Sunday, November 18, 2007

I don't always find time to be healthy...

Talking to my friend Jennifer who lives in Cincinnati Ohio, about food and shopping on the phone on Sunday morning, I visualize a blog entry.
And even though it's outside my bioregion, it illuminates the work to build local food awareness...

As is our normal pattern, we veer from subject to subject and talk over each other whenever we want to get a point across, as only 2 friends for over 15 years can do.
As she squeezes her organic Valencia oranges with her hand cranking squeezer, we talked about her wonderful nearby small food store, Madison's and how she is back to (happily) using it for her shopping.
Madison's is a well known, well-respected Findlay Market outlet, and opened this second location in Northside (Norside to locals) within the last 3 years. The Findlay Market is an old shed market that has been rehabbed in the last few years. To see what it looked like before, find the Johnny Cash movie called "The Pride of Jesse Hellam", where Cash plays an illiterate miner moving to the city, and gets a job working for Eli Wallach's produce distribution company at the market. Fascinating.

The Over-The-Rhine neighborhood where the Findlay Market located is a neigborhood near downtown, about 3-5 miles from Northside, and is full of beautiful Italianate style brick buildings (actually the largest concentration of this style in the country Jennifer told me), but is also known as a very high crime area with appalling pockets of poverty, which has had its effect on the Market. The market does good business on the weekends, but has not been able to add as many weekday shoppers, which comes as no surprise to market managers around the country.

The Northside Madison's is only about 800 square feet, but attractively designed with a large window and great signs. The sandwich board sign marketing is ubiquitous in Northside, so you can drive down and see right away those who are open by the wooden signs near the street. Madison's adheres to the tradition with a nice version. They have won reader's choice for Best Buy Local store among others, and are known for amazing homemade gelato. (Don't get Jennifer started about the pink grapefruit sorbet...)

Jennifer works at a downtown law firm til 6:00, so doesn't get home til 6:30, which is tricky because Madison's is only open til 7 p.m. She can just make it to Madison's if she is not too tired, or if remembers to take a different exit off the highway on her way home. She tells me she got out of the habit of going to Madison's until recently because she was not buying fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, and instead eating takeout (albeit relatively healthy takeout) foods instead.

When I pressed her on a more specific reason as to why she stopped going, she first puts the blame on herself, labeling herself "lazy". She also mentions that she feels guilty not going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings, although Madison's carries much of the same local produce at this location.

Then she points out some simple customer service issues:

"I used to go to Madison's for the gourmet to go, but when they stopped carrying the soups I liked, I stopped going." she says. "Now, the guy they had working there has left, and now when I ask for stuff they get it in right away. I asked for the soups, and they brought them back."
Later she mentions:
"They also changed their hours; they used to be open til 8 p.m."

Jennifer is a good cook when she has time, and keeps routines for her week and her weekend that allows good shopping to be a part of it, if all the stars align. The more I talk to her about food, the more I see a regular person who wants to eat healthy, but thinks she must buy it in its raw form, or do it all the time to benefit. In other words, all or nothing.
When she gets out of the habit of cooking or has a quasi-junk food bender, it stops the trips to Madison's or Findlay completely for a while, instead of her continuing to supplement with some good food items among some not so great food items.

What I got from that was that outlets like Madison's must be very responsive to their smaller overworked client base, and find ways to be creative to keep these folks coming.
Maybe things like marketing a full healthy take home dinner for the first really cold night in Cincinnati and staying open a bit later for folks to pick it up that night.
Or, having a small nearby delivery service once a week (Madison's night), or even a call in number or email address to pre-order dinner or to have some groceries bagged and ready to go.
A weekly, informational html email newsletter has been a great marketing tool for markets to remind shoppers weekly about what is in season and available. Our small market has thousands of shoppers who subscribe and they tell us how much they appreciate it. Adding simple recipes is a must, by the way.

Overall, the move to these type of locally owned small footprint shops are the wave of the future, just as they were the only way to shop 50 years ago. What has changed is the pace of life for their customers, as well as their ability to know how to use a large number of fruits and vegetables in cooking. If Madison's is (I hope) to be the vanguard, then they will need to continue to adapt and assist their customers in reasons to show up for the next 50 years.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Glean the Planet

Glean the Planet is a web site designed to facilitate the
redistribution of community and individual food resources. The
site—— offers both discussion forums and open
source mapping software from Google maps and By allowing
users to map specific locations and illustrate them with pictures and
additional detailed information, this mapping software helps people
facilitate the local sharing of food outside of monetary-based

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A peek into how our buying club works...

So, we order our groceries monthly online ( and then we work to fill the case minimums when the item in question is only available in larger quantities. This email below is one of our members working to fill her case choices....

Hi coop buying club members,

I am writing to officially "plug" some items I am trying to fill cases
for. You may notice I am essentially trying to get everyone in the club
on a dairy and sugar binge. But isn't that what the holidays are for?
Please consider ordering one of these things to fill out a case:

* Goat milk prodcuts: Every single month I try without any success to
order lots of goat milk products. Why? Goat milk is delicious, AND, more
importantly, goats aren't farmed on the huge scale cows are, aren't
generally given lots of antibiotics and hormones. Goat milk rocks! Widen
your horizons! Try some goat milks products! You will notice I have
started cases of the following delectable items:
- Swiss goat milk: try it, you might like it!
- Euro style Goat milk butter: I have had this and it is AMAZING. Yes,
its pricey, but it's really really good! They sell it at whole foods for $2 more than the
coop charges.
- Goat milk ice cream: Need I say more? Who doesn't want chocolate icea
cream? C'mon folks.

*Soy and rice milk prodcuts:
- I have ben trying for a while to order half gallons of Chocolate Silk,
which is basically chocolate soy milk. Once you have tasted it you will
not be able to live without it. Really.
- Rice dream pies: This is a rice milk icea cream sandwich. You will
love it. Delicious and way less fattening than regular ice cream. (OK,
yes, someone in my household is a major ice cream lover, you may have
figured this out by now.)

* Turbinado/Demerara sugar (in bulk): Do you drink coffee with sugar in
it? I do, every morning. This sugar isn't bleached, isn't refined in any way.
In other words, if sugar can ever be thought of as healthful, this is that
sugar. It's also very tasty and very pretty (large and attractive caramel
colored crystals). You can use it for baking (Thanksgiving pies?) or
anything else for your sugar needs. Whoo hoo!

* I have plugged the Passion Fruit juice in previous months, and people
did order enough for a case. Let's do it again! This is the best
beverage you will ever taste. And you know Nola is a cocktail town. Rum
and passion fruit juice? Hello? Yes!

*Half and half and heavy whipping cream. See a trend here? I love dairy!
The half and half goes along with the Demerara sugar for delicous morning
coffee. And... it's Thanksgiving time folks, and you KNOW you need
whipped creamon your pies.

* Here's something that isn't dairy OR sugar: Canned Tuna! I have
noticed that someone in the coop shares my obsession with Annie's Tuna
Spirals. Don't you need some tuna to go along with it? Mercury poisoning be
damned! We love tuna.

In closing, I must also add I have noticed that since the membership of
the buying club has gotten larger, this doesn't necessarily mean our cases
get filled. It seems like there are more cases opened that don't get
filled. Before you open a new case, check the "sharing items" section and
see if you can help others fill their cases. I've ordered some great stuff that
way that I never would have tried otherwise. That's part of the beauty of
a coop.