New York City icons: Empire State Building, Central Park, Union Square Greenmarket. Our flagship Greenmarket is a vital amenity for locals and a tourist destination and National Geographic top-rated farmers market in the U.S. 53 Additional Greenmarkets in diverse communities of NYC host 230 family farms selling directly to customers on a weekly basis, year-round. As the program has grown, we have stayed true to our mission of preserving farmland, while ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to fresh, healthy food grown right here in our region. Our farmers are keeping over 30,000 acres of farmland in production and safe from development. Another central component of Greenmarket’s mission and operations is product integrity: everything sold at market is 100% farmer grown, produced, caught, or foraged.
Food for All
GrowNYC has always believed that eating high quality fresh fruits and vegetables is a basic right and that demand for healthy choices exists throughout our city. By pairing education and opportunity, and with the help of many dedicated partners, you can create demand. We know that if you provide access and affordability, you can fill that demand.
FARMroots Program Expansion
In 2011, Greenmarket and the Open Space Institute partnered to develop and complete a comprehensive survey to assess the status and needs of farm businesses. We found that nearly half of land-based farmers will be retired by 2030. However, 56% do not have a plan for who their successors will be, how they will recover their equity to retire, or how their farms will stay in production. Thanks to generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the FARMroots Program launched in September 2012 to address these needs by providing business, financial, legal, and marketing support to all Greenmarket producers. FARMroots (Farm Assistance Retention & Management) is offering a scope of resources to serve all of our Greenmarket farmers, building on GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Program which targets immigrants with
We are continuing to train and support beginning farmers in the region through our 3-month whole farm planning course, Farm Beginnings: La Nueva Siembra, participatory workshops, and one-on-one technical assistance. Additionally, this year we joined the national Farm Beginnings Collaborative, which has allowed us to connect with twelve similar beginning farmer training programs throughout the country, and has strengthened our whole farm planning curriculum.
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Thanks to continued funding from Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council, as well as support from The Farmers Market Federation of New York and the USDA, GrowNYC has established a national model for operating electronic benefits transfer (EBT) aka Food Stamps at farmers’ markets and greatly expanded food access in NYC.
In just seven years, we have gone from accepting EBT at 3 markets in2005, to 50 in 2012. In 2012 EBT sales reached over $800,000—a 80,000% increase from when we started the program in 2005. This tremendous increase demonstrates just how great a need and desire exists in New York City for fresh, healthy food. Additionally, EBT has become a critical supplement to farmers who depend on these markets for survival, with some participating farmers reporting that EBT sales comprise between 25-50% of their total income.
GrowNYC’s nutrition and wellness initiatives, the Federal Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and WIC Vegetable and Fruit Checks, as well as the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Health Buck Program, are the cornerstone of ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to nutritious and fresh products grown on family farms in the New York region.
Click HERE to learn more about EBT.
In its 36th season of connecting regional farmers with the New York City community, Greenmarket was proud to open four new market sites in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. In collaboration with the Manhattan Borough President and the Frederick Douglas Boulevard Alliance, we held a popular pop-up Greenmarket in Harlem, the city’s first nighttime farmers’ market, so that residents could shop on their way home from work.
In recent years, Greenmarket has grown beyond the farmers’ market model. We are creating new programs to respond to emerging needs. Our 11 Youthmarket farm stands ensure that neighborhoods lacking access to fresh produce are served. We’ve expanded our EBT program so that Food Stamp recipients can use their benefits to shop at almost all of our markets. And we’ve begun accepting food scraps for compost at a number of Greenmarkets, filling a demand from New Yorkers seeking to live more sustainably. Most importantly, we launched Greenmarket Co., the City’s first regional wholesale food distributor, that brings farm-fresh regional products to restaurants, bodegas, grocery stores, and GrowNYC’s own programs throughout the city.
With demand for fresh, local food at the forefront in New York City, our farmers are building greenhouses, high tunnels, and finding additional land to maximize their capacity. This means more food for sale, and more variety than ever in the market, with new products ranging from hard cider to Finnish rye bread.
Starting with just one market in 2007, GrowNYC’s textile collection program has skyrocketed to 19 Greenmarket locations, and 20 opportunities each week for the public to recycle their unwanted bedspreads, jeans, and everything in between. The program has now diverted over 1.8 million pounds of textiles from disposal for reuse or recycling. Over 100,000 New Yorkers have participated in this convenient program – over 35,000 this year alone! And as a result of the expansion, we are now close to our goal of at least one textile
collection location in each borough. Next year: the Bronx
Textile partner: Wearable Collections
“Buy local” seems to be on everyone’s lips, and direct-to-consumer sales of agricultural products in the U.S. have increased dramatically in the past 10 years. However, in spite of consumers’ growing demand for locally, sustainably produced food, regional food systems often lack the infrastructure and support systems needed to move locally grown food in wholesale volumes to buyers.
In response, this year GrowNYC launched Greenmarket Co., New York City’s first and only “food hub” dedicated to supporting regional food producers by making their products available to wholesale buyers throughout the city. Currently operating out of City Harvest’s refrigerated warehouse facility in Long Island City, Greenmarket Co. purchases product by the case or bin from mid-sized regional growers, aggregates clients’ orders, and makes deliveries throughout NYC. Our clients include supermarkets, restaurants, specialty grocers, caterers, bodegas, senior centers, non-profit organizations, and our own food access programs in underserved neighborhoods such as Youthmarket farm stands and the Fresh Food Box group buying program. All profits go back into the program and supporting other GrowNYC initiatives.
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Fresh Food Box
This season, GrowNYC launched the Fresh Food Box, a group produce buying program that allows customers to purchase boxes containing a variety of fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits on a weekly basis. An outgrowth of our YUM Fresh Food Project in Washington Heights, now residents in Queensbridge, Bed- Stuy, and East Harlem place orders one week and the next week pick up boxes containing 8–10 seasonal items sourced from Greenmarket Co.’s network of local family farms. Customers can pay in cash and EBT, and staff and volunteers provide resources on how to store and prepare the produce in each week’s order to help clients make the most of each week’s box. For their time, volunteers get a free box each week.
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What Makes a Green Market Green?
Our markets are neighborhood sustainability centers, where residents can buy local food, recycle textiles and batteries, and drop off food scraps to be composted. Engaging customers on their weekly visits offers an opportunity to further educate about leading an even more sustainable life here in New York City.
This year, our public education initiatives included environmentally themed pop-up classes taught at the Union Square Greenmarket by faculty from the New School, partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability to launch a campaign to curb the use of plastic bags. And, thanks to a grant from the Ball Canning Company, we deployed chef Robin Puskas to markets all over the city, where she led cooking demonstrations on how to safely and properly preserve the local bounty of fruits and vegetables by jamming, pickling, and canning them. NYC Department of Health’s Stellar Markets and Cornell Cooperative Extension continue to lead nutrition classes and offer free cooking demonstrations at our markets, and we have partnered with the New York City Food Book Fair to curate a series of at-market cookbook signings with visiting authors.
Outside of the market, this fall, our panel discussion series The Educated Eater called together experts to inform on food labels and growing practices, the resurgence of growing rye in our region, and wholesale distribution of local food— highlighting both the challenges and solutions to this complex problem.
Through Youthmarket, families in underserved communities now have increased access to farm fresh food. GrowNYC’s youth-led farm stands help young people earn money, gain job experience, and learn small-business skills while farmers in the New York City region achieve higher revenue through access to underserved markets. This year, GrowNYC operated 11 Youthmarkets throughout the city in collaboration with community partner organizations, employing more than 60 teens and distributing more than 90,000 pounds of fresh produce in neighborhoods of NYC.
This season, Youthmarket sourced all of its fresh produce – nearly $100,000 worth – via Greenmarket Co. In past years, Youthmarket handled procurement on its own, sometimes picking up produce at three different farmers’ markets to supply one farm stand. Sourcing via Greenmarket Co. has allowed Youthmarket to access a wider range of local farmers and their products as well as benefit from economies of scale and more streamlined logistics.
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Producer Profile: Richard Giles of Lucky DogFarm
Richard Giles of Lucky Dog Farm began farming in his native Mississippi, so when he moved to the 40 acres he now keeps in a rotation of vegetables and small grains in Hamden, NY, he had to learn to adapt to an entirely different climate. “I had to learn to farm again,” he said. “The only thing that’s the same is that we have good soil, but everything else—from the crops to the weather—is different.” While he misses growing southern staples like black eyed-peas and okra, he’s learned to take pleasure in producing crops that do well in colder weather like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
For the last 13 years, Lucky Dog has subsisted on profits from wholesale accounts and sales at small markets upstate, but just over a year ago, Giles decided to shift more toward direct sales, and joined the Greenmarket program. “I decided to move toward doing more direct sales because I like having the contact with our customers.” He now drives down to the city on Thursdays, makes deliveries to restaurants, then sells at Union Square and Fort Greene Greenmarkets on Fridays and Saturdays. What has he learned from his new customers? What and how they like to cook. At their suggestion, he started to grow sunchokes and fingerling potatoes. Brooklyn restauranteur Andrew Tarlow is a regular shopper, buying potatoes and Tuscan kale for his establishments Roman’s, Diner, and Marlow and Sons.
After last year’s Tropical Storm Irene wiped out $175,000 worth of crops on Giles’s farm, Greenmarket was able to give Lucky Dog an assistance grant to help recover their losses. The valuable funding helped pay bills they wouldn’t have been able to cover otherwise. In the spring, a second round of funding was administered, just as the 2012 season got underway. Happily, this season has been better than the last.
Fresh Pantry Project 1,000,000 lbs
GrowNYC’s Fresh Pantry project is yet another way that Greenmarket farmers supply our city with fresh, local produce. Through this program, Greenmarket farmers donate what they grow to NYC’s food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and transitional living facilities—and they’ve been doing it since 1983. By connecting regional farmers with economically disadvantaged New Yorkers,Greenmarket and our partners—City Harvest, and the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, along with food pantries and organizations across the city—are helping to address hunger and build community around healthy, local food. In 2012, New Yorkers in need received nearly one million pounds of food from Greenmarket farmers.
Click HERE to learn more about GrowNYC's Fresh Pantry Project.
Turning Spoils into Soil: Food Scrap Collections Grow
Last year, staff from our Greenmarket and Office of Recycling Outreach and Education programs teamed up to plan and launch a food scrap collection program at 7 Greenmarket locations. This program complemented existing, ongoing Greenmarket food scrap collections conducted by community partners Lower East Side Ecology Center, Western Queens Compost Initiative, and the Ft. Greene Compost Project.
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Producer Profile: R&R Produce
The worst had happened: last year’s Tropical Storm Irene destroyed over 90% of Rogelio and Yesenia Bautista’s black dirt fields of glossy onions, jumbo carrots, and Mexican specialty herbs. This was the Bautista’s fourth year running their own farm, R & R Produce, which they started after taking the NFDP training course in 2008. The Bautistas were now seeing the down side of transitioning from farm workers to farm owners: with ownership comes risk. Adding to their stress was a 15-foot box truck that they had purchased that year to be able to bring more to their loyal Greenmarket customers. With monthly payments and no income—it seemed like an impossible situation.
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