What’s happening with the James Beard Public Market Project?

As someone who once happily lived just up Beacon Hill from the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I’ve been wondering what’s happening with the Portland public market project.  So I decided to do a little web searching to see what I could find out.

My first search turned up this:

BREAKING BEARD: Last month, a deal was finally inked for the planned James Beard Public Market. The giant indoor market, named for Oregon native and foodie hero James Beard, would look something like Seattle’s Pike Place Market and sit at the west end of the Morrison Bridge. But the current king of Portland stall sellers isn’t bowing to kiss Beard’s ring just yet. Portland Farmers Market boss Trudy Toliver told Capital Press that the markets have “somewhat similar value sets,” but told WW that public markets are a “different animal.” Toliver says PFM prioritizes local vendors, but public markets “aren’t a place where you go to meet a farmer.” While the Beard group says it will commit to local vendors, public markets have a history of starting off local before selling out.”

via Scoop: Market Forces.

Also on the page was this report from Oregon Live:

Multnomah County commissioners voted to approve a deal to sell land at the west end of the Morrison Bridge to Melvin Mark Companies and nonprofit James Beard Public Market Foundation for a 17-story high-rise and Pike Place-style market. The decision marks the end of a long process that began when the county declared the 3.12-acre property, occupied mostly by parking lots, as surplus and began looking for a buyer. And it means the fulfillment of a long-sought dream of a public food market in downtown Portland. The partnership is purchasing the property for $10,430,000. The deal will close in 37 months. “

The deal will close in 37 months?  Yikes, that’s over 3 years–and that’s just for the deal to close.  So when is it planned to open?

According to this article from the Portland Business Journal:

The deal gives market promoters 37 months to raise the approximately $25 million it will take to develop the market so it can open with no debt. Supporters anticipate opening the market in 2016.”

Which means, I guess, that I shouldn’t be planning a field trip to the Market any time soon.

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Will Cowork for Food: San Francisco’s Forage Kitchen Aims to Be a Hub for Food Lovers

“Making food from scratch and selling it on a small scale is one of the simplest and oldest business models. But it isn’t that simple to get a food venture off the ground. Financial barriers to entry include expensive commercial kitchen spaces and equipment. Bureaucratic impediments include licensing and permits. A lack of experience, savvy, and connections compound the challenge, of course, preventing many food lovers from taking the plunge to become food entrepreneurs.

Iso Rabins would know—his attempts to break into San Francisco’s food scene were foiled from the get-go. Farmers markets turned him away when he offered to sell foraged mushrooms. He ended up “cold-calling chefs and knocking on the back door of restaurants.” In 2008, Rabins founded ForageSF, a social enterprise to support the city’s foraging scene. The group began hosting the Underground Market, a food market for shoppers willing to take a risk on food prepared outside a commercial kitchen. The market exploded in popularity, with hundreds of vendors and tens of thousands of participants. Then, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health issued them a cease-and-desist last year.

Now Rabins and ForageSF are back with a new project called Forage Kitchen, a physical home for San Francisco’s craft food scene—everyone from aspiring entrepreneurs to hobbyists. Currently in its Kickstarter phase, if funded the kitchen will become the first coworking space for craft food and a much needed “venue for small food producers to get their start without having to pay all the fees,” says Rabins.”

via Will Cowork for Food: San Francisco’s Forage Kitchen Aims to Be a Hub for Food Lovers – Business – GOOD.

Fascinating article on the SF food scene.  I remember reading about their “Underground Market” last year and wishing we had such a thing here.  So was very sorry to learn that the SF Department of Public Health had shut them down.

I was talking to a nonprofit developer recently about the possibility of putting a commercial kitchen into the low income housing project they were working on. It seemed to me that it could have great benefit both to the residents and to potential “food entrepreneurs” in that neighborhood.  While my developer friend agreed that the kitchen was a great idea and could be a tremendous benefit, it wasn’t something she could do because if she added a commercial kitchen to the space, it would cause the per hour labor costs for the build to go to a much, much higher level—like from $15 per hour to $30 per hour.  And not just while the kitchen was being constructed–those higher rates would be in effect for the entire build.  So even though the kitchen would be a great asset and could help some of the residents/neighbors build a business to support themselves and their families, it was “off the table” as an option.

There has to be a way around this problem; a way to make growing a new food business affordable for people with dreams and talents, but little means.  I know there are people trying to work on this problem here in Portland and I very much hope they succeed.  In the meantime, budding food entrepreneurs will need to keep looking for a cost-effective way to bring their food to market.

USDA to Ramp Up Drug Residue Testing for Meat and Poultry

 I have commented a lot about the antibiotics in meat issues (and I’m not done yet!)  That said, here is the news that came out today:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is beefing up testing for veterinary drug residues in the meat supply – and the new policy will take effect this  grilling season.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service today will announce a new, more modern testing system that allows the agency to test for dozens of drugs, pesticides, and other potentially harmful compounds simultaneously, instead of only testing for one or a handful of compounds in each meat sample.

The change is a significant update to an often-overlooked part of the food safety system. For the last several years much of the focus has been on microbiological contamination, but much less attention has been paid to drug and chemical contamination in the food supply.

In 2010, the USDA’s Inspector General published a report questioning whether the agency was doing enough to keep harmful drug and chemical residues out of beef products, but the issue has not received much media attention since.

“The new testing methods being announced today will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently.”

Using new multi-residue methods, FSIS will be able to test for 55 pesticide chemicals, 9 kinds of antibiotics, various metals, and eventually more than 50 other chemicals”

via USDA to Ramp Up Drug Residue Testing for Meat and Poultry.

What results it will have or how effectively it will be implemented remains to be seen.  I still believe that consumer protests directly to the grocery store chains will have the most impact (like they did with pink slime). If you get a chance to sign a petition or express your position to Safeway, Trader Joes, Albertsons or other grocers about being willing to buy only antibiotic-free meat and poultry, I hope you will do so.

10 Reasons to Eat Local Food

Here’s an interesting “top ten” list from “Life Begins at 30. ”  I don’t think they’re all of equal importance—-and there are no doubt points that have been left out—-but they do make a case for the virtues of LOCAL.

1. Eating local means more for the local economy.  According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy.  When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction.

2. Locally grown produce is fresher.  While produce that is purchased in the supermarket or a big-box store has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks, produce that you purchase at your local farmer’s market has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase.  This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value which declines with time.

3. Local food just plain tastes better.  Ever tried a tomato that was picked within 24 hours?  ‘Nuff said.

4. Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen.  Because the produce will be handled less, locally grown fruit does not have to be “rugged” or to stand up to the rigors of shipping.  This means that you are going to be getting peaches so ripe that they fall apart as you eat them, figs that would have been smashed to bits if they were sold using traditional methods, and melons that were allowed to ripen until the last possible minute on the vine.

5. Eating local is even better for air quality and pollution than eating organic.  In a March 2005 study by the journal Food Policy, it was found that the miles that non-local organic food often travels to our plate creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic.

6. Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons.  By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their peak taste, are the most abundant, and the least expensive.

7. Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story.  Whether it’s the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.

8. Eating local protects us from bio-terrorism.  Food with less distance to travel from farm to plate has less susceptibility to harmful contamination.

9. Local food translates to more variety.  When a farmer is producing food that will not travel a long distance, will have a shorter shelf life, and does not have a high-yield demand, the farmer is free to try small crops of various fruits and vegetables that would probably never make it to a large supermarket.  Supermarkets are interested in selling “Name brand” fruit: Romaine Lettuce, Red Delicious Apples, Russet Potatoes.  Local producers often play with their crops from year to year, trying out Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.

10. Supporting local providers supports responsible land development.  When you buy local, you give those with local open space — farms and pastures — an economic reason to stay open and undeveloped.

via Life Begins at 30: 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food.

More on the Factory Farms Antibiotics Use Ruling

Although it’s highly unlikely the meat industry will be able to show its current practices are safe, it may be months or even years before the court-ordered hearings even happen:

“The judge put the burden on the pharmaceutical industry to prove that its products are safe. Here’s the money quote from the decision: “If, at the hearing, the drug sponsors fail to show that use of the drugs is safe, the [FDA] Commissioner must issue a withdrawal order,” i.e., ban the drugs…

“As yet, there is no timetable on when the court-ordered hearings will take place. And getting the FDA to initiate them in an election year—when both Big Meat and Big Pharma will be pumping money into campaigns—may be tricky. “[T]he fight is far from over: further court proceedings will likely be required to establish a timeline for FDA to act, and FDA could appeal the decision which could delay action for months or even years,” NRDC attorney Avinash Kar wrote in a Friday blog post.”
via Tighter Rules for Factory Farm Antibiotics? Maybe. | Mother Jones.

I wonder if public pressure can expedite this process?  No doubt there will be Internet petitions urging the FDA to move on the process.  But how much effect can those actually have?  Not to be cynical, but in an election year, probably not much.

Judge’s ruling may begin to curb antibiotics use with livestock

MSNBC and Time both reported recently on a ruling by Judge Theodore Katz, which could limit the use of antibiotics with livestock.  It’s not everything we could hope for, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“A federal judge ordered U.S. regulators to start proceedings to withdraw approval for the use of common antibiotics in animal feed, citing concerns that overuse is endangering human health by creating antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin proceedings unless makers of the drugs can produce evidence that their use is safe. If they can’t, then the FDA must withdraw approval for non-therapeutic use of those drugs, the judge ruled.”

via FDA must act to cut antibiotics from animal feed – Health – Food safety – msnbc.com.

And from Time.com:

“It’s not clear how big an effect the ruling will ultimately have on antibiotic use. The FDA has refused to put forward restrictions on drugs used specifically to prevent disease even if the antibiotics are delivered via food or water, and the ruling doesn’t address this either. Farmers may simply say that the drugs are being used to treat or prevent disease, and still go on using them. For its part the Animal Health Institute (AHI), a meat industry trade group, argued that the ruling would distract from an effort to collaborate with the FDA to stop growth promotion drug use. “It is unfortunate that time and resources will now be diverted to responding to the court decision,” the AHI said in a statement.

Still, even if Katz’s ruling is limited, it’s one more indication that Big Ag isn’t as all-powerful as it once was — and that change could be coming to American meat production.”

via Toward a Drug-Free Burger: Ruling May Curb Antibiotics in Meat – TIME.

Local Food Movement is Alive and Well in the Pacific Northwest

According to a new USDA report, the Pacific Northwest has some of the highest rates of local food sales in the country.  Way to go, Oregon and Washington!

Northwest farmers are some of the most successful in the nation in joining the local food movement. That’s according to a new report from the U-S Department of Agriculture.

Nationally, the study found that local food sales have grown to $5 billion a year. Oregon and Washington have some of the highest rates of local food sales in the country.

The report cites the region’s variety of fresh produce as well as a long-standing tradition of farmers’ markets. But the study notes that the vast majority of local food sales happen through grocery stores and restaurants.

via Northwest Embraces Local Food Movement · OPB News.

55 Congress Members Ask FDA to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

It’s so rare to find a story about multiple members of Congress “doing the right thing,”  it seems particularly newsworthy.  The fact that it involves requesting the FDA to begin labeling  GMOs is even more so.  If it only were 450 members, rather than just 55!

 “On Monday. March 12, 45 U.S. representatives and 10 U.S. senators signed a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in support of a legal petition that asks the FDA to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

The petition, filed by nonprofit Center for Food Safety and supported by more than 400 health and consumer organizations and businesses, argues that consumers require more complete labeling in order to make informed decisions. Since October 2011, members of the public have submitted more than 850,000 comments in support of the petition.

Genetically engineered foods are foods made from organisms — mainly plants — that have had their genes modified to exhibit specific desired traits, such as tomatoes modified to delay ripening or corn with built-in resistances to herbicides and insects. Such foods have been sold on the market since 1996.”

via 55 Congress Members Ask FDA to Label Genetically Engineered Foods.

Book recommendation: The Cleaner Plate Club

I read Grist almost every day and constantly discover resources I knew nothing about.  One of them is this new book by Ali Benjamin and Beth Bader, whose purpose is “to help bridge the sustainable food world with the reality of exhausted parents who are trying to put food on the table.”  A noble goal and one whose time has come, as many working parents know all too well.

As Ali and Beth explain it,

We began with the premise that most parents are trying pretty hard on behalf of their kids — food-wise, and in every way. But that even when healthy calories are affordable to parents — less and less the case, these days — they need a little help. Consider:

Plenty of parents don’t actually know how to cook. Judge me if you will, but when I first started using whole foods, my intentions and abilities were wildly out of sync. My farmers market garlic turned brown and bitter in the pan, my lettuce wilted tragically in the refrigerator, my CSA green beans were stringy and inedible, my co-op beans chalky and half-cooked. Real food doesn’t come with directions, and for those of us who grew up eating mostly packaged foods with directions, it can be an uncomfortable transition.

It’s bigger than recipes. Never before in the history of humanity has it been so easy to find a recipe. There are millions of recipes online, and some 100 million homes get the food channel. And yet cooking remains largely a spectator sport. Even when armed with a great recipe, chances are good that parents are missing other things – knife skills, or a sense of timing and rhythm, or the confidence to say, “I can have that made before my kids have melted into the floor.” If we can help parents master techniques — not just recipes — we can make home cooking more intuitive. And more likely.

Good food isn’t about what happens in the kitchen. When my daughter was born, I realized I didn’t know anything about feeding her. How, for example, did her taste preferences form, and how should I respond when she pursed her tiny lips? Why was it that every time I stepped into a grocery store, I had to pry Barbie Froot Snacks from her fingers with a crowbar? How could I deal with her donut-wielding auntie? Which of the conflicting pieces of advice I received from fellow parents — Keep them from sugar! Withholding treats will only make them want it more!  — actually helps? And for heaven’s sake, was it really, truly necessary to play that goddamned airplane game at the dinner table?”

via The cleaner plate club: Making sustainable food realistic for parents | Grist.

As you can tell from this excerpt, the book is not only practical–it’s FUNNY (extra bonus points!) And though it is written for parents, there are sections like the one on “meeting your veggies” which would be useful  for anyone mystified by the unfamiliar veggies that periodically turn up in their weekly CSA box.

The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters One Meal at a Time is available at Amazon.com for only $11.53.  This seems like a pretty good price for field-tested advice  and 100+ healthy, kid-approved recipes, guaranteed to work for even picky eaters.    If any of you have already purchased and tried it out, please share how it’s been working for you.

How to Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic

So youve got all these great fruits and vegetables and now we’re going to help you keep them at their freshest with these tips. These tips are from the Berkeley Farmers Market which is a Zero Waste market!

via How to Store Vegetables & Fruit Without Plastic | Washingtons Green Grocer.

Before we moved back to Oregon, we used to live in Berkeley, CA.  So I felt a little nostalgic when I came across this list.  But even if you never lived in Berkeley or shopped for produce at the Berkeley Bowl, it’s a terrific  list, well worth printing out and putting on your refrigerator!

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