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Articles by Ken Meter

Ken Meter, executive director of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, also had a previous life as an independent journalist covering food and trade issues. His pioneering work on food systems and the economics of food makes him one of the top food system analysts in the U.S. His "Finding Food in Farm Country" studies galvanized local foods activity in 45 regions in 20 states, and in one Canadian province. An international leader in sustainability measurement, he directed the public process for the award-winning Minneapolis sustainability plan. He also specializes in systems work, serving as an associate of Human Systems Dynamics Institute. You can learn more about his work at

Featured Article

Ecomomic splendor in the grass. I just completed a profile of one of the most exciting food production ideas I have seen in a long time.  Hillside Farmers Co-op. in Northfield, Minnesota, initiated by Latino immigrants, raises free-range chickens on scattered small, one-quarter acre sites.  This makes it a great model for urban farmers as well as rural.

By staying small, co-op leader, Regi Haslett-Marroquin told me, Latino farmers will be able to start a farm even though they have very little capital to work with.  In just a few weeks, each farm can sell about a thousand chickens.  That quick turnaround will be key to building savings.  Over time, it will allow farmers to make more expansive choices in the future, he says – perhaps to buy their own land, or to start supportive businesses in the region.  By keeping each production unit small and family-sized, Marroquin believes, farmers can have a great deal of independence, and the network of small producers can more easily respond to changing market conditions.

Start-up costs are relatively small.  The Co-op has designed simple chicken barns, framed from wood and covered wi... Read more

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  • Minnesota food system study — building trust is good business

    I just published a new study of the Minnesota food system.  The main take-home message is that building trust is good for business.  Close relationships with suppliers and customers are exactly what allow food firms to respond to changing conditions. The report, “Mapping the Minnesota Food Industry,” was commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield […]

  • USDA to unveil “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative

    Vast potential: a farm grows in Brooklyn. Photo: Added ValueAs I prepare for five days of announcements next week, when USDA plans to unveil its new “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, the buzz across my desk is about the potential for urban agriculture. EPA reminds that brownfield moneys can be used to convert […]

  • Tell USDA to add urban farming to the Ag Census! Deadline is Friday.

    If you care about eating healthy food, you are probably already hard at work to build a better food supply for yourself.  You already know that raising food in our cities will be increasingly important.  Yet getting political support for this requires making a convincing case, and this means having compelling numbers.  The federal Census […]

  • Direct and organic farm sales rise rapidly, new census shows

    Direct sales from farmers rose 49 percent, and organic farm sales more than tripled from 2002 to 2007, new USDA farm census data show.

    USDA released the 2007 Agriculture Census data today, giving Americans a far more detailed understanding of agricultural trends -- just as interest in local foods expands dramatically.

    For me, one of the key indicators of the growth of interest in community-based foods is the rapidly rising sales of food direct from farmers to consumers. Direct food sales rose a whopping 49 percent to $1.2 billion in 2007, up from $812 million in 2002. This includes farmstand, farmers market, internet, or other direct sales of fruit, vegetables, meats, and many other foods.