Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2011-08-17 "Study Finds Local Businesses Key to Income Growth" by Stacy Mitchell
Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher with the New Rules Project, where she directs initiatives on community banking and independent retail. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and produces a popular monthly bulletin called the Hometown Advantage.
 The results of a new study suggest that the key to reversing the long-term trend of stagnating incomes in the U.S. lies in nurturing small, locally owned businesses and limiting further expansion and market consolidation by large corporations.
 Economists Stephan Goetz and David Fleming, both affiliated with Pennsylvania State University and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, conducted the study, "Does Local Firm Ownership Matter?"  It was published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly [].
 Goetz and Fleming analyzed 2,953 counties, including both rural and urban places, and found that those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses experienced greater per capita income growth between 2000 and 2007. The presence of large, non-local businesses, meanwhile, had a negative effect on incomes.
 "Even after we control for other economic growth determinants … the non-resident-owned medium and large firms consistently and statistically depress economic growth rates … The other major result is that resident-owned small firms have a statistically significant and relatively large positive effect" on income growth, the authors report. Small firms are defined as those with fewer than 100 employees and large firms as those with over 500 employees.
"Subject to the caveat that the 2000-2007 period was unique in American economic history, results presented are remarkably robust in terms of the positive link between small firms that are locally owned and per capita income growth. Medium and larger firms appear to have the opposite effect, especially when they are not locally owned. These include big boxes as well as other chain and nonchain operations that are owned by individuals who are not also residents of the community. Although these types of firms may offer opportunities for jobs, as well as job growth over time, they do so at the cost of reduced local economic growth, as measured by income. Small-sized firms owned by residents are optimal if the policy objective is to maximize income growth rates," the authors conclude.
 Previous studies by Goetz have found that the number of Walmart stores in a county correlated with both higher poverty rates [] and reduced social capital [].

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011-08-14 "4-H clubs flourish with crop of urban locavores" by Lisa Wallace from "San Fracisco Chronicle"
Elsa Rafter, 9, has no illusions about the messy process of raising livestock. For Elsa, clad in a sundress and jelly sandals, climbing into her family's backyard chicken coop to collect fresh eggs for breakfast is nothing but a brush of hay off her golden pigtails. The Rafter household keeps one Buff Orpington and two Ameraucana chickens in San Francisco's Hayes Valley.
"You can tell the difference between Sunshine and Chicky-Chicky because Sunshine has a dirty bottom," Elsa explains matter-of-factly, holding Sunshine in her arms for everyone to get a good look. This doesn't put Elsa off; she and her brother Roan, 6, share responsibilities for taking care of the chickens, feeding them and collecting their eggs. The two joined San Francisco's only 4-H program, started this year, to share their knowledge of chicken raising with other children in the city.
Animal husbandry is probably not what first comes to mind when thinking about the extracurricular interests of urban youth, but the Bay Area's 52 4-H clubs are flourishing, with city kids raising rabbits, lambs, goats, chickens and turkeys - some destined for dinner tables. It's another sign that urban agriculture has taken hold in the Bay Area's food culture and is trickling down to a new generation.
In a city with a strong locavore and DIY ethos, 4-H seems like a natural fit, according to Megan Price, who, along with fellow parent Lauren Ward, co-founded the San Francisco Urban chapter just this year.
"With the whole urban farming movement blossoming, there are a lot of people with backyard chickens, beekeeping, etcetera," says Price. "It just seems like a really good time to start exploring these things with our kids."
Established in 1902, 4-H - which stands for head, heart, hands, health - is a national youth development program predicated on a "learn by doing" model. Members run the clubs and design and set goals for their own projects, which can range from building robots to home economics to raising rabbits.
Over the past few years, 4-H membership has been on a steady rise, especially in urban areas. According to 4-H National, about a third of participants are now from cities of at least 50,000 or their surrounding suburbs.
Raising animals is part of 4-H's agri-science curriculum, where members are responsible for daily tasks such as feeding and grooming, as well as learning about anatomy and breeding. Summertime is the wrap-up of months of hard work, with kids showing their animals at county fairs and selling them at auctions.

Grand champion -
At the San Mateo County Fair in June, urban 4-Hers showed animals alongside those of their peers from more rural areas. Peri Wong, 17, of Menlo Park, a 4-H state ambassador, had this year's grand champion market lamb, sold at the fair's youth livestock auction along with the grand champion turkey, raised by Thomas Rivette, 19, of Pacifica.
While Rivette kept his Broad Breasted White turkey in his backyard, finding the pasture required for sheep presented a logistical challenge for Peri as it does for many other city kids interested in keeping larger animals.
Mary Meyer, 4-H coordinator for San Francisco and San Mateo, worked out a solution with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and UC Davis, affiliated with 4-H through the national Cooperative Extension System, to set up five locations in the area for 4-Hers to lease land - in Pacifica, Daly City, San Bruno, San Carlos and near the Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo County. The rent is kept low, usually around $6 per month. Because there is no caretaker on the land, it's up to the 4-Hers to feed and groom their animals daily.

San Bruno commute -
This year, Peri commuted from Menlo Park to San Bruno every day because the closer San Carlos farm was overcrowded. Raising a lamb for market involved a host of tasks for Peri, including feeding, watering, halter training, grooming and keeping detailed records on its growth. The Hampshire lamb, bred at the Casarotti Ranch in Santa Rosa, is a breed prized for its large frame and hearty cuts of meat. Peri was responsible for exercising her lamb to keep it at market weight and monitoring its food intake.
It's standard practice for animals raised for meat, something Peri understands now. "When I had my first goat, I was really sad, but then I realized if it was going for meat anyway, it should still have a better life."
Jenette Masarie, 13, of Redwood City, had similar responsibilities raising a 1,253-pound Pen Pride steer with three other girls for Redwood City's 4-H. Pen Pride steers are donated by local businesses and raised collectively by each of the Peninsula's clubs. The auction revenue generated by the Red Angus steer, donated this year by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, goes to the club's scholarship fund.
Throughout the eight years she's been a 4-Her, Jenette also has raised Blue Butt pigs and Red Wether goats - all destined for the slaughterhouse.
"I do get attached," Jenette admits. "My first year I cried and it was sad; as you go on through the years it gets easier. With the steer it was really hard because I was with him longer, and I bonded with him more."
Like Peri, she has come up against her share of adversity. "I have had people come up to me at the fair and say, 'How could you do that?' but I just say I know where my food comes from, and I know the way of life and everything now.
"I think it's a great experience. I've been doing it since I was 5 years old and I love it."
Participation in 4-H is designed to develop leadership skills by fostering collaboration and personal initiative, but it also emphasizes citizenship. Rivette, for example, donated the proceeds from the sale of his turkey - $500 - to the Bryan Stow Fund, set up to help the beaten Giants' fan.
"I like that (4-H is) focused on service, that it's nondiscriminatory," Price of SF Urban 4-H says. "I like that it is focused on earth and agriculture and animals and helping - it is something that kids don't necessarily have access to in the city."

"Run by children" -
 Jenette's mother, Katey Masarie, takes pride in watching Jenette hold her own in the urban farming movement. "Four-H is basically run by children," Masarie says, "and Jenette works really hard to raise those animals and become close to them, and having to learn about different meats and things - what she's really doing is learning about how life works."
The Rafter children joined 4-H because of their family's backyard chickens, but through their participation they saw several other aspects of growing and preparing food.
"When you live in a city, you're exposed to cool stuff like museums, but you have to go out of your way to see a farm, or experience milking a goat," says Price, who organized several outings to Hayes Valley Farm for SF Urban 4-H.
This year, Elsa learned to milk a club member's backyard goats and make homemade ice cream from the milk. With Price, who is a pastry chef, she baked an apple and blackberry galette with fresh fruit and an egg wash from her own chickens.
Price puts 4-H in what she refers to as "the return-to-the-earth movement."
"Like the whole Chez Panisse thing with the urban gardening and Hayes Valley Farm and people canning their own vegetables and backyard goats and chickens ..." she spouts giddily. It's reminiscent of the '60s, she explains, and laughs: "It's why the parents seem to be just as interested as the kids are."

4-H clubs -
Contact SF Urban 4-H at and visit them on Facebook at on.[]
To learn more about 4-H and for a listing of local offices, go to
For a listing of upcoming county fairs, go to []