New Data on Local Food Marketing Practices from the USDA

USDA news release indicates growing importance of food hubs to expansion of local / regional food systems

From the first-ever benchmarking survey on local food marketing practices, conducted by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service:

“More than 167,000 U.S. farms locally produced and sold food through direct marketing practices, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue in 2015, according to the results from the first Local Food Marketing Practices Survey released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).”

Read more survey results

Fortnightly Feast

Grow Local! Grow Strong! The 7th Annual Assembly of the LOFC Network

The Assembly is an event in which emerging and established co-operatives explore possibilities for collaboration and affirm aligned visions for sustainability, stewardship and co-operation. Celebration of various co-operative successes, active working sessions and network planning are included in the agenda. Read more
February 23 – February 24, 2016
Loyola House, Ignatius Centre, Guelph, Ontario

preceded by

Fair Financing for Local Food and Farms

The various workshops and plenaries will explore innovative and adaptable forms of finance.  Conversations with lenders and funders will explore various financing sources and how to build meaningful dialogue.  The day will also begin to build the case for sector bench-marking and creating the narrative necessary to prove the economic impact of food systems across Ontario. Read more
February 22, 2016 – 9am – 4pm
Loyola House, Ignatius Centre, Guelph, Ontario

What You Get When You Mix Chickens, China and Climate Change

Every few months, it seems, an invasive virus from a distant land attacks the Americas: dengue, chikungunya and, most recently, Zika. But the pathogens that frighten me most are novel strains of avian influenza. Novel avian influenza viruses are mongrels, born when the influenza viruses that live harmlessly inside the bodies of wild ducks, geese and other waterfowl mix with those of domesticated animals like the ones at Jiangfeng, especially poultry but also pigs. Read more

The Eden Alternative

…He decided to transform the nursing home. Based on a hunch, he persuaded his staff to stock the facility with two dogs, four cats, several hens and rabbits, and 100 parakeets, along with hundreds of plants, a vegetable and flower garden, and a day-care site for staffers’ kids. Read more

George Brown launches fund for nutrition research

Toronto’s George Brown College is launching a new initiative that aims to engage municipalities, universities, schools, health agencies and hospitals in helping to improve the diet, physical health and wellness of people in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Called the Helderleigh Nutrition Application Fund, the new fund will make a total of $400,000 available over a four-year period for nutrition and health-related applied research projects conducted in partnership with the college’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts and its food innovation and research studio, FIRSt. Read more

Ontario Craft Brewery Ramps Up Production

After learning a little more about the program, Wellington Brewery decided to work with a business advisor – who had successfully worked with other breweries to access funding – to help them through the Growing Forward 2 application process. Read more

From Soil to Table: Eco Farm Day 2016

Workshop topics include soil biology, what to do with soil test analysis, holistic management in practice, organic seed potato production, mob grazing, Hops and brewers, direct marketing grains, and more. Read more
Saturday February 20, 8 am – 5 pm
Ramada Inn Cornwall, 805 Brookdale Ave, Cornwall, Ontario

Land Access Testimonials: Farm Viability Webinar Mini-Series

Looking for creative ways to get farming? Is land the last big piece? Explore different models of land access and ask all your questions as four successful farmers from across Canada recount their “land testimonials”. These sessions will be useful for farmers seeking land, farmland owners seeking farmers, and those interested in new farmer and land use policy. Cost: $25 per session or $80 for the series of 4. Series registration deadline is Monday February 15th. You can register for individual webinars up to 48 hours in advance.  Read more or register…

Growing Hops in Eastern Ontario

With an explosion in craft breweries in Ontario, as well as strong demand for locally sourced ingredients, now is a perfect time to consider the option of growing hops for commercial sale. Read more
March 21, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm
Two Rivers Food Hub, 361 Queen St, Unit 5000, Smiths Falls, ON

Selling Food to Ontario

Create new opportunities for your farm or food processing business by learning how to expand into new markets such as grocery stores, restaurants, food hubs, schools, universities and other public institutions. Read more

A first-hand account of development assistance gone awry. An important critique of development practices that undermine peasant strategies as well as suggestions for more effective approaches for the future. Read more
February 25th, 2016, 7-9 pm
Wilson Lounge, 40 Willcocks Street, Toronto

Organic agriculture key to feeding the world sustainably

Study analyzes 40 years of science against 4 areas of sustainability

Researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment and be safer for farm workers.
Washington State University, Feb 3, 2016
Read more

Fortnightly Feast

Canadian Food and Beverage Manufacturers investing locally, supporting healthy & sustainable food systems globally (Newswire Canada)

Provision CoalitionCanada’s food and beverage manufacturer sustainability organization, has released a series of resources making sustainability solutions simple and accessible for food and beverage manufacturers across Canada. “At Provision Coalition, we have developed a number of tools that are supporting manufacturers in taking a strategic sustainability approach to their operations. For instance, tools that assist with manufacturer food waste are having economic, environmental and even social benefits,” said Cher Mereweather, Executive Director, Provision CoalitionRead more…..

The Food Chain (TVO)

Ontario’s public television—TVO—has a new(ish) current affairs program on all things food. The Food Chain runs Mondays at 9 pm on tv, supplemented by articles and weekly summaries posted online. Recent interesting stories include the wild food bank and the low-gluten communion wafer. Keep your eyes on this page for an upcoming story on prison farms. Read more

And Speaking of Prison Farms…(CBC)

Long-time supporters of a federal prison farm program in Kingston, Ont., are looking to re-establish it five years after the Harper government shut it down. The Pen Farm Herd Co-Op, which acquired some of the cows from the former prison farm, said it has a commitment from the new Trudeau government to reopen the operation at Collins Bay penitentiary in Kingston. The co-op said it has developed a business plan that has already received preliminary approval from the Liberals. Read more

Restorative Justice Organization wins Community Resilience and Food Security Funding (CFICE)

L.I.N.C. (Long-term Inmates Now in the Community) is a non-profit charity that works to develop positive understanding and dialogue between prison institutions, long-term offenders and the community. Emma’s Acres produces vegetables, herbs and fruit grown naturally on an eight-acre property leased to them by the District of Mission. “We figure we will be self-sustaining in two years, not this summer but next summer. So the money will allow us to do needed improvements to the infrastructure and buildings there”. Read more

Pulses could be the foundation of a new food era (Globe & Mail)

A new year is soon upon us and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared that 2016 will be the International Year of Pulses. The idea is to position pulses as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients. Given the science behind pulses, and the challenges animal-protein production faces, it is appropriate that the FAO is showcasing the virtues of such a fascinating crop.
Pulses mean little to many people, but we all know about dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas. All of these products are common varieties of pulses. Pulses are known to have high protein and fibre content, and are low in fat. Sounds like the perfect food, doesn’t it? Indeed, pulses are often referred to as a “super food”.  Read more

Fresh Connections: The pilot season of a rural food hub (U Minn)

(Report Dec 2015 – 1.4 MB)

The diversity of perspectives that advisory committee members brought to the table ensured that decisions were examined from the different lenses of business, community health, and community development. The targeted expertise of the advisory committee’s grower and buyer members was also critical in the process, because it kept decisions rooted in stakeholder needs. In addition, the advisory committee kept planning firmly grounded in reality by challenging assumptions. Read more

Sustainable Pathways: Natural Capital Accounting (FAO)

Natural capital is the foundation of economies. Businesses, and agriculture in particular, depend on natural capital to be viable. However, in the current business model, natural capital has been largely neglected; it is ‘economically invisible’. As a result, we are witnessing the over-exploitation of our finite natural capital through climate change, soil erosion, water pollution and loss of biodiversity and wild habitats such as forests and wetlands. The degradation of natural capital imposes external costs on society and future generations. These costs can be better understood and addressed by accounting for natural capital. Read more

Natural Capital Impacts in Agriculture: Supporting Better Business Decision-making (FAO Report 2015)

This study provides stakeholders with an indication of the true magnitude of the economic and natural capital costs associated with commodity production, and present a framework that can be used to measure the net environmental benefits associated with different agricultural management practices. … To achieve this objective, Trucost has worked with FAO on two different types of analysis, utilising both Trucost data and models, as well as FAO data, to deliver:

  • A global, commodity-based “materiality” approach to assess the natural capital impacts caused by the production of four crops – maize, rice, soybean and wheat – and four livestock commodities – beef (from cattle), milk (from cattle), pork and poultry.
  • A set of four case studies focusing on different agri-commodities, exploring the trade-offs that exist between adopting different farming practices.

Read more

Cuban Agroecotours

Are you interested in traveling to Cuba this winter? And learning about agroecology at the same time? Check out information about a Cuban Agroecology Tour that will be running from December 11-21, 2015. It will be a unique opportunity to visit farms, talk to Cuban farmers, researchers, and community leaders and experience Cuba’s history, politics, landscape and culture.

You can also learn more at the Cuban Agroecotours facebook page

From Local Food to COOL Food

This winter,  Theresa Schumilas, one of the Research Associates with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems is launching a new on-line food market that moves us beyond ‘local’ food systems to truly sustainable food systems. The new ‘COOL’ or ‘CO2L’ market, is a bottom-up solution to help cool the planet. Rather than wait on experts to reach agreements about climate change and come up with plans, these new markets will link consumers with the small-scaled producers around the world who are already cooling the planet through their knowledge and skills.

Buying local is a great thing to do, but, it’s not enough. While it’s good to buy locally grown food for many reasons, ‘food miles’ (the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer) actually make up a relatively small percentage of the overall carbon footprint of food — approximately 11% on average. In comparison, how our food is grown makes up a much larger percentage — roughly 83% of the food’s footprint. The impacts of food on climate depend less on distant travelled and more on the agronomic decisions the farmer makes. But, with the possible exception of certified organic branding, these climate critical on-farm decisions are seldom highlighted in markets selling ‘local’ foods. Consumers need a way to make clear choices about the carbon consequences of the foods they buy, but so far there is no clear marketplace identity for foods that are produced with climate mitigating methods in Canada. That’s where the new ‘COOL’ (or CO2L) comes in.

Open Food Networks dear supermarket adThis new COOL market is built on a new open source platform called “Open Food Networks”. This platform will be initiated in Canada by December, as part of Theresa’s  work to launch Farm 2.0. To do this, she is working to establish SIMPLE criteria for the COOL designation and recruiting vendors to pilot the market in early 2016.

Instead of using complicated and costly criteria and verification systems (which would end up excluding small scale farmers), the COOL market is drawing on the experiences and knowledge of small scaled farmers who have been cooling the planet for centuries.

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Together, we can cool the planet! from GRAIN on Vimeo.

 

 

They key point is that we know what the main agricultural causes of climate change are, and we know what we need to do to reduce our emissions. We need to think beyond local. We need to learn from, and support small scale farmers around the world. Together we can COOL the planet.

Read the full post here.

If you are interested in getting involved in this –  contact Theresa: tschumilas (at) rogers.com

Les enjeux de l’alimentation contemporaine

Comme chaque année au mois d’octobre la Chaire Unesco alimentations du monde organisent leurs séminaire pluridisciplinaire sur “Les enjeux de l’alimentation contemporaine”, destiné aux étudiants, et ouvert à tous les curieux.

À Montpellier SupAgro, campus Lagaillarde (place Pierre Viala), amphi Lamour :

Mercredi 14 octobre
Nicolas BRICAS (Cirad)“Alimentation durable : quels enjeux pour la recherche ?”

Jeudi 15 octobre
Jean-Pierre POULAIN (Université Jean Jaurès/Chair of Food Studies, Toulouse) : “Pour une socio-anthropologie de l’alimentation”

À l’Institut des régions chaudes (SupAgro), campus Lavalette (avenue Agropolis), amphi Dumont :

Jeudi 22 octobre
Sébastien TREYER (Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales) : “L’agriculture face à l’épuisement des ressources”

Vendredi 23 octobre 
Benoît DAVIRON (Cirad) : “De l’organique au minéral : une histoire de la place de l’agriculture dans le développement économique” 

Jeudi 29 octobre
Sophie THOYER (SupAgro) : “Europe : l’impossible réforme de la politique agricole commune ?”

Vendredi 30 octobre
François-Xavier MEDINA (Université ouverte de Catalogne, Barcelone, Unesco Chair “Food, culture and development”) : “Alimentation en Méditerranée : construction d’un mythe ?”

Announcing Farm 2.0 – A sustainable food hackerspace

OFN break upFarm 2.0 is a new project that explores how internet and communication technologies can be used in Canada’s sustainable food movement to optimize traditional agricultural practices, enable effective networks and facilitate policy change.

Smaller scaled organic and ecological producers are trying to build community around their farms and squeeze out a living in a landscape where farms keep getting bigger, products are more distant, retail is more consolidated and marketing is laden with ‘green washing’. These producers are being supported by ethically-minded consumers, academics and policy-makers. A diverse ecosystem of sustainable food hubs and networks, oriented toward building food systems that are more local, fair and green is coalescing in Canada.

To date, Internet and communication technologies have not figured prominently in forging food system solutions, and the intersection of technology and sustainable food is an under-developed area. One reason for this is that ecological and organic producers have historically favoured low technological, traditional, hands-on and artisanal practices.  But Theresa Schumilas, who recently joined the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems as a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow,  thinks that these  ‘low tech’ and ‘high tech’ worlds have much in common. An organic farmer herself,  Schumilas wonders if there are ways emerging technologies might open up new spaces for us to imagine and realize radically different practices and make shifts to more sustainable food systems.

Theresa is friend-raising and fund-raising to establish a sustainable food and technology ‘hackerspace’ or ‘lab’ that enables connections and collaboration between Canada’s emerging food hubs/networks and designers, programmers and technologists. She calls the project  ‘Farm 2.0’ to signal an extension of ‘Web 2.0’, which generally refers to how the world wide web has transitioned from being a collection of individual web sites with static information, to the web as a network of interactive computer platforms and applications. Farm 2.0 and Web 2.0 alike signal ethics such as democratization, empowerment, citizenship, sovereignty and protection of both the cyber and terrestrial commons.

In the last few years there has been an explosion of primarily proprietary software packages and web-based applications that are designed to help smaller scaled farmers with marketing.  Theresa has been interviewing ecological farmers about their use of these various programs and notes that their experiences are mixed.  “On one hand, farmers appreciate having help with sales logistics like inventory management and invoicing,  but at the same time,  they are looking for something more. This first generation of on-line marketplaces doesn’t seem to reflect the value placed on the commons that motivates many ecological farmers.”  When you think about it,  what has been happening in sustainable food software,  mirrors what has been happening in the seed industry. Technological ‘solutions’ have mined the knowledge built in the sustainable food movement over the past 30 years,  encoded that experience into a variety of internet-based applications, and sold it back to the farmers and food hubs who originated it. While the sustainable food movement has been focusing on seed sovereignty and building the ecological commons, its cyber commons is being privatized.

The foundation for a Farm 2.0 hackerspace that ‘saves code’ just like seeds,  already exists. Two years ago, in Australia, The Open Food Foundation (OFF) established itself  as a registered charity in order to develop, accumulate and protect open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems. The Foundation focuses on bringing together farmers, food hubs and developers in a global network that facilitates open-source, non-proprietary technological innovation toward building more sustainable food systems. Their first project was the development and global launch of a technology platform called Open Food Network (OFN), that offers a way for sustainable food hubs, networks, producers and related food enterprises to link and build connections across local, regional, provincial, national and global scales. One of Theresa’s projects is to put this platform to the service of Canada’s growing sustainable food movement.

Open Food Network (OFN) is a non-proprietary, open-source, online platform. Using a set of intuitive and flexible tools, this multi-purpose software serves as a directory, communication hub and logistics platform that enables relationships among farmers, consumers, food hubs and other food enterprises. On one hand, it is an on-line marketplace. At local scales, it helps eaters find, buy, and learn about sustainable food, and helps producers and food hubs with supply chain logistics. However, the platform is more than a set of marketing tools and differs from other proprietary e-commerce platforms in important ways. OFN is a space that helps isolated sustainable food projects link, learn, and build peer-to-peer networks across scales in order to grow and strengthen a global resilient food movement. Under the oversight of the global foundation (Open Food Network), a community of coders, developers, producers, food hubs and others work to continually improve the platform and proliferate its use using charitable funding as well as reinvestment of revenues.

Since the launch of OFN two years ago, food communities around the world have been licensed and mentored by OFF to use this platform. There are now 25 networks using the platform in Australia, 20 in the UK, 2 in Norway, and teams are currently launching in South Africa, France, the US and (with this project) Canada.

theresa in front of canningTheresa will be updating the Nourishing Communities site regularly, but if you want to be involved in her research,  or if you have some ideas to share,  please email her.

Social economy in a Globalized World

Guest blog from Irena Knezevic, Assistant Professor, Communication, Carleton University

CIRIEC international research conference on social economy

July 2015, Lisbon, Portugal

International Center of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC) organizes a bi-annual research conference focusing on social economy, which by their definition includes cooperatives, mutual societies, foundations, and cultural and philanthropic organizations. This was its fifth conference and over 300 people from around the world were in attendance. Portugal was an appropriate setting for this gathering as the country boasts a vibrant social economy sector and in 2013 it adopted its General Law on Social Economy, following the example of Spain that similarly cemented social economy into its legislative framework in 2011.

This year’s theme was “Social economy in a Globalized World” and consequently many of the sessions focused on issues of globalization, financialization, governance, territories, and the social economy’s relationship to the state. In many ways it was a celebration of the contributions that the sector makes (and can potentially make) to social well-being in a world where economic inequalities are on the rise and the neoliberal economic model is failing.

A number of presentations relied on traditional economic theory to provide very abstract assessments and projections related to social economy. Others reported on very regionally specific trends. Nevertheless, several presentations offered some interesting intersections to our own work. Nathalie Verceles from the Philippines used her fieldwork with indigenous women’s cooperatives to illustrate how the social and informal sectors have been historically undervalued precisely because they typically employ those who are already socially marginalized. Alex Murdock from the United Kingdom described his work with social enterprises to develop measurements of social return on investment, something our community partners have already identified as a pressing need here in Canada. Jutta Gutberlet from the University of Victoria, BC, shared her research on participatory sustainable waste management in Brazil where informal recyclers’ networks formalized into cooperatives to develop enterprises focused on social inclusion, empowerment and collective action.

While generally an enthusiastic gathering, the conference was not without its critics. The purpose of the conference was to “[encourage] interdisciplinary dialogue, exchange and collaboration in order to enhance the contributions and applications of scientific inquiry for understanding and improving the life conditions and experiences of the less favoured people.”

CIRIECWhile the diversity of the participants was notable, the organizational leadership and keynote speakers were much more monolithic. The opening night and the second day’s plenary session included a total of twenty speakers. Only two of them were women (and one of them was not even on the original schedule but spoke in place of a participant who was unable to attend). The rhetoric of inclusion was thus not very well reflected in the voices that were featured. This, however, did allow for very lively coffee-break discussions among participants, suggesting that this imbalance was far from unnoticed.

Despite this shortcoming, the general tone of the conference was that of certainty that social economy can bring about prosperity and equity much more effectively than the neoliberal model ever could. That potential, many of the participants suggested, is what will make social economy blossom in the coming years. You can find more information about CIRIEC here. Or visit the conference website where you can find the complete conference program.

Global Challenges and Rural Responses

Probably the best rural geography conference in Wales

(C’mon, it’s Cymru!)

Guest blog from Phil Mount, Postdoctoral Fellow, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

I recently attended Global Challenges and Rural Responses, the 8th Quadrennial UK-US-Canadian Rural Geography Conference in Wales, 6th – 12th July 2015 — co-sponsored by Aberystwyth and Swansea Universities.

aberglade

Swansea-castle

 

 

This conference brings together the AAG Rural Geography Specialty Group, the CAG Rural Geography Study Group and the RGS-IBG Rural Geography Research Group in an intense, intimate, engaged format, wherein each of the 33 delegates shares their research with the other 32, in sessions that span a week. Presentations are carefully interspersed with field trips highlighting local rural issues—including the dangers of jogging on increasingly congested Welsh roads…

Keith

Navigating a Gower traffic jam (photo courtesy Doug Ramsey)

… and evenings capped with copious quantities of socializing.

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Enjoying an Y Consti-tutional (photo courtesy Michael Woods)

Themes spanned the transdisciplinary practice of rural geography; the changing nature of rural environmental challenges;

welshpower

… the new face[s] of exurban development and rural landscapes; the realities of modern farming; the role of alternative food networks and changing practices in shaping the new rural realities; rural responses to global challenges…

John-Smithers-brutal-croquet

(photo courtesy Lisa Harrington)

… and rural gentrification; re-imagining and rebuilding rural communities and rural-urban connections; and understanding the implications of global economic restructuring and collaborative responses in rural communities.

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Collaborative responses (photo courtesy Colleen Hiner)

My own research, ‘Scale and the conventionalization of local food’, found many points of interconnection with a series of presentations that mapped the implications of food systems transitions for rural and urban communities, through both local and global food chains. These presentations covered diverse locales—from the South Carolina Lowcountry to Riga, rural Kenya and Hong Kong—as well as diverse subjects, including civic and political engagement, the influence of a legacy of exploitation, political agroecology, cultural firewalls, agriburbia, and measuring the performance of global and local food chains.

global-food

Sampling Welsh-Indian fusion at Patti Raj, Swansea (photo courtesy Colleen Hiner)

For me, many of the conference isights coalesced around the diversity of responses in rural regions and landscapes to global realignments, state-level austerity and delegation of services, combined with a growing distortion from wealthy rural amenity investors.

nags

…expressing deep concern for the rural horse-racing industry… (photo courtesy Michael Woods)

Over the course of the week, it became clear that rural geography methodologies are well-positioned to incorporate metrics that recognize complexity, and participatory methodologies that recognize rural positionality;

Gower-Inn-hydration

… to investigate land use policy and struggles;

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North Brandon getting the sharp end of the stick… again (photo courtesy Michael Woods)

… to rethink the rural, and rural globalization; to explore governance of rural countryside, environment and community; and to explain the global challenges and rural responses reflected in uneven development, the construction of rural life, and crossing boundaries.

Newtown-twins

(photo courtesy William Wetherholt)

The conference highlights also included the many forays into the Welsh countryside:

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Three Cliffs Bay (photo courtesy Randall Wilson)

Parkmill, Gower (the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and Three Cliffs Bay;

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greengreenhills2the National Wool Museum, Llandysul, demonstrating the historical and reviving importance of artisanal wool production to the Welsh countryside;

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Centre for Alternative Technology, Llwyngwern Quarry, Pantperthog, Machynlleth

… the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), with alternative energy and construction displays—including wind, solar, hydro, wood pellets, green roofs, straw bale, packed earth and much, much more;

Frolicking-geographers-Newtown

(photo courtesy Lisa Harrington)

… and Newtown—where stoic field researchers navigated an incredibly serious interactive walk while reflecting on everyday globalization in a small town, using Storymap. And carefully measured the accuracy of random peri-urban birds. Seriously.

It is often difficult to estimate the value that comes from sharing academic work in a conference setting, but i have no doubt that the strength of the bonds created while discussing our work and its implications, across diverse rural Welsh landscapes—and over the occasional pint of Welsh conviviality—will continue to generate fruitful collaboration and useful comparative work on issues that face rural communities, globally, for years to come.

And perhaps a tri-nation croquet grudge match.

Croquet-conversation

(photo courtesy William Wetherholt)