poses to farmers. If the hub’s are primarily funded through grant dollars, there is concern that fickle funders could radically transform the markets available to farmers in less than a year’s time, making it difficult for the business to re-organize. There are other food hub research teams that argue for social justice food hubs to be seen more as a public good, therefore opening them up to more stable funding streams to cover their mission-based work. This is a line of thinking that could be good for future research. 

In conclusion, given the diversity that we found with our in-depth case study of New Roots and in the four case study organizations, we are now considering a new plan for our grant outreach and education deliverables. One consideration is to provide facilitation guides for communities that are interested in exploring a social justice food hub to help them explore their readiness and most importantly how their local context will shape the form a model will take. In addition, we could provide farmer decision-trees to help them determine what the challenges and opportunities may be when selling to a social justice food market including how to manage relationships with non-profit partners. We are meeting with our advisory board in April to have their expertise weigh in on final products. 

Participation Summary
82 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

In 2019-2020, the leadership of our educational activities has been shared between researchers (intended for academic audiences to promote innovation, build research networks and share data with other food hub researchers); Farmer advisory board members (to build their leadership capacity and encourage peer to peer mentorship across the region and share best practices in working with social justice food hubs); And our non-profit community partner, New Roots Inc. (traveled throughout the region attending multiple events, connecting with organizations and farmers interested in the Fresh Stop Market model and providing intensive training, continuing to build a network of food justice food hub stakeholders by presenting to broad audiences such as at the SSAWG conference). 

Farmer advisors and New Roots have created a powerpoint presentation that details how farmers include fresh stop markets into their business model including how it compares to other markets and what financial systems are used. This educational tool has been presented to multiple farmers and food hub organizer (details in next section). Additionally, we worked collaboratively to develop a mini-course on Food Justice in Action which focused on the community organizing strategies of both farmer leaders and market volunteers for the SSAWG conference in 2020. This session was standing room only and gave fresh stop market farmers a leadership development opportunity as they presented on their roles in the organization and discussed how they define food justice and how they DO food justice work on their farms. 

We include a list of all Outreach/Educational Events in the “Other” section below. 

Two events were organized at the Annual Conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group between January 24 and 26, 2019 in Little Rock, AR: (1) Fresh Stop Markets Meet and Greet Session on Thursday, January 24 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; and (2) “If You Don’t Carrot (Care It) Won’t Happen” on Friday, January 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. The first event was a networking event to bring together farmers and organizations in the South who are interested Fresh Stop Markets. The second event was a more educational program where FSM farmers discussed the benefits and challenges of participating a marketing venue like FSM.

See the descriptions of these events at:

https://www.ssawg.org/2019-conference-program

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Journal articles
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
15 Workshop field days
1 In 2019/2020 we recruited three new farmer members to our Advisory Board.
See the section under "Education." Two events were organized at the Annual Conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group in January 2019. Of them, one is an educational session, targeting both farmers and non-profit organizations interested in organizing their own Fresh Stop Market.

Participation Summary

115 Farmers
338 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

2019/2020 Update: 

Consultations: New Roots has consulted with organizers, community members and farmers in Knoxville, TN, Manchester, KY, Memphis, TN and Gainesville, FL. In Manchester, KY the farmers learned about how farm-fresh food is important to people in recovery from drug misuse and how the logistics and finances of the model work.

They have consulted extensively with organizers and farmers in Gainesville, Florida. Below is a list of all activities associated with the Consultation in Gainesville, FL. It includes workshops, one on ones and networking: 

  • New Roots spent eight days in Gainesville, Florida participated in:
    • Four org farms: Siembra, Family Garden, John Nix (African American), and Lenny’s Family Farm (African American). Met with four farmers.
    • Two farmers’ markets, met with four farmers.
    • Jewish Community of Gainesville (CSA pick up site). Met with three leaders, one farmer (community garden).
    • Community meal with ten farmers (five African American) from Alachua Food System Network
    • Community Food Justice talk with 60 attendees (12 farmers, 48 organizers, etc.)
    • Tour of Farmworkers of Florida/Florida Legal Services site in Crescent City, Florida to talk about farmworker food insecurity. Two organizers, no farmers.
    • Small community gathering with food justice-oriented professors and students (15 participants, no farmers) at University of Florida La Casita Center
    • Tour of three food justice community projects (Growing Food, Grow Hub, Farm to School) (total reach ten people, five farmers)
    • Meeting with Agricultural Justice Project (five organizers)

The farmers learned from information New Roots presented from Rootbound Farm about how the financials of the Fresh Stop Market model work. Organizers learned about the community organizing aspect of the model. There was great interest in the H2A program, i.e., migrant workers, and how they are treated at Rootbound Farm.

Educational Material:

Presentation slides provided to all mini-course participants at the SSAWG Annual conference including financial analysis of three farmers. 

Journal Articles: 

Tanaka, K. 2020. “Justice & Tyranny: Bringing ‘Rural’ Back Into the Sociology of Food and Agriculture.” The 2019 Presidential Address at the Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society. Rural Sociology, 85(1): 3-21. DOI: 10.1111/ruso.12317.

Rignall, K., K. Tanaka, H. Hyden, A. DelBrocco, T. Cuellar, N. Messer, M Valendia, and C. Trejo-Pech. “Evolving Food Justice Practice: Food Hub Case Studies in the Eastern United States.” Rural Sociology. Submitted and currently under review.

Two case study articles are being developed by UT-Knoxville and should be available during the next reporting cycle. 

Workshops, Webinars and Presentations: 

  1. From the UK Research Team:

    Tanaka, K. 2019. “Justice and Tyranny: Bringing ‘Rural’ Back Into the Sociology of Food.” RSS Presidential Address presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society, Richmond, VA, August 2019.

    Tanaka, K. 2020. Plenary Panelist. Role of SRSA in National Perspective on Rural Development and Research Issues, at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Rural Sociological Association, Louisville, KY, February 2020.

    “Building Food Justice Markets: Opportunities and Challenges in the Eastern United States.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Rural Sociological Association, Louisville, KY, February 2020. (with K. Rignall, H. Hyden, M. Valendia, C. Trejo-Pech2, T. Cuellar**, N. Messer††, and A. Del Brocco*).

  2. From New Roots Inc. 
    a. U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance Political Education Workshop with farmers and organizers in Orlando, Florida. A total of 20 farmers 20 organizers participated. We did one on one trainings with three farmers. 
    b. Webinar with the Statewide UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program Organizers (15 people, no farmers) on New Roots Fresh Stop Market replication. The organizers learned about the specifics of the Fresh Stop Market model, in particular, how to reach families with limited resources
    c . Presented with Nashville Food Project at the Tennessee Local Food Summit to ten attendees (four farmers and six organizers). The farmers and organizers learned more about the Fresh Stop Market model and the logistics of how the model works.
    d. Attended Closing the Hunger Gap Conference and met with Farmer FoodShare and other food justice organizers and farmers with a total reach of 40 (ten farmers and 30 organizers). The farmers learned about the difference between a charity and justice model of fresh food distribution.
    e. New Roots met with Bloomington, Indiana professors and students, farmers (five), organizers (Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard) and government (reached a total of 50 people).The organizers and farmers learned how the Fresh Stop Market model works, including community organizing, logistics, finances, etc.

2020 Southern SSAWG Mini-Course Description: 
“A committed and empowered base is crucial to creating sustainable food systems where farmers and families with limited
resources can thrive. This course will teach participants how to use community organizing to develop and mobilize a base of
support. Using lessons from Fresh Stop Markets, they’ll explain how farmers and volunteers can develop and maintain relationships with key community partners to expand their market reach and increase farm profits. Farmers will explain how food justice is
integrated into their business model, the importance of farmers as leaders and community organizers, and how they use community organizing skills to expand market audience, plan yearly production, harvest and distribute, and create successful markets. A
market leader will explain how organizing skills are used to recruit other shareholders and committed volunteers, communicate
with farmers, and create, operate and sustain their markets. Instructors: Rae Strobel, Barr Farms (KY), Karyn Moskowitz, New Roots,
Inc. (KY), Heather Hyden, University of Kentucky (KY), and Maggie Bowling, Old Homeplace Farm (KY)” 

2019 Southern SAWG Session Description in the Program:

“If You Don’t Carrot (Care It) Won’t Happen” — Learn how New Roots leaders and farmers are igniting community power to bring farm-fresh produce to families living in our nation’s most under-invested neighborhoods. The New Roots Fresh Stop Market model leverages the tradition of cooperative economics and the utilization of community leaders and spaces to access fresh and local food. Join this session to explore how these markets are changing our food system so farmers get a fair price and the community gets to eat. Karyn Moskowitz, New Roots, Inc. (KY), Ben Abel and Bree Pearsall, Rootbound Farm (KY), Joseph Monroe, Valley Spirit Farm (KY), and Jeremy Porter, Lexington Fresh Stop Markets (KY)

Attendance:

This session was well attended. It was stand-room only. We cannot estimate how many were farmers, professionals, NGO leaders, etc.

 

Outreach in Progress:

  1. We will be developing “Lessons Learned” from our interviews with six organizations that summarizes best practice and pitfalls. This document will be worked collaboratively with Advisory Board members. It will be made available as a one-page brief.
  2. The 2021 SSAWG Conference has been cancelled. We are meeting with all advisory board members to develop a new plan for outreach in lieu of the conference. 

 

Learning Outcomes

98 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
    Key changes:
    • To share knowledge and techniques with other farmers

    • How to practice community organizing strategies to coordinate with farmers on produce distribution and connect with market leaders.

    • To define food justice and learn how it intersects with food security, drug recovery, farm labor rights, land rights and equitable distribution.

    • To understand the financial logistics of the fresh stop market model.

    • How to develop a course presentation for a multi-stakeholder audience

    • How to differentiate between charity and food justice models for food distribution

    Project Outcomes

    10 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
    1 Grant received that built upon this project
    11 New working collaborations
    Project outcomes:

    For small-scale and limited-resource farmers, particularly those who are still beginners in farming, access to a financially viable market is a challenge. Food hubs and food value-chains (https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/food-hubs) have become important in offering opportunities for these farmers. Many food hubs emphasize “agricultural sustainability” and “local food economy” as their goals in operating an alternative market outlet for farmers and consumers. Yet, the longevity of these food hubs tend to be relatively short — around 7-8 years. This means that participating in one or more food hubs can be a substantial risk to those farmers, who have not yet established their financial security. By comparing various models of food hubs with a strong social justice goal, this project will be able to identify the key elements of successful and fruitful collaborations between farmers and operators of food hubs to achieve economic, environmental, and social benefits for farmers and consumers.

    Recommendations:

    None at this moment.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.