The May RenewLV Newsletter is Here!

Friends, 

We’re pleased to present you with the latest edition of the RenewLV newsletter. Among the things you’ll find inside:

  • A look ahead at our May 29 lunch/discussion on urban agriculture, and look back at our March event on food entrepreneurship.
  • A report on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s development report.
  • Information on finding a CSA/farmshare near you.
  • A welcome to two new members to the RenewLV family: board member Dave Lobach and intern Susan Dalandan.

On a related note, we should take a moment here to thank ALL the members of our family. We couldn’t have done any of things described below without the help of our staff, wonderful volunteers, board members, and generous sponsors. Thank you!

 

Join the Food Revolution: Urban Agriculture Lunch/Discussion on 5/29

Friends,

I have heard it said that the way to change the world is to throw a better party.

We're using that advice to organize a food revolution in the Lehigh Valley.  This is a unique type of movement. There will be no demonstrating in the streets.  It will look like a party with good conversation and tasty local food on the menu.  

This is a revolution in which you create a powerful shift by making a simple decision about what you put on your plate and in your mouth: eat local.

It turns out that you can transform your health, your neighborhood and the regional economy by thinking a little bit differently and choosing more local food.  

Imagine that.

But, how do we get traction about transforming urban neighborhoods through greening efforts?  On Friday 5/29 we're coming together to learn what's going on in the exciting world of Urban Agriculture in the Lehigh Valley...and beyond. We will hear about transformative ideas from people who are creating livable, sustainable, connected communities in the Lehigh Valley and in Philadelphia.

You're invited to come sit at our table for lunch and a discussion to learn more about this radical but delicious idea...the Lehigh Valley's New Food Revolution.  We're meeting on 5/29/15 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Fowler Center on Bethlehem's South Side at 511 E. Third Street.  

"Join the Local Food Revolution"

Dynamic guest speakers will tell us about projects and opportunities happening in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.    

We are hosting this with the support of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy council including the collaborative efforts of sixteenpartners... United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Second Harvest Food Bank, Rodale Institute, Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley, CACLV, the Counties of Lehigh and Northampton, St. Luke's University Health Network, the Lehigh Valley Health Network, the Nurture Nature Center, Lafayette College, Jordan Heights Neighborhood, Seven Generations Charter School, Sodexo, New Bethany Ministries and RenewLV and a special thanks to our sponsor, Samuel Adams, Brewing the American Dream.

Our conversations are grounded in a larger effort to grow the local local food economy, "move from ideas to actions" and implement recommendations from Buy Fresh Buy Local's "Lehigh Valley Food Economy Assessment Report."  

A large part of transforming the health of our neighborhoods through urban agriculture is figuring out ways that we can remove barriers for neighborhood greening efforts.  The panel discussion of knowledgable urban farming practitioners will be followed by small group table discussions where you can roll up your sleeves and craft practical solutions to challenges you face in your neighborhood.

There is no cost for coming to our party, but pre-registration is essential.  SEATS ARE LIMITED.  Click here now to reserve your spot at our table. Our last two events were at capacity, so if you want to join us, do not delay...reserve your spot NOW.

GOP Lehigh County Commissioner Candidates Weigh In on Funding Farmland Preservation

GOP

Friends,

Smart Growth = Save Our Lands, Save Our Towns.

When I wrote to you a couple of days ago, I told you that I would be attending Monday night’s GOP Candidates Night for Lehigh County Commission to ask where candidates stand with respect to funding farmland preservation, an important tool in saving our lands.
Today I’m writing to you with the answer…

Background:
Four seats for Lehigh County Council are up for grabs. The Republican primary will feature a five-person race that includes three current commissioners:
 Amanda Holt, 32, of Upper Macungie, current commissioner
Brad Osborne, 59, of South Whitehall, current commissioner
Vic Mazziotti, 68, of Allentown, current commissioner
Marty Nothstein, 44, of Lowhill Township, Olympic gold and silver medalist in cycling, executive director of the Velodrome
Dean Browning, 59, of South Whitehall Township, former county commissioner

The four winners in the primary will advance to the November election and run against the four winning Democrats.

Competing for the Democratic nominations are:
Dan Hartzell, 63, of South Whitehall Township, a recently retired Morning Call reporter;
Joanne Jackson, 68, of Center Valley, a former Allentown school director;
Bob Martin, 54, of Upper Macungie, who has worked in marketing and corporate communications;
Hillary A. Smith, 36, of Lower Macungie Township, a freelance copywriter and marketing professional who serves as vice chairwoman of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee.

Lehigh County in the past has allocated funds to the farmland preservation fund ranging from $2M annually from 2006-2010 to a low of 0 in 2011. In 2015 the county allocated $250,000. When the County allocates money it receives $2.50 cents in Commonwealth funding for every dollar.

Compensating landowners market value for development rights (purchasing easements) is generally considered a fair and free market way to preserve farmland over the long term. Second, it’s a fact that preservation reduces local and state municipal obligations to provide services and infrastructure related to conventional suburban development.

Preserving farmland can be a key component to keep taxes sustainably low over the long term.

For every dollar we spend to preserve farmland that is zoned suburban it saves us .15 to .50 cents on each one of those dollars down the road. This figure is even higher if we leverage our dollars with state and county.

The question was posed “Would you support restoring funding of the County Farmland preservation program to previous levels?”

Answers were recorded digitally, but are posted here in an abbreviated fashion.

Marty Nothstein: “I’m a conservationist.” “I own preserved farmland.” “Development is important but so is preserving our countryside.””We need to look at more ways to preserve farms.””We need to do a better job of finding strategic ways to preserve including partnering with townships.” “We need to do a better job of finding money…” “When you have farmers that want to see their land protected forever, I think that’s important to residents of Lehigh County.”

Amanda Holt: “Our natural resources our important and it’s something that’s talked about in the Pennsylvania Constitution.” “Important issue but I’m concerned the average age of farmers is now 57 here in Lehigh County. Looking at the cost I wonder if this is going to be an effective means of really preserving the farmland looking at the average age of farmers. This is something we really need to take look at. We do need to consider moving forward how we can adhere to what the state constitution says and what works best for our situation here in Lehigh County.”

Brad Osborne: “I do know that farmland preservation has been promoted as a good program. The Green Futures Fund generated $20 million. It ended. Can we revive it? Farmland absorbs only .33 cents of every tax dollar generated whereas residential requires over a dollar.” “Specific requests need to be in line with the bigger picture. A larger plan is needed.” “Property tax reform could change the entire question.” “We need to evaluate this further.”

Vic Mazzioti: “There are three ways we’ve funded preservation in the past. First, through tax dollars. Another was the sale of assets, and we received grants from the state.” “I’m for continuing the program. But if we do it with general tax dollars, that requires further discussion.” “In the meantime I think we should continue funding the program through the other two sources I mentioned. 1. Any assets that we sell. 2. Grants that we receive that permit us to use those funds for farmland preservation.”

Dean Browning: “The program from early 2000 generated $30 million, and we did not need to borrow. We funded it out of revenue. I was Chairman of the Sterling Raeburn Farmland Preservation Committee. I see the benefit of the program, however I am reluctant to continue it absent any specific vote by the taxpayers saying they want the program re-instituted, and number two, identifying a specific funding source for it.”

RenewLV offers no endorsements of candidates. We will continue to ask candidates questions about farmland preservation and funding strategies and let voters make up their own minds. We welcome candidates contacting our office with a full written statement on their position on funding farmland preservation that we can share with a broad audience.

These excerpts were recorded with the help of Lower Macungie Township Commissioner and RenewLV board member, Ron Beitler.  Thank you, Ron.

To connect with more information, you can check out the Friends for the Preservation of Lower Macungie Township Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/friendsLMT

Or Ron Beitler’s blog for his third-party commentary and discussion:
http://www.ronbeitler.com/2015/05/06/young-republican-county-commissioners-debate-farmland-preservation-topic/

Wherever you live, we hope that you mark your calendar and plan to show up at the polls as an informed citizen for the Primary election on Tuesday, May 19th.
Warm regards,
Joyce Marin
Executive Director, RenewLV

Farmers’ Market Season is Almost Here

carrotsMay is just a few days away, which means farmers market season in the Lehigh Valley is about to kick into high gear.

Farmers’ markets are physical manifestations of many of the ideals RenewLV works toward. (It’s part of the same reason we’re a fan of farm shares and CSAs, which we’ve discussed here before.)

We support farmers and farmland preservation. Farmers’ markets help keep farms in business.

We support food sustainability. Farmers’ markets give people access to healthy, locally grown food.

We support revitalizing our cities and core communities. Nearly all of the Lehigh Valley’s markets bring people into one of the three cities or into boroughs like Emmaus or Nazareth.

Here’s a list of all the markets you can visit this year. No matter where you live in the Lehigh Valley, there’s a market near you.

Bath Farmers Market — Keystone Park (Green and Race streets) in Bath, Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., May 15 to Sept. 25.

Easton Farmers’ Market — Centre Square (Third and Northampton streets) in downtown Easton. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 2 to Nov. 21, and Wednesday evenings from May through September. Winter market December through April at 325 Northampton St.

Emmaus Farmers’ Market — 235 Main St., Emmaus. Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April through December. Winter market on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, January through March.

The Farmers Market at Campus Square — New and Morton streets in South Bethlehem. Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 7 to October 29.

Macungie Farmers Market — Macungie Memorial Park (50 S. Poplar St.) in Macungie. Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., May 14 to Oct. 29 (excluding Aug. 27)

Nazareth Farmers Market — Centre Square (Center Street) in Nazareth. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 2 through Oct. 31.

Rodale Organic Farmers Market at the Y — YMCA/YWCA, 425 S. 15th St., Allentown. Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, June 6 through Oct. 31

Rodale Organic Farmers Market on 7th — St. Luke’s Evangelical Church, 417 N. Seventh St., Allentown. Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., June 13 through Oct. 31.

Saucon Valley Farmers Market — Hellertown Library, 409 Constitution Ave., Hellertown. Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 3 through Nov. 22.

Trexlertown Farmers Market — Valley Preferred Cycling Center, 1151 Mosser Rd., Breinigsville. Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 9 through Thanksgiving.

For more information, be sure to check out this map created by The Morning Call.

Does PA Need a Beekeeping Law?

beekeep

There’s a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that you’ll see online from time to time:

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

There’s some debate about the source of the quote but whether or not Einstein said it misses the larger point: We need bees. They pollinate a majority of our crops, and contribute to our economy.

They’re also in trouble, with 30 percent of all bee colonies dying each winter for the last eight years.

But even as bee colonies disappear, beeekeeping is on the rise around the country, and so are laws that govern it.

A local case in point: Salisbury Township, which adopted a zoning ordinance last month that includes a section saying residents can’t keep beehives within 30 feet of any street, property line or neighboring house.

If a hive is within 30-60 feet, its owners need to put up a solid six foot high fence, which is meant to keep people away. Local bee enthusiasts said the regulations would discourage people from keeping hives.

Soon after adopting the ordinance, Salisbury began working on plans for an ordinance that would deal specifically with beekeeping, possibly with the help of local beekeepers, WFMZ reported.

While it’s admirable to see a municipality want to encourage beekeeping, we think Pennsylvania communities could take a page from New Jersey and push for a statewide beekeeping law.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, beekeepers in New Jersey began lobbying for the legislation in 2013. The package of bills “authorize the state to regulate beekeeping, give municipalities a role in enforcement, protect commercial beekeepers from nuisance complaints, and establish a fine of up to $500 for anyone intentionally destroying a native bee hive.”

At RenewLV, we support initiatives that promotes sustainability and regional cooperation. If bees are important to our national food economy, they’re also crucial to our local food economy. And instead of crafting 62 different municipal beekeeping ordinances, wouldn’t it be better for the Lehigh Valley’s communities to work together for something more universal?

As officials in Salisbury noted, the six foot fence is to keep people out, not to keep bees in. Bees don’t recognize boundaries. In this case, neither should we.

Is Whitehall’s Majestic Project Smart Growth?

Majestic

By Michael Sutherland

What’s up with the push back against adaptive re-use in Whitehall?

As the Morning Call reported this week, developer Nat Hyman wants to turn the former Majestic Athletic factory into 49 apartments.

The only issue is that Hyman has been denied multiple times for the variances that he needs by the zoning board in order to build.

This re-use of an abandoned building should make the township excited, but residents and officials have come out twice since 2009 against the project.

So why is supporting this proposal a good idea for the township?

  1. Adaptive Re-use

Right now, this property is sitting vacant as an eyesore to the township.

In allowing Hyman to turn the factory into apartments, the property would have a new life.  If the quality of the re-development is high, the neighborhood would stabilize.  Whitehall would see the value of the surrounding homes rise all by re-using what is already there.  Reduce, re-use and recycle apply to buildings and neighborhoods, too.

  1. High ROI

This dense residential development puts a relatively high number of residential units on a small parcel of land. This will result in higher tax revenues for the township. It is a high return on investment compared to uses such as warehouses, which very often provide a relatively low amount of tax revenue when you factor in the amount of space they use.  While these 49 residential units could add children to the school district, apartments in converted factory buildings do not usually attract families with children.

majesticmap3

  1. We save our farmland

By re-using a former property in an urban area, we prevent the temptation to build on a piece of prime farmland. As the Lehigh Valley continues to grow, adaptive re-use of old buildings will be crucial in preventing urban sprawl and keeping our cities vibrant.

We support the adaptive reuse of buildings like this as smart growth.

The Tasting Menu of “What’s Cooking?

cooking5It’s been a little more than a week since “What’s Cooking,” the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council’s latest lunch/discussion, and we’re still thrilled at how things went.

More than 100 people showed up to talk and share ideas about local food and beverage entrepreneurship, and to hear from some really exciting guests.

There was a lot to take in between our speakers and several tables of lively panel discussions. Here are some of the things we learned.

  1. Local food = courting millennials

If you want to grab the next generation of consumers with your food business, think local, said Risa Sherman manager of philanthropy for Sam Adams, who works with the Boston brewer and whose philanthropic mission is focused on helping launch and scale-up small food and beverage-related businesses. The company’s program has given out $3.5 million in loans and coached more than 5,000 businesses through Speed Coaching events.

Millennials want an authentic food experience  — something local, niche and something new — and are willing to pay for it. But that also means they’re going to check up on you.

“Millennials want to know where their food is coming from,” Sherman said, “and they can find out where it’s coming from with a click.”

That means letting your customers know how your food is made/grown, but also a bit about yourself. Sherman said people want to connect with their growers/merchants, and they want to hear stories about their food.

  1. Local food = job creationcooking9

One of the projects Sam Adams helped back involved turning an abandoned eyesore of a meat plant into Boston’s only non-profit food business incubator, a shared-used commercial kitchen. The $14 million CropCircle Kitchen incubator has 35,000 square feet of space that can be rented by the hour for small operators who need a legal kitchen for cooking and production of the food they sell.  The incubator also provides services to 15 local food truck operators.

All of those trucks need people to care for them.

When those trucks come home for the night, a team of workers hired from the neighborhood comes in and cleans the trucks, beginning the food prep for the next day. Those jobs wouldn’t exist without the incubator. Later in the day, when Sherman took part in a break-out discussion, her group established there was a strong desire for the Lehigh Valley to have a commercial kitchen.

  1. Do something you’re passionate about.

That advice came from Ryn Caputo and Robyn Jasco, food entrepreneurs who have seen their businesses grow beyond the wildest expectations.

Caputo — of Caputo Brothers Creamery in York County — said she expected her artisinal cheese company to make $9,000 in 2011. By 2014, their revenues were 55 times that amount. Jasco’s Homesweet Home Grown hot sauce company started almost by accident, with her planting too many peppers. She turned those peppers into three varieties of hot sauce, and soon found them selling out at farmers markets. Her Kickstarter campaign had a goal of $850; it made $53,000, the most any hot sauce has ever pulled in on the fundraising site.

In both cases, these businesses grew in part because the people behind them had a passion for what they were doing. That doesn’t mean passion alone will get you there. Caputo said food entrepreneurs need to be willing to make “those hard right turns” if that’s where the business is heading, and to learn to outsources their weaknesses

“You really think you can do it all. And you. Can. Not,” she said.

  1. Have a Plan

Everyone seemed to stress this one.

“It’s critical you have a business plan before you need it,” said Chris Hudak of the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund. It’s important advice in any business, but even more so in the notoriously difficult food industry.

Trying to launch before you plan is a “recipe for disaster,” said Dan Bosket of CACD Allentown. “If you have a business idea, even if you’re not ready to start, come up with a plan.”

cooking12

  1. We Need to Talk

The afternoon’s table discussions hit on a variety of topics, but one thing seemed to come out of quite a few of them: the need for more communication and information sharing on a variety of matters, including:

  • The locations of commercial kitchen space in the region. (It’s not enough to just have a list; people need to know how to access it)
  • A way to educate and inform consumers about small farms
  • More communication between municipalities on food safety…(dare we dream of a streamlined, coordinated multi-municipal permitting system?)
  • More information about finding food trucks.

If you want to be a part of this and other conversations about local food, there are a number of ways to make your voice heard:

  • Like us on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/RenewLV
  • Follow us on Twitter at @RenewLV
  • And read this blog to comment on updates, and to learn more about what we’re doing.
  • Come to our next lunch/discussion event on 5.29.15.  The topic will be Urban Agriculture.
  • Reserve your spot at our next event here.

Farmland Preservation Important for Region

Winter Farmland

Friends,

We continually hear people, from CEO’s of the region’s corporations to regular folks, expressing their desire for preserving more open space in the valley.

While good work has been done on this topic in both counties in the past, as we also watch farmland converting to warehouses and other development around the region.  People are concerned about traffic, air and water quality, access to local food, and the very identity of our region.

What is keeping us from being more effective at preserving open space?

The RenewLV board of directors has recently reset our initiatives and one of them is Farmland Preservation. It is for this reason that we encourage you, if you also support open space preservation in the Lehigh Valley, to help preserve open space with two simple actions:

1) Contact your county executives and county commissioners and ask them to FUND the farmland preservation programs that already exist;

2) Attend the upcoming meetings on open space preservation at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Northampton County are holding public meetings to get your thoughts and ideas for the new open space plan, Livable Landscapes. We encourage everyone to attend and keep up to date as the plan is developed.

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, in collaboration with Northampton County, is currently working on this open space plan to guide future conservation and outdoor recreation efforts within Northampton County.  The focus of the plan will be on environmentally sensitive areas, farmland, trails, outdoor recreation, historic and cultural areas, economic benefits, and the overall quality of life within Northampton County.  We think that this sounds great.  If you like all of these amentities, please attend one of these meetings.

They are looking for your thoughts and ideas on the needs of open space.  Please join them at these upcoming meetings to:

  • hear the results of the 2014 open space opinion survey of Northampton County residents;
  • discuss the proposed vision statement and goals;
  • give feedback

Meeting dates and times:

April 10th

8:30 am- 10:30 am

Nazareth Center for the Arts

30 Belvidere Street

Nazareth, PA  18064

April 13th

11:30 am – 1 pm

Hellertown Historical Society

Tavern Room at the Grist Mill

150 W. Walnut Street

Hellertown, PA  18055

April 15th

6:30 pm – 8 pm

Wind Gap Borough Hall

545 East Street

Wind Gap, PA  18091

For questions, contact Theresa Mackey at the LVPC at 610-264-4544 or tmackey@lvpc.org

For more information:  http://www.lvpc.org/livable-landscapes.html

Now, because RenewLV believes in regional approaches, regional cooperation and collaboration, we think that it would also be great if Lehigh County undertook a similar process — and we have shared our thoughts with folks we know there.  Stay tuned on this one, but if you agree, we urge you to mention the need for a similar study, too, when you reach out to your elected and appointed officials.

Warm regards,

Joyce Marin, Executive Director

RenewLV

No Joke: Slate Belt Regional Police On Patrol

We posted about this the other day, but it’s worth mentioning again. As of today, the Slate Belt Regional Police Department has begun operations.

A decade ago11075186_755540254545113_3606783924429358602_n, it might have seemed like an April Fools joke, given the years of on-and-off discussion about the possibility of a joint police force in the Slate Belt.

Thanks to the leadership of three communities — Wind Gap, Pen Argyl and Plainfield Township — that were committed to working towards municipal cooperation, that possibility has become a reality.

We’re fans of all sorts of regional collaboration, so it’s gratifying to see an initiative RenewLV has been backing come to pass.

It’s also a victory for the residents of the three municipalities, as the new force ensures they’ll receive 24-hour police coverage, often from officers they’re familiar with.

A regional force will improve the distribution and deployment of personnel and the effectiveness of police operations, while allowing for more opportunities for advancement and specialization within the department.

“Through collaborations, there are efficiencies and economies of scale, and the money goes further,” said RenewLV Executive Director Joyce Marin. “Additionally, through cooperation, joint efforts of this type can access more outside resources such as grants.”

The 22-member force is led by Chief David Mettin, former chief of the Pennridge Regional police in Bucks County and the consultant who helped the three communities put the force together.

“We are now in a position to have the increased capacity and resources not seen before in the Slate Belt,” Pen Argyl Mayor Mikal Sabatine told the Express-Times last week.

We’ll echo the newspaper’s editorial board’s disappointment that Washington Township and Bangor — who had been part of the planning stages — chose not to join the force.

But we hope that other communities see what’s happening in the Slate Belt — and what’s been happening for several years with the Colonial Regional force in the Bath/Nazareth area –and are inspired to take on collaborative projects of their own.

Job Growth Doesn’t Always Mean Smart Growth

map1

By Michael Sutherland

Where is job growth happening in the Lehigh Valley? And is it smart growth?

A recent report released by the Brookings Institution looked at peoples’ proximity to jobs in the metropolitan areas of the United States.

When looking at the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ metropolitan area we can see that from 2000 to 2012, more people were working closer to where they live. In the map above the darker shades of blue symbolize a higher percentage of nearby jobs gained while the darker orange colors represent a loss of nearby jobs.

The Lehigh Valley has had an overall 12.5 percent increase in the number of jobs nearby. This is great news when considering the national trend of a seven percent when looking at jobs near the nation’s residents.

And as great as this job growth is, most of it is in the periphery of the suburbs. So what does this say about the proximity of jobs to people in poverty?

The map below highlights the areas of the Lehigh Valley where greater than 20% of the population is in poverty.

map2

So even though we are gaining jobs, the people who need them the most still get the short end of the stick when it comes to job growth near their homes.

The Lehigh Valley has been gaining jobs but many of them are not related to smart growth.

For example, truck traffic through the region is expected to double in the next 25 years, according to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

These trucks will be headed to the warehouses built on our fertile land for businesses that provide a low return on investment with very few jobs for the amount of space they use.

I mention this because although jobs are coming back to Allentown in the NIZ, the majority of the job growth is still in the suburbs, with companies looking mostly for unskilled labor.

Sure, the distance between jobs and residents in the Lehigh Valley is smaller than the national average, but that does not mean those jobs are in areas that follow smart growth principles.

It may be easy to sprawl right now, but in the long-run it will only cost the residents of the Lehigh Valley an ever increasing amount of money.

As the Lehigh Valley continues to grow, we need to plan for jobs in our urban cores – perhaps by using vacant land in our cities — rather than in warehouses that pave over paradise.

Are we willing to fight for this in the Lehigh Valley?

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