Monday, August 31, 2015


A recent Gallup survey concluded that 15.8% of U.S. families struggled in the first half of set the foundation for mental, physical, social, and emotional health.this year to afford food. That figure had surged after the recession hit, but has now declined to the point that it’s even lower than it was in the first few months of 2008--16.7%. In Connecticut, the food hardship rate dropped 1 percentage point  (from 14.2% to 13.2%) from 2014 to 2015. The Food Research and Action Center, which sponsored the survey,  attributes the improvement to the economic recovery and the fact that more households in need are participating in SNAP. Last year, 1  in 5 kids was on SNAP, compared to 1 in 8 in 2008.
Source:Food Research & Action Center, 8/20/15, Food Hardship Drops

Friday, August 28, 2015

Farmers as entrepreneurs

I've been thinking a lot about farmers as entrepreneurs these last few weeks.

There's an old saying about doing the same old thing and getting the same old results, but it's clear to me that world is changing so rapidly that doing the same thing may no longer get the same results and leaders of organizations need to always be thinking about doing things differently to get different results.  I've been at very different farms in recent weeks, but heard this same message about changing with the times.

Two weeks ago, I was at Honey Dew Acres, assisting the owner, and my cousin, with the "Help Sami Kick Cancer" event.  While this was a fundraiser for the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund, there is no way it could have been pulled off if this horse farm's owners had not been taking an entrepreneurial approach.  The facilities and operations they have put in place to make the farm a viable business also allowed them to host this incredibly successful fundraiser.

Barley sprouts growing
on the barn floor
A week or so later, I took part in the St. Lawrence County Ag Tour and visited three different farms.

  • Fobare's Fruits in Renssalaer Falls has turned what started as a hobby apple orchard into a large orchard and a destination, with their store and Fort Applewood playground.
  • Our second stop took us to a dairy farm at Black Lake that is growing barley sprouts on a concrete floor to supplement their cow's feed.
  • And our third stop was at Bella-Brooke Vineyard in Hammond, where we saw an old dairy farm converted to a vineyard and event space.

All three farmers on this tour impressed me with their creativity and imagination.  They could have kept doing things the same way and maybe lost the family farm in the process.  But they had a vision, took a risk, and have developed great businesses.  The Watertown Times covered the tour with a front page story.

Dan Kent gives a tour of the farm to GardenShare supporters.
Then last Saturday, GardenShare hosted a reception for members of our Sustainers Circle* at Kent Family Growers in Lisbon.  Listening to Dan Kent talk about the challenges and rewards of farming, really brought home that need for entrepreneurial vision and skills.  It's not enough just to work hard, he also needs the right equipment, an appropriate labor force, and access to markets.  Dan is creative and entrepreneurial and yet, it's still a challenge to make a living and support his family.

* Don't know what the Sustainers Circle is?  It's a group of people who have made a three year pledge to GardenShare.  The pledge can be in any amount, but the three year commitment is so important to a small organization like GardenShare for it lets us make plans free of some of the angst of annual fundraising.  Contact Gloria if you would like to learn more.

Small Grants for Healthy Food

CSX and The Conservation Fund have joined forces to improve the transportation and distribution of fresh, healthy food to communities in need. Specifically, CSX and The Fund will provide small grants to support our country's local food distributors that transport and distribute fresh, healthy food to communities in need. More than 23 million Americans across the country have limited or no access to fresh produce, dairy, meats, and seafood.  One of the contributing factors to these "food deserts" is the lack of local infrastructure to distribute fresh food to markets.  We need to connect people to food, and food to people!

Last year, this grant program provided recipient organizations funding to transport nutritious food to approximately six million people per year, bringing nearly 118,000,000 pounds of food equaling 98,000,000 meals served each year. We again will offer grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to local government and nonprofit entities that distribute fresh, local foods in the 22 states where CSX operates: AL, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MS, NF, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, and WV.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


New studies using brain scan technology vividly illustrate the harm associated with growing up poor. Children living in poverty had an average of 7 to 10% less grey matter in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and hippocampus — areas of the brain tied to learning and educational functioning — than children above 150%R of the poverty line, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Children with less grey matter in these areas tended to do worse on academic tests.  These shortfalls in brain volume explained 15 to 20% of the gap in academic achievement scores between children from lower- and higher-income families, the study found. The study’s authors note evidence that programs like SNAP affect children’s outcomes. One study they mention found that young children with access to SNAP showed strong improvements many years later on a range of outcomes, including an 18-percentage-point increase in high school completion.
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 8/6/15, Poverty & the Brain

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Gleaning is a concept that goes back to antiquity and is still protected by law in Europe, but is not extensively practiced in the U.S. But in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, gathering excess, unused produce and fruit in farm fields and orchards for distribution to the area's many food pantries and meal programs is an idea whose time has come. Franklin County's Gleaning Project, which began last year collects excess, unsalable but still perfectly good food from farmers, orchardists, and home gardeners then redistributes it to the community's neediest citizens. Last year, the project rescued over 25,000 pounds of fresh, local produce from area farms and gardens that would have otherwise have gone to waste. Instead  that food went to 27 different community partners for distribution to the needy.
Source: Public Opinion Online, 8/19/15, Gleaning

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Every year, 40% of the food grown in the United States ends up in the garbage. A lot of that waste happens at the consumer level — about 25% of the food we buy is thrown away. But a lot of that waste also happens between the farm and the grocery store, where strict and sometimes arbitrary cosmetic standards mean that a perfectly nutritious carrot can end up as waste simply because it looks odd.  Jordan Figueiredo is trying to make “ugly” food look beautiful. About six months ago, he launched @UglyFruitAndVeg, a social-media-fueled effort to make Americans fall in love with ugly fruits and vegetables. That campaign, aided by whimsical pictures of misshapen produce accompanied by humorous captions and hashtags, took off — in six months, Figueiredo has amassed over 18,000 followers, claiming names like Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Michael Pollan as fans. Now, Figueiredo has a bolder vision — convince Walmart and Whole Foods, two of the United States’ most visible retailers, to sell ugly fruits and vegetables.

Source: Think Progress, 8/19/15, Food Waste

Monday, August 24, 2015

Baby Boomers and Hunger: A new report

Baby Boomers and Beyond: Facing Hunger after Fifty takes a close look at the unique health, economic and nutritional challenges of older adults between the ages of 50 and 64. This recent research study from Feeding America, with help from an AARP Foundation Grant, highlights how "pre-seniors" are more vulnerable to hunger than older seniors since they don't yet qualify for safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security. This research aims to explore the circumstances of older adults and their households who utilize the Feeding America network of food banks.


A majority of Americans (86%) support providing schoolchildren with healthy meals that consist of more fruits and vegetables and fewer foods high in calories and sodium, according to a national poll released by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Two-thirds of respondents say the nutritional quality of food served in public school cafeterias is excellent or good, which is up from 26% when a similar poll was conducted in 2010, before the new standards were adopted. And 93% of those surveyed believe that it is very important or somewhat important to serve nutritious foods in schools to support children’s health and capacity to learn.The survey comes as supporters and opponents of the school nutritional standards fight over the cost of providing healthier foods. Reauthorization of the law has been held up in Congress because opponents say it has created financial burdens for some schools, in part because fresh fruit and vegetables can be more expensive. The law is set to expire Sept. 30.

Source: New York Times, 8/19/15, School Meal Support

Friday, August 21, 2015

Number of Americans Struggling to Afford Food Declines

Analysis by Food Research & Action Center

Download First Half of 2015 Food Hardship Rate by State
The impact of the economic recovery plus the increased share of households in need that is receiving SNAP (food stamps) is showing positive results, based on evidence from the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey that reveals a declining number of families struggling to afford food. The analysis of the Gallup survey was conducted by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Such families are described by FRAC as experiencing food hardship.

For the last seven years the Gallup organization has been asking large numbers of American households "Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?" Nationally, 15.8 percent of survey respondents in the first half of 2015 answered “yes.” This is a drop from the 17.1 percent who replied "yes" in 2014.

Compared to the 2014 annual data, several states saw a statistically significant decline in food hardship in the first half of 2015. These states included Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Food hardship rates in the other 33 states with survey findings (several other states did not have adequate sample sizes to report any findings) generally either remained at the same rate as 2014 or, more typically, declined but by an amount that was within the margin of error.

The food hardship rates are the lowest since Gallup began collecting data in 2008. In the first few months of 2008, the food hardship rate was 16.7 percent or lower, but the deepening recession pushed the rate up so much that in most of the five and a half years beginning in July 2008 the monthly rate was 18 percent or higher -- reaching as high as 20 percent in some months.

Today, there are many key factors at play that are resulting in fewer Americans struggling to put food on the table. As the economy continues to improve, unemployment numbers continue to fall. Meanwhile, federal nutrition programs buoy this positive trajectory. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), for instance, is helping to meet the nutritional needs of people who are out-of-work as well as those who are transitioning to employment and/or to jobs with better wages. Since the recession hit, the growth in the rate of SNAP participation, even as the number of eligible people grew, kept hunger in America from getting even worse.

While progress is being made, it is important to note that the current rate of food hardship is still far too high, and still unacceptable. There are large proportions of children, adults and families in every state who face a daily struggle with hunger.

We are at a critical crossroads in determining how we will assist the most vulnerable among us. This fall, federal child nutrition programs—such as school breakfast, school lunch, afterschool meals and summer meals — are set for reauthorization. Other safety net programs from SNAP to low-income tax credits to Social Security Disability Insurance to Medicaid are under attack in the budget process.


The upcoming deadline to reauthorize the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010  has triggered a surge of bills in Congress to give more children access to more meals during the summer.  While participation has risen in recent years, only  about 3.6 million, or 16% of the nearly 22 million children who receive free and reduced-price lunches during the school year participate in federal summer nutrition programs. One bill, co-sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), would make it easier for more  organizations to qualify to participate in summer meals programs by lowering from 50% to 40% the qualifying percentage of children living in the area served by a community-based organization or school who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. This is the same level for summer programs that receive federal funding under Title I or 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The bill would also streamline the summer meals application process so children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals during the school year and attend summer programs run by the same providers don't have to reapply. It provides transportation grants to make sure that children in rural and other underserved areas have access to summer meals, and it would reimburse summer programs for providing up to three meals a day instead of two. An identical version has been introduced in the House by Donald Young (R-AK), and Rick Larsen  (D-WA). Another bill in the House and Senate, called the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015, would give families an electronic benefit transfer card to buy food over the summer.  The cards would be loaded with $150 for each child in the family who qualifies for free and reduced-price lunch during the school year.

Source: Education Week, 8/4/15, Summer Meals Bills

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rose & Kiernan employees donate

Rose and Kiernan Insurance donated the proceeds of their July dress down days fundraiser to GardenShare.  Employees raised $1,388 and the company's foundation contribute $500 for a total donation of $1,888.

GardenShare Board Chair Carol Pynchon and Executive Director Gloria McAdam stopped by Rose and Kiernan's Potsdam office to say a big thank you!  These funds will make a huge difference to GardenShare's work to solve the problem of hunger in St. Lawrence County.

Pictured L-R:  Carol Kidwell, Rose & Kiernan; Carol Pynchon, GardenShare;
Vikki LaVean, Rose & Kiernan; Gloria McAdam, GardenShare

Put carbon where it belongs, back in the soil

Fossil fuels, deforestation and industrial agriculture have released dangerous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. We can store and stabilize large amounts of carbon where it belongs – in the soil. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Expanding WIC to age 6 proposed

The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy food for at-risk pregnant women and children up to age 5.  This program has been proven to save us money in the long run - every $1 spent on WIC saves $3 in health care costs sometime down the road.

The reasoning behind ending the program when a child turns five, they start school and will be able to get breakfast and lunch at school.  But we all know that kids don't start school on their fifth birthday, even though that's when their WIC benefits end.  For some children, it could be eight months between their fifth birthday and their first day of school.

Read more about the proposal to extend WIC benefits to the sixth birthday here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

National Good Food Network

The National Good Food Network, an initiative of the Wallace Center at Winrock International, has convened a diverse array of stakeholders – from half-acre farmers and non-profit food hubs to multi-national distributors and food service management companies – to tackle the challenge of building a healthy and sustainable food system. Their goal is to create market-based solutions in food distribution that will bring more food from sustainable sources to more people and places.

For more information about the National Good Food Network, visit

Friday, August 14, 2015

One reason young people aren't farming

One of the challenges for young people who wanted to get started as farmers is the amount of student loan debt they have taken on.  The need to repay that debt can prevent them from taking on the start up costs of a farm.

Read more about the issue on NESAWG's website.and review the Young Farmer Success Act proposed in Congress.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Land use leadership training

While farmers are out in the fields growing our food, decisions are made in town halls that impact the future of local agriculture. A new program plans to help residents develop leadership skills for participating in local planning meetings and speaking up for the farms in their community.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Young farmers conference

Every December, hundreds of beginning farmers from across the United States gather at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York to learn from agricultural luminaries, peers, and advocacy organizations at the Young Farmers Conference. On December 2-4, 2015, Stone Barns Center will host the 8th annual Young Farmers Conference, providing participants with access to inspiring keynotes and unique workshops that address soil science, technical skills, agricultural policy, farm business management, conservation and more.

Stone Barns Center is offering a limited number of farmer scholarships to the 2015 Young Farmers Conference. Scholarships cover the cost of conference registration, December 3-4; recipients are expected to cover the cost of their lodging and travel expenses to and from the conference. For more info and an application, please click here. Applications are due by 5PM EST on Wednesday, August 12, 2015. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Northern NY Food Hub Survey Preliminary Results Available

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has posted preliminary results of a survey asking regional consumers, food buyers, and farmers about their interest in developing a local food hub.

The goal is to gauge interest by the key players needed to make a local food hub successful. A food hub that efficiently coordinates ordering and delivery of local products can increase sales, while reducing costs for farmers, and reduce the number of miles food travels to its destination, said project leader Anita Deming, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County.

The USDA identifies a regional food hub as a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.

One hundred and twenty-five farmers, 25 buyers and 254 consumers completed the confidential survey conducted by the Cornell Cooperative Extension associations in NNY. Cornell University Cooperative Enterprise Program Director Roberta Severson with the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management is analyzing the survey data.

Sixty-six percent of the farmers surveyed indicated they sell 75 to 100 percent of their products within the Northern NY region that includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Major food marketing areas identified were Canton, Lake Placid, Lowville, Malone, Plattsburgh and Watertown.

The types of market channels used by the farmers responding to the survey include farmstands, farmers markets, wholesalers or distributors, CSA, restaurants, food co-ops or buyers clubs, grocery stores, auctions, and institutions.

The types of services producers indicated they were interested in receiving from a food hub include pickup, washing, grading, packing, cooling of products; freezer storage; processing; and handling of sales and marketing so they can focus on food production.

Nearly 100 percent of the farmers reporting more than $100,000 in sales indicated they are full-time farmers, with a high percentage of those farmers indicating they have more than 30 years’ experience in agriculture.

Overall, consumers responding to the survey considered local as food produced in Northern NY or in their home county. The most frequently purchased products were vegetables and fruit. Nearly 60 percent of the consumers surveyed indicated they purchase local products at least once a month.

Preliminary results are posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at Data from the food buyers survey that included stores, restaurants, co-packers, and schools will be available later this year.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research and technical assistance program serving Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

This survey project also received a USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New farmers market manager certification program

The Farmers Market Federation of NY, in partnership with SUNY Cobleskill and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, is pleased to announce the first ever Farmers Market Managers Professional Certification Course to kickoff November 10th to 12th on the SUNY Cobleskill Campus: FMM PRO.  This program will create New York State’s first Market Manager Certification designation and will be recognized through the SUNY system.

The FMM PRO course curriculum will include all aspects of maintaining and growing a successful farmers market given in 22 workshops covering 3 main topics:
1.    Nuts and Bolts of Managing Markets
2.    Reaching Out to the Market Community
3.    Building Market Systems

Program participants who complete the full curriculum will be receive certificates signed by the three partnering agencies and will have earned the title of Certified Market Manager. As a SUNY FMM PRO Certified Market Manager, graduates of the program will:
·         Be fully knowledgeable in today’s best practices for managing farmers markets
·         Learn tactics to expand and optimize their farmers market
·         Be equipped to build successful relationships with farmers and shoppers
·         Be able to use their certification to leverage funding and support for their market

The cost of the SUNY Farmers Market Managers Professional Certification will be an affordable $200 for 12 months of access to the online curriculum.  Participants will need to complete all 22 sessions within this time frame, including submitting a quiz and assignment from each section for review in order to receive certification.  In addition, they will need to earn 2 continuing education credits bi-annually by attending special sessions at the Federation’s annual Farmers Market Managers Conference and/or specified manager training webinars in order to keep their Certification active.  

For more information, visit:

FMM PRO is funded by a grant from Governor Cuomo’s Fresh Connect Program, as part of the Governor’s initiative to build bridges between Upstate NY and Downstate NY, as well as build connections between consumers and NYS agriculture.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Food choices and the grocery check-out line

Earlier this week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest launched a new report that looks at how retail marketing manipulates food choices. “Temptation at Checkout: The Food Industry’s Sneaky Strategy for Selling More” makes the case that the retail environment should be shaped not only by profit but also by public health considerations.

The report offers some suggestions for consumers, store managers, and public policy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Clarkson University Professor Helps Run Potsdam Neighborhood Center Summer Lunch Program

Everywhere he has lived, Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Ali Boolani has strived to help feed the children in his community.

Boolani and his daughter would spend weekends preparing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to distribute to children in need when they lived in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia and Louisiana. After arriving in Potsdam, N.Y. in 2014, he approached the Potsdam Neighborhood Center about starting a PB&J program there.

Boolani said his community supported him when he was growing up as an immigrant in the United States, so he wants to give back to the next generation. By volunteering with his daughter, he hopes to share an appreciation for helping others.

"My goal is to be there for the kids because somewhere someone was there for me," he said.

The PB&J program this year is supplying 25 lunches per day, five days a week throughout July and part of August while school is out for the summer. Lunches include sandwiches, fruit, a cracker snack, yogurt and water, and the meals are distributed through the Pine Street Arena Recreation program.

Potsdam Neighborhood Center Director Daisy Cox said unlike areas with more concentrated populations, the North Country faces a summer feeding program conundrum. In order to have a congregate summer food program that is financially viable, the organization has to serve a large number of children. Because of the long distances between communities, children would have to be bussed in to a site to receive meals.

Moreover, Cox said the need for summer feeding programs is growing. While some areas of the economy seem to be improving, Cox said she has observed a 27 percent increase of children in need of food in the North Country.

"We need to be mindful that while we've had some economic growth, it's not enough to carry an entire family," she said.

Boolani is collaborating with the Potsdam Neighborhood Center to determine how to expand PB&J and reach more children throughout the summer.

"Our vision is to grow this, and the more lives we can touch, the better," he said.

PB&J is supported with grants and gifts from donors, including members the community, the Youth Philanthropy Council of the Northern New York Community Foundation and Walmart. The program also relies on the help of volunteers to coordinate the distribution of lunches during the day.

People interested in supporting PB&J can call the Potsdam Neighborhood Center at 315-265-3920, or send donations to 2 Park St., Potsdam, NY 13676. The Potsdam Neighborhood Center is one of many programs administered by the local community action agency, St. Lawrence County Community Development Program.