Musings on the closing of a farmer’s market

Yesterday my friend & fellow permie Dennis H shared a great quote:

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” — Gustavo Petro

That’s definitely how I felt, living in Japan. And also in my travels around Europe etc. Transportation is anything but an abstract subject for me, especially as I get older. Will share some personal details at the end of this post.

In my opinion, the blame for the lack of reasonable transportation options in all but a few towns/cities of this country rests on the subset of Boomers who identify as “environmental”.

If we eco Boomers — a subset of the most-resourced and loudest generation in history — had pushed for public transportation instead of so many of us retreating to leafy half-acre lots in the car-dependent suburbs and becoming NIMBYs, I strongly suspect we would have public transport as a well-funded, unquestioned norm. After all, we Boomers have tended to get whatever we screamed and whined loudest for.

Instead we now have car-dependence as the well-funded, unquestioned norm. And all the ills of social isolation and frayed community multiplied; and roads more dangerous than ever with speeding impatient cars.

Well, as you know, this blog and my book are not about crying over spilt milk. Also we have not yet invented a time machine to go back and do over. Accordingly we have to work with what we have now.

I’m not saying that any of the following is likely to happen. But it might be very helpful and a good start. These ideas are based on the fact that Boomers are still a major political and economic force who carry the weight to make a difference.

• The oldest boomers are now age 77. People in this age group could proactively choose to move out of car-dependent suburbs and into smaller-lot houses in closer-knit neighborhoods, where they could take advantage of public transportation and/or ride-share with neighbors. Those who don’t want to move could rent out a room or two in their houses to younger people who are needing a place to live. (Actually not just younger people; lots of us older people nowadays are seeking “room in a house” situations too.) The housemates could help with driving and share the expenses of a car.

• The children of the oldest Boomers are in their late 40s and 50s, and are or will be facing the task of caring for their Boomer parents, often at great geographic distance, which causes a lot of expense and worry. These children of Boomers have a stake in pushing local governments to prioritize multimodal transportation options and desirable neighborhood density (nearby basic shops & services, etc.) for their parents.

• Some developers, such as developers of 55+ communities, are offering shuttle buses for their residents. This is a good idea.

• Many churches have large numbers of Boomer-generation and older people in their congregations. These churches have a stake in securing housing near the church for those of their elderly members who’d be open to it. Some congregations might want to pool their funds to rent/purchase a nearby house with many bedrooms, or purchase a small apartment or condo building.

This is just some ideas off the top of my head. Please feel free to share your ideas on some practical ways we could retrofit the fabric of the USA physical and social landscape to improve safety, and better serve people’s basic transportation needs.

PS. As promised above, I am sharing some personal details about my transportation situation.

I have always been relatively healthy and physically fit, at least for a USA citizen. I have generally gotten around by foot or bicycle for most of my adult life, and have always insisted on living in places where that is an option.

However, in recent months I am having what feels like a serious knee problem, whereby I can no longer walk farther than a couple of miles without serious pain. Riding my bicycle seems to be helping somewhat to strengthen my knee and possibly strengthen the adjacent muscles or at least let the injured tissue or whatever rest. But if it’s an ACL or ligament or whatever, that will end up needing surgery, I just have to try to make it till I’m 65 and can have it covered by insurance. I’m 60 now. 

Also regarding bicycle transportation. Although I’m a very experienced cyclist, accustomed to riding on roads alongside cars European style, including some solo multi-day inter-city rides in my younger days, the roads have gotten markedly more scary in the past year or so. More motorists seem to be exceeding speed limits even on what used to be the gentler, less-speedy urban core roads (what I used to consider the “eye of the hurricane”), and the traffic is getting worse.

At the same time, there has also been a decline in basic services in my neighborhood. For example, we have lost three laundromats and one convenience store, and a thrift store. The drugstore on this side of the bridge has closed down its pharmacy.

And we have lost our bicycle repair shop. Now the nearest bicycle repair shops are about 7 miles away, or two or three buses.

And yesterday I found out that our downtown farmers’ market is going to be closing permanently. I used to be able to walk there in 20-25 minutes when my knee was good, and I can still get there on the bicycle in about 10 minutes. Many of us have depended on this weekly market; at times I have gotten over 90% of my groceries there).

The people who casually say, “Well, the farmers’ market customers can just drive to Ormond or Port Orange farmers market” are completely out of touch with the realities of the non-auto-owning public. Those markets are MILES away. Furthermore, we need to be planning for LESS auto-dependence, not more. Each downtown area needs its own grocery shopping, etc. Particularly with traffic becoming increasingly severe.

There is one excellent little food store downtown that sells local organic produce and prepared health foods that are otherwise not available anywhere near here. And nutritional supplements which serve as most of my medicine, along with the wild plants I forage in the urban margins. Jo Anne’s shop on West ISB just east of Palmetto is an oasis in more ways than one. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to know about it, so I worry about its survival.

If that food store goes, I will seriously be in question about my ability to stay in this neighborhood and city, where I had planned to grow old and make as much of a contribution as possible. It would be a sad decision, as picking up and starting over in a new place is not an appealing thought.

For me there are only two options: push for the public good; or leave my beloved adopted home city Daytona Beach and try to find a place that is more transportation-hospitable. Actually, the latter is not really an option because

1) I AM IN LOVE with my adopted home place: its culture; the people i’ve formed ties of friendship and co-activism with; its natural beauty. And

2) if *I’m* feeling unsafe and having trouble getting basic needs met, then the many many more people who are more vulnerable than me, with fewer options, are even LESS safe and having far more trouble than I am. Therefore, I will continue to activate for transportation options and dense neighborhoods equipped with basic essential stores and other essential services, for the greater good of us all.

By the way before I moved to this neighborhood, we actually had a public library right in this neighborhood. It closed down before I moved in, and lay vacant for some years before now being occupied by a veterans’ museum. Nothing against veterans’ museums but I think we needed the library more. I ran a Little Free Library for my neighborhood for 10 years, but it became exhausting because too many people weren’t aligned with the fundamental LFL concept of small-scale, grassroots sharing of books, and I finally shut it down last month.

We do have a pretty good bus system for a small city. I have generally not ridden the bus because bicycle had been so much faster. But now out of necessity I am taking some bus trips. If this continues, I will probably have to cut something out of my budget in order to be able to afford bus fare on an ongoing basis. Not only my financial budget but my carbon budget as well.

Finally, to those of my fellow environmentalists who persist in believing, or pretending to believe, that electric cars or hybrid cars are going to save the world: The cult of the lithium battery is a dead end, just one more way to trash the planet and outsource pollution to other people’s lands and children. Accordingly, I will continue to speak up against assorted greenwashing and techno-evangelism.

We just plain need to DRIVE MUCH LESS, and ride-share, and really start questioning the default of private automobile ownership, and insist on better ways. For our OWN good at least, if we’re not willing to do it for other people and the planet.

Photos (for these pix, see my DEEP GREEN Facebook page

1) my new buddy, the latest edition of the Votran schedule;

2) today’s lunch, which I am getting ready to sit down and eat on my favorite outdoor bench with a great book; all of the ingredients for this delicious hearty salad came from Jo Anne’s shop Natural Concepts Revisited LLC – and several of the items were grown locally.

MARKET UPDATE 5/12; I posted this in my county forum on Facebook:

Daytona Beach Downtown Farmers’ Market on Magnolia will run through the last Saturday of June. Please visit the vendors and enjoy.

The City Commission will decide at its next meeting whether or not to keep the downtown market open.

Regardless, a new market is happening at the riverfront Esplanade. It’s only once a month for now, the last Sunday of the month, but there are hopes of expanding.

Regardless of how you feel about the market location, new or old, I hope that all of us who like and depend on being able to get groceries from a downtown market will give this market a chance and support it. A couple of the existing vendors are working on getting spots at the new market, and we hope others will follow.

Anyone interested in getting a vending spot, contact the Esplanade. BTW huge bonus, canopies are included!!

Anyone with questions for the city, contact the CODB redevelopment office.

The DDA meeting yesterday was informative. Vendors, customers, & other citizens had opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions.

Thanks to City Manager Deric Feacher, Zone 3 Commissioner Quanita May, Redevelopment Director Ken Thomas, Esplanade manager Joe Yarborough, and others for clarifying the various circumstances that have created challenges for our downtown markets, and the thinking that went into the new location.

Facebook event invitation: (Riverfront Esplanade market Sunday May 28)