Market Research Complete

The Market Research Project is complete. I will update as the book progresses.

My next trip is to Belize Central America, Gales Point with a multi & interdisciplinary project called IMPACT Belize.

Belize, previously known as British Honduras, lies in the East Coast of Central America in the heart of the Caribbean Basin, bordering Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea.

The Impact program takes place in the community of Gales Point.  Originally settled by logwood cutters in the early 1800s, the village of Gales Point is still populated by many of their descendants. This Creole village is located on a four-mile long peninsula in the Southern Lagoon of Belize. Located within a national wildlife sanctuary, the Southern Lagoon is home to many species, including 5 endangered species, and provides an extraordinary setting for an international service learning adventure. The northernmost tip of the peninsula is the site of the Manatee Lodge, where students and faculty live and study for a week.  Students are immersed in the rich culture of Gales Point and have an opportunity to learn about everyday life in a rural Belizean village.

For more information please visit:

CIA World FactBook–Belize:

Belize Tourism Board:

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Maine the Beautiful

Ok, so I am running a bit behind in my blogging but I have had trouble carting a heavy laptop with me on these trips. Sometimes it’s just better to travel light :-)

Last month I visited the beautiful state of Maine. I spent a few days in Saco, Maine at Camp Ellis Beach then headed into the funky seacoast city of Portland to visit the farmers’ market. This trip truly made me realize that there are so many variables to consider in terms of food, buying local, and sustainability. If was incredibly different from my familiar stomping grounds in the southeast part of the United States and offered a new arena for exploration and scholarship – not to mention, good eats!

I am adding this except from my latest article in SOKY Happenings:

Camp Ellis, Maine – Sustainable harvests and lobster fishing
My first encounter of interest was with Dean Coniaris, owner and operator of the Fish ‘N Optician, in Camp Ellis, ME. He says he specializes in “SEEfood.” I know what you are probably frowning about now but he is a lobster fisher who makes eye glasses! The concept may seem a bit strange but most everyone vacationing was intrigued and business was hopping the whole time I was there. From around April to Thanksgiving, Dean and his wife Ellen, spend most of their days on a tiny fishing boat trapping lobsters in and around the area of Saco Bay, ME. During the winter months, Dean likes to ski so they close up shop at Camp Ellis to do just that. In addition to making glasses for the residents of Camp Ellis and Old Orchard Beach, Dean works part time for an optometrist in Portland during the winter months.  Dean and Ellen’s story illustrates the difficulties in truly sustaining a community’s economy with local food. What role does the weather play in sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry? How do “seasons” effect the income of producers? Is there a way to make a living during off seasons? Is local food production really conscientious?  Oh, and what about over-fishing!? So many questions!

As the top lobster-producing state in the United States, Maine’s plentiful harvests indicate that the ethical lobster fishing traditions of over 100 years have successfully maintained the populations. As a matter of fact, lobster fishing was one of the earliest harvests to be managed for sustainability in Maine. As long ago as the early 1870s, regulations were put into place to ensure the future of lobster harvests in the area. Not only was the intention to preserve Maine lobsters and their habitat, but to preserve the way of life of the lobster fishers, like Dean and Ellen, who have fished the coastal waters of Maine for generations as well.

The earliest U.S. lobster fishing regulations concerned “V-notching” egg-bearing females and minimum lobster size rules; fortunately, many Maine lobster fishers were already carrying out these practices before they became law. According to regulations, any female lobster caught in traps that is carrying eggs must have a “V” cut into a tail fin and be released back to sea. If a V-notched lobster is caught again, it must be released, which ensures that breeding females will be protected. Minimum size laws in Maine require that all lobsters with a carapace (upper section, or dorsal, of the exoskeleton/shell) length of less than 3 1/4” must be returned to sea where they will mature and experience at least one breeding season. Lobsters over five inches must also be released because they are at their prime breeding age. Each lobster is measured by hand from eye socket to the lower edge of the carapace. Somewhere around 80% of daily harvests are thrown back because the lobsters are either under/oversized or egg bearing. Lobsters that are thrown back are completely unharmed and returned to the ocean to help bolster the healthy stock of Maine lobsters. In addition, lobsters can only be caught using traps set from boats – no netting or dragging is allowed in Maine. Other methods can harm the lobster’s habitat and damage the catch. Restrictions are also set on fishing times. From June 1st until October 31st no lobster fishing can be done from a half hour before sunset to a half hour before sunrise. During the summer months, from 4:00 pm Saturday afternoon until a half hour before sunrise on Monday morning lobster fishing is prohibited. Maine’s sustainable lobster harvest is the result of careful management, allowing both the lobster and the fisher continued existence.

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Best intentions….and an example

I thought I’d be logging into this blog every couple of days to share all the heady stuff that I’ve been absorbing–or trying to absorb–through the week. You see how well that’s going. So instead, I’m going to offer two easy blog entries. The first is an excerpt from the project I’ve been working on, called “Writing the River,” which is in two parts: an essay by that name and a course. The themes are river as metaphor, memory, catastrophic loss, healing, and Nature (including us) and sustainability. The essay is in 10 parts (as of right now), and this is the first section:

Writing the River

I’ve known rivers: / I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the / flow of human blood in human veins. / My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
–Langston Hughes


Our circulatory systems are the blood rivers of our bodies. As I type, the veins in my hands rise to the surface—blue rivers crossing the bones that lead to my fingers. They weave visibly up my arms, then dive beneath the surface, always carrying air and blood to my heart, my lungs, my brain. An adult has between 60-100,000 miles of blood vessels, a network of rivers down which our 10 or so pints of blood travel many times a day. The twenty-five longest rivers in the world stretch approximately 67,000 miles.

Our bodies know other rivers—or canals, in the case of our birth, down which our delta follows us in the form of an after-birth. Birth attendants check to see that all the tributaries end before reaching the edge; they look for two arteries and one vein.

We are reborn in rivers.

In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, write that metaphors “are among our principal vehicles for understanding. And they play a central role in the construction of social and political reality. Yet they are typically viewed within philosophy as matters of ‘mere language.’” When we limit truth to an imagined objective reality, we may believe that metaphors are lies or distortions at best.

But “Metaphor,” Lakoff and Johnson continue, “is one of our most important tools for trying to comprehend partially what cannot be comprehended totally: our feelings, aesthetic experiences, moral practices, and spiritual awareness. . . . [T]ruth is . . . relative to our conceptual system, which is grounded in, and constantly tested by, our experiences . . . with other people and with our physical and cultural environments.”

I want to explore why I dream about rivers, why they show up in my poems—in literature and songs, in art the world over—and to what extent Nature itself is the architecture that allows me to think and dream. In one of my favorite passages of David Orr, he writes, “We have good reason to believe that human intelligence could not have evolved on the moon—a landscape devoid of biological diversity. We also have good reason to believe that the sense of awe toward the creation had a great deal to do with the origin of language and why early humans wanted to talk, sing, and write poetry in the first place” (reprinted in Hope Is An Imperative: The Essential David Orr, 249).

It makes sense, then, that rivers and other life forms have entered our consciousness and shape our imaginations, even making wonder possible.

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A bit of travel

This is an utterly beautiful place–and harsh, due to the drying, which attacks the nose and throat. I’ve been on several field trips so far: Grand Canyon’s southern rim, Sedona, Walnut Canyon, Sunset Canyon, and the pueblos of Waputki. So just to give a flavor of what I mean by “beautiful” and “dry” here are a couple of shots. Please note that the last one is taken just today, of the terrifying (to me) wall of dust enveloping Phoenix.

Here’s a link to pictures of the dust storm:

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What inspires me

Well, since I’m catching up (as I said in my first post), I thought I’d say something about what inspires me in Aldo Leopold’s work, especially Sand County Almanac, which everyone who loves Nature, or even just likes it a little, should read. These quotations emphasize the importance of an ethic, what he called a “land ethic” in how we relate to things that are not human but essential to our world–essential not for what use they have for humans but essential because they are . . . Nature is not there for us to master, not even “there” in the sense that it is separate from us “here.” His descriptions of watching animals, tracking what’s there as well as what’s not there, are beautiful and compelling–like Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Here are a few that I think are important:

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”

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NEH Faculty Institute, Week 1

Well, here I am on Sunday night, the end of our first full week in Flagstaff, Arizona, at the National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Institute: “Rethinking the Land Ethic: Sustainability & the Humanities.”

Week 1: Julianne Lutz Warren was our facilitator. She was terrific–she’s the author of Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey, one of our many texts for the first week. I confess to not having read Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, but I’m glad I know it now–beautifully written and profoundly moving. We also read about 15 other articles in our 3 days with Julianne (Thursday was our trip to the Grand Canyon) and Friday was our first of three free days.

On Tuesday night, Julianne gave a public talk called, “Music Beyond the Senses.” It was a fine, fine talk about hope and the environment, with bird songs–the hermit thrush, starling, albatross, and then after she finished her talk, a chorus of the three, along with other birds, endangered and some extinct.  I didn’t share this during the time when others were expressing their reactions, but I did tell Julianne afterwards. My mother, who loved nature almost as much as she loved music, was a devotee of birdsong. Her favorite may have been the thrush–almost from the start of Julianne’s talk, I felt my mother coming closer and closer, and finally she seemed to sit down beside me and to listen with me.

I thought I would tell Julianne this in a matter-of-fact way, as in, “Thanks, your talk let my mother in, and she thanks you, too.” But I was overcome with tears. Instead I said something about how we daughters become our mothers. It’s sometimes a bit of a shock when we, who thought ourselves such distinct beings, say things or react in ways that tell us how much a person’s voice, her gestures–the way she positively lit up when a thrush’s song interrupted a mundane moment and made it magnificent–are now internalized, through memory, and have altered who we are.

My mother would have been weeping through that talk. I didn’t know when I sat down in front of that Audubon painting what invocations were about to happen, what spirits might be within earshot–whether my mother was biding her time, seeking her entry–or whether I was the one longing–or whether the “Music beyond the senses” was pulling all of us to a place where something extraordinary might to happen.

After I got back to my room I was looking around for the phrase, “If rain is the Earth’s tears, then the Earth is inconsolable.” Julianne Warren’s talk:


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New Orleans, LA

I spent the morning of June 18, 2011 interviewing farmers, crafters, and vendors at the Saturday Crescent City Farmers Market located on the corner of Magazine and Girod Streets. The Crescent City Farmers Market operates three weekly markets; Tuesday market in uptown, Thursday market in mid-town, and Saturday market in the down-town warehouse district.  Crescent City Market is the public face of, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nongovernmental organization. The organization was founded in 1995 as a part of the Twomey Center for Peace Through Justice at Loyola University-New Orleans.

The 501c3 nonprofit corporation,, is devoted to cultivating the field of public markets for public good. has fifteen-years of experience establishing managing farmers markets as flagship institutions with positive economic, social, and nutritional impacts in the Greater New Orleans region. They also catalog and share the innovations that highlight the effectiveness of sustainable farming practices and collaborate with institutions for to promote social justice. In 1995 they we began their work based on experiences in the urban agriculture, environmental justice, and labor and racial equity movements. The food system in the region was unhealthy and weak. Fishing and farming families were trapped in a domestic industrial grid providing them with little access to the consumers who reward fresh, healthy and local offerings.

While this aptly describes the status of other local food systems in North America, the situation in New Orleans is significantly unique because the heritage of a distinct regional cuisine provides chefs and farmers with ample content around which to organize a wonderful local food system. Additionally, the ongoing presence of persistent poverty provides public health advocates with an almost ideal laboratory in which to operate. Once the violent effects of natural and industrial disasters are thrown into the mix, farmers markets have more than emblematic value. Rather, they and other alternative food efforts begin to play a leading role “growing a new world within the shell of an old.”
The Crescent City Farmers Market has grown from a weekly venue for a dozen farmers to sell the fruits and vegetables in 1995 to a three times a week market with 60 food producing families from three states serving on average 2,500 shoppers per week with an annual economic impact of $9.88 million. In this public setting, farmers diversify their livelihoods by selling wholesale to restaurants, alternative retail, and school service providers. They are the stable, public, weekly entity that brings producer together with consumer, providing the social space to dream bigger dreams for the local food system. The market takes debit cards, issues WIC and senior citizen vouchers to use at the market, and provides educational programs for the areas k-12 schools.


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Dangriga, Belize!

It’s been a while since I have blogged! Internet service is not plentiful in Central America…then my laptop crashed in new Orleans, but all is well! So, I am going to share all of it now! Let’s start with Dangriga
Along the southern coast of Belize you will find the vibrant Garifuna town of Dangriga. This rustic city is the jumping off point to Tobacco Caye and other ocean playgrounds off shore and is where Punta Rock music was fused. Given some time, you can easily attune yourself to the rhythms of this laid back cultural city. Dangriga boasts a vibrant local market well stocked with anything anyone could need.
So, as I said, my first market visit this time around was to Dangriga, Belize in Central America as a part of a trip to Gales Point, Belize. I took my first trip to Gales Point Manatee, Belize with the Western Kentucky University IMPACT Belize team in January 2010 (for more information about the project, visit On that trip I became interested in the food ways of the village and how their culture shaped what they cooked and how they cooked it. That first trip gave me the idea for this research project and book. I returned with the IMPACT team in January 2011 and then visited again this month, June 2011, to look at the role of food in their culture. On the June trip, I also spent an afternoon in Dangriga, which is about 15 miles south of Gales Point and major source for purchasing food the village. Dangriga Town, formerly known as Stann Creek Town, is in southern Belize, located on the Caribbean coast at the mouth of Stann Creek. It is the capital of Belize’s Stann Creek District and also the largest town in southern Belize. Dangriga has a small farmer’s market in the center of town that hosts produce vendors as well as “flea-market/knock-off” vendors. There is an indoor fish and meat market located at the edge of North Stann Creek, which is also a part of the farmer’s market. The majority of the vendors were Mestizo, a people of mixed Spanish and Mayan descent representing roughly 48% of the Belizean population. Though most of the vendors were Mestizo, Dangriga is home to the Garifuna, a cultural and ethnic group who are decedents of shipwrecked slaves and native Caribs. The Garifuna have adopted the Carib language but kept their African musical and religious traditions.

In contrast to Dangriga, the people of Gales Point are predominantly Creole or Kriol. Like other Creole languages, Belize is Kriol derived mainly from English combined with the various West African languages brought into the country by slaves. Gales Point was actually established by escaped slaves brought to the area to log the mahagony rich rainforests in the Belize District in late 1600s and early 1700s.

Gales Po
int is a traditional Kriol stronghold, renowned among international drummers who have come to the village seeking instruction in sambai, Creole, and West African beats. The Southern Lagoon (which surrounds Gales Point on three sides) is part of an extensive estuary bordered by thick mangroves. Gales Point is also a Wildlife Sanctuary that covers a complex matrix of brackish lagoons, creeks, and mangrove mudflats. The waters of the Southern Lagoon are home to many endangered, vulnerable, and threatened species including the manatee, hawksbill sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, green sea turtle, hicatee river turtle, Goliath grouper, and Baird’s tarpin.

Next post…New Orleans, LA

Live, Love, Local!


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Leaving the southeast…

My next stop is Dangriga, Belize. In addition, I will be visiting the village of Gales Point Manatee in Belize where WKU has been doing work for about five years. I am traveling with a colleague from UT Martin, Dr. Angie MacKewn, and three of our students. We will also be meeting students and faculty from the Semester at Sea who will be there to work on projects and the $100 Solution. The dates are June 10-14. Stay tuned!

Just a note…
So, there is a pattern beginning to emerge in this market research. First, the definition of “farmers market” seems to be a bit ambiguous and second, there is a vast difference between rural and urban markets. Rural markets, on the surface, simply serve as a place to exchange money for goods (namely food/produce/plants). Urban markets sell a wide array of goods (crafts, prepared foods, dog biscuits, bath salts…oh, and food) and seem to provide more of what scholars have called “third places” and display a clear vision of the complexity of social embeddedness in community food systems. My guess, however, is this notion exists in all markets but it’s harder to find in the smaller, rural areas.

Until next time,
Live, Love, Local

Here are a few pictures from our backyard oyster & clam roast in Chapin, SC:

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Day #4

Charleston Farmers Market – Marion Square

Well, it’s been hard to post because I had limited access in the beautiful foothills of Chapin, SC where I was staying but…welcome to Charleston, South Carolina! The picture to the right (the oyster & clam roast) was extra-scholarly activity :-)


Warning: This is a long blog because I have much to say!

Demographics: According to the 2010 US Census, the population of Charleston is 120,083, making it the second most largest (in terms of population) city in South Carolina; Columbia, home of the USC Gamecocks, is second. Charleston is also the fastest-growing municipality in South Carolina. The city is one of three principal cities of a metropolitan statistical area of 659,191—the second largest in the state—and the 76th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States. Pretty impressive! But, by some standards, South Carolina is still considered a backward-thinking state. They did, however, elect a female governor this year; unfortunately she is an extremely conservative Republican :-) Nonetheless, I still like South Carolina, but most of all, I LOVE Charleston. While listening to the history of Charleston can be down-right depressing, I always see a glimmer of hope when I visit, especially when I look at their efforts toward sustainability.

Case in point #1…
The South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program (SCORE) is a great example of the efforts of forward-thinking volunteers who are making a difference in this region. The purpose of SCORE is to restore the oyster habitat in the Charleston area by planting recycled oyster shells in the intertidal environment to form new, self-sustaining oyster reefs. Oyster populations are declining for many reasons, so these habitat restoration projects are extremely important endeavors in areas where the sales of oysters are paramount to the coastal cities’ economic survival. Putting economics aside for a second (sorta), SCORE believes that it is important for the community to also understand how oysters improve water quality, control erosion, and provide habitat for other commercially-important shellfish and fish species. As always, it boils down to educating the community about the symbiotic relationship among all species and how diverse species, including humans, benefit by protecting ecosystems from destruction.

Case in point #2
The Island Turtle Team in Isle of Palm/Sullivan’s Island, SC.

Isle of Palm is right out side of Charleston; across the fancy new bridge. The turtle team, led by Mary Pringle, was organized in 1998 in an attempt to slow the decrease in loggerhead sea turtle populations in coastal South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources allows Mary’s team to identify and mark nests, rescue and release hatchlings, conduct hatching success evaluations, use probes to locate eggs, relocate nests, screen nests from predators when necessary, measure and mark dead sea turtles, and transport or transfer sea turtle specimens in SC.

All sea turtle populations have been decreasing due to the poaching of nests, killing of turtles for their meat, and accidental deaths by commercial fisheries. Other threats to their population include recreational watercraft interaction, disease, cold stunning, natural predators, entanglement in fishing gear, light pollution, nesting habitat degradation, and beach erosion. In 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined that loggerhead nesting is declining 1.9% annually. In addition to the loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles turn up on the beaches of South Carolina now and then as well.

One of my hopes was to see some sea turtles while in Isle of Palm on my visit, or if not, at least help count eggs and rope off areas to protect the eggs. Well, no sea turtles came and all nests had been documented…until the day I left! Check out the team report from May 23, 2011! Yes, this was all happening as I was driving back to Kentucky.




Case in point #3
Finally! The Charleston Farmer’s Market at Marion Square.

The Charleston Farmers Market is open Saturdays from 8am-2pm in the Marion Square, between King and Meeting Streets. Marion Square is a beautiful, 10-acre park that has become the heart of the historic City of Charleston – the perfect setting for the Farmers Market. The market is tucked beneath the indigenous laurel oak trees with plenty of room for a plethora of vendors (in other words, there were way too many to count)! The market offers an abundance of the freshest local produce, plants, herbs, and cut flowers. You can also sit down at one of the tables in the center of the market for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, which is available from an assortment of vendors from seafood to fresh-roasted coffee to Cajun fare, and listen to live music. The market also offers had an amazing assortment of local arts and crafts from some of most talented local artisans in the area.

Photos from the Charleston Farmers Market visit:

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