January 2012

Greenmarket Farmers Receive Hurricane Relief Funds

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and the destruction caused by flooding throughout our farming region, GrowNYC and Greenmarket reached out to our community of support with the goal of raising funds to support assist the most impacted Greenmarket Farmers.

Immediately upon launching this campaign the public responded in such force that we were completely blown away: financial donations, offers of in-kind support to assist with on-farm clean up, as well as professional services, ranging from legal work to marketing support started pouring in. We are thrilled to have raised a total of $85,000 to date (January 2012); Thank you.

On November 22, 2011 our first round of Greenmarket Relief Fund Awardees were announced. $63,000 was distributed to 29 farmers. In February 2012 all remaining funds will be distributed among this group. The following list of farmers and we at GrowNYC and Greenmarket are incredibly grateful for your incredible generosity and will be, in part, continuing farming, in part, because of it. Your contributions will allow farmers such as Alex Paffenroth to pay contractors to remove debris from ditches, Kira Kinney to purchase seeds for the 2012 growing season, John Gorzynski to pay for tractor repairs, and Gary Glowaczewski’s fuel bills. The list goes on: fence repairs, greenhouse supplies, animal feed, new chickens, and much much more.

GrowNYC and Greenmarket staff are truly heartened by your support, and we thank you for supporting our farmers not only during times of crisis, but every week at your neighborhood market.

Greenmarket Relief Fund Awardees:

Troncillito Farms
The River Garden
Monkshood Nursery
Tamarack Hollow Farm
Rogowski Farm
NFDP Staten Island Family Farm
NFDP Conuco Farms
Lucky Dog Farm
Bradley Farms
J Glebocki Farms LLC
Morgiewicz Produce
Paffenroth Gardens
Gorzynski Ornery Farm
J & A Farm
D`Attolico's Organic Farm

Evolutionary Organics
John D Madura Farm
Tundra Brewery
Nine-Jay Nurseries
Muddy River Farm LLC
R & G Produce LLC
NFDP Jersey Farm Produce
NFDP R&R Produce
NFDP Mimomex Farm
NFDP El Mirador Farm
NFDP Fresh Radish Farm
NFDP Gonzalez Farm
NFDP Perez Market
NFDP Pavia Family Farm

Milk Thistle Dairy Farm to close

Greenmarket is very sad to announce that, effective immediately, Milk Thistle Dairy Farm will no longer be producing dairy or dairy products, and will not be attending any Greenmarket farmers markets. This is one of the unfortunate and harsh realities of being a small scale grower competing against industrial agriculture. The margins on farming, particularly dairy farming, are incredibly thin and sometimes are not enough to allow for a financially viable business.

For more information, email Dante Hesse at dante@milkthistlefarm.com or call the Greenmarket office at 212.341.2321.

Support Teen Farmers - Get a Calendar!

Order your beautiful, colorful and informative 2012 Endangered Species calendar, designed by high school students from the South Bronx today.

10 talented Morrisania-based teens and Learn it, Grow It, Eat It program interns designed a calendar featuring endangered species. As part of our year-round program, 200 teens get outside for hands-on gardening, learn about healthy eating and make the connection between health, nutrition and environment.

You will receive a calendar for your donation of $25 dollars. Make sure you designate "Environmental Education" and type "2012 Calendar" in the Dedication box when you make your gift and we’ll send you a calendar.

Donate here and receive your calendar!

Free solar oven curriculum for teachers

Looking for a fun activity for kids, ages 8-17 in the classroom or at home? Want to reinforce key concepts in the Earth Science syllabus?

Our Environmental Education program is happy to provide "Solar Ovens and Earth Science," a hands-on curriculum unit free of charge. Email mzamm@grownyc.org and provide your mailing address to get your copy.

The Northeast Grainshed : 2011 Season in Review

Winter wheat coming up at Hawthorne Valley Farm

For farmers in New York and surrounding states, heavy rain was the hallmark of the 2011 season. In many cases, the volume of rain proved disastrous. Grain producers in the Northeast faced a variety of challenges owing to the season’s wet weather, resulting in low yields, poor quality product, and reduced protein content. In Pennsylvania, Fusarium was the biggest culprit. Commonly known as wheat scab or head blight, Fusarium is a fungus, which is found in the ground and infects wheat when rain splashes soil onto plants. Winter wheat is especially susceptible, since it flowers earlier in the season, when rain is more likely. The later growing season in New York this year meant that producers there were largely spared from Fusarium. However, the wet season resulted in a different challenge for these farmers: low protein content. A typical winter wheat grown in the Northeast can have a protein content of around 11%. The 2011 season’s average was below 10%. This may be owing to reduced fertility; heavy rains washed much of the nitrogen that contributes to protein content out of the soil. Given the problems caused by the rainy season, the region’s farmers found a variety of ways to bring their products to the market. Crops infected with Fusarium could, in some instances, sell to outlets like distilleries, which process grains in such a way so that toxins are destroyed. Millers and bakers who could get their hands on high-protein spring wheat blended these with the lower-content winter wheat to create bread flours that met the needs of the region’s bakers. And farmers and millers continue working with bakers to find innovative uses for the diverse grains grown in the northeast. Despite the numerous challenges faced by grain farmers, hopes are high for a better season in 2012. While there isn’t much farmers can do about the weather, planting a greater variety of grains can help hedge against anomalies like excessive rain. For instance, although winter wheat typically produces a higher yield, spring wheat has higher protein content and is more resistant to Fusarium. Increasing the acreage of spring wheat can help balance against issues that make winter varieties more vulnerable. Farmers can also plant more non-wheat grains as a way to diversify. Elizabeth Dyck, founder of the Organic Growers Research and Information-Sharing Network (OGRIN), explains that not a single food-grade grain is being grown in sufficient volume to meet market demand in the New York-Pennsylvania area. For example, there is burgeoning interest in locally-grown rye among the baker community and consumers. Organic brewers and distilleries in the region are seeking out a number of different grains as well. Other farmers and millers point out a similar growth in demand for regional grains. For instance, demand for high-quality bread flour means that hard red spring wheats, which are higher in protein and yield a better bread flour than lower-protein winter wheats, need to see more acres planted in the coming seasons. Emmer is another example of a grain whose supply hasn’t caught up to demand. Currently, the home baker can count on having access to the most diverse array of locally-grown grain products. Outlets like Brooklyn Kitchen carry some local flours and grains, and grain farmers and millers sell their product at several Greenmarket locations citywide. Meanwhile, some producers choose to limit their outreach to larger, wholesale customers until the local supply is sufficient to meet their demand. As the regional grain system continues to develop, organizations like OGRIN can help locate clean sources of seed, work with farmers to order sufficient volume, and give recommendations of good-quality and reliable varieties. Farmers and millers must also continue to find innovative new ways to ensure profitability of grain crops in years where weather jeopardizes quality. As bakers, restaurants, and individual consumers continue to discover regional grains, there will be a need for farmers to continue broadening their offerings to this expanding market.

Add reuse to your post-holiday clean-up with Stop ‘N’ Swap®!

Sure it’s rewarding to sort eggnog containers and wrapping paper for recycling, chip in at MulchFest, bring obsolete electronics to a recycling collection and drop unwanted textiles and food scraps at a local Greenmarket drop-off site, but nothing beats clearing out post-holiday clutter like a Stop ‘N’ Swap. Since 2007 more than 7,000 New Yorkers have attended GrowNYC’s seasonal gathering to find new homes for unwanted items that are too good to toss. Even those who come to get rid of clutter find it hard to ignore the tables piled with books, music, toys, dishes, handbags, electronics and more. Whether it’s the joy of having more space at home or the fun of finding something great for free, Stop ‘N’ Swap puts a smile on every face and nothing good goes to waste. Learn more at www.GrowNYC.org/swap and check one out this winter! Upcoming Stop ‘N’ Swaps: Manhattan – Chinatown/Two Bridges Saturday, January 28, 2012, 12pm-3pm PS 126 Manhattan Academy of Technology 80 Catherine St at Cherry St Staten Island – West Brighton Sunday, February 5, 2012, 1pm-4pm St. Mary's Episcopal Church 347 Davis Ave (b/t Castleton Ave & S. St Austin's Pl)

Warthog is here!

In January, 2010, Greenmarket and NOFA-NY’s Organic Wheat Project hosted an event at the French Culinary Institute, which brought together grain producers, processors, bakers and chefs. In addition to discussing the development of an emerging regional grain system, the event included a tasting of products baked with locally-grown grains. Of all the wheat varieties showcased at this event, one proved a standout in terms of flavor: Warthog.

Among those present at the 2010 event was Thor Oechsner of Farmer Ground Flour. An organic crop farmer of over 700 acres in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Oechsner was taken by Warthog’s superb flavor, and began planting the variety for the first time that year. Now, Oechsner claims to grow more Warthog than any other producer in the Northeast. Warthog is a hard red winter wheat. Winter wheat is planted in fall, and grows to about four inches tall before becoming dormant in the cold winter temperatures. Then, it undergoes a process called vernalization; this period of dormancy is required for the plant to put up a seed head the following spring. The wheat is then harvested in July. Winter wheat tends to produce a higher-yield, lower-protein product. Oechsner describes Warthog as a hardy, strong, good-looking crop. To top it all off, it is amazingly easy to harvest.

While Warthog is relatively new to the United States, its commercial presence has grown in the Northeast’s regional grain shed since the tasting event two years ago. This is because, in addition to its great flavor, it is currently the best available hard red winter wheat variety. A reliable, clean seed supply has been accessible to Northeast farmers. It holds a high falling number, which means it resists sprouting in seed, an important quality for good baking flour. Its protein content is also considered decent for a winter variety.

Despite its benefits, Oechsner and other Warthog producers did face setbacks this year, owing to the wet weather. The wheat’s protein content was lower than expected. But Oechsner is confident that blending Warthog with a spring wheat flour will boost protein content while letting Warthog’s special flavor shine through. Blending means that Warthog’s traceability in the marketplace is reduced for the time being. However, the hope is that, in coming years, bakers and restaurants will seek out Warthog specifically for its superior flavor, and continue to spur the variety’s progress in the Northeast. In addition, Oechsner will be collaborating during the 2012 season with Elizabeth Dyck of OGRIN to develop grain trials with Warthog. These grain trials could lead to techniques for growing Warthog that will boost protein content and hedge against future rainy seasons. The focus of these trials is timing nitrogen fertilization. By adding nitrogen at a point when most of the plant’s vegetative growth has occurred – called the “boot” stage – the plant’s energy will be concentrated on seed development and protein production.

While Oechsner’s and Dyck’s goal is to learn more about growing Warthog successfully in the Northeast, Dyck continues to work with other producers to explore a variety of grains that could thrive in this region. Warthog is a great winter variety with outstanding flavor, but the hope is that, in the near future, growers will be able to choose among several high-quality wheat varieties.

New York Magazine Declares the Moment in Local Flour

Bread Last month, New York magazine's 'Reasons to Love New York' issue featured a 14-page spread on this 'local-floured moment in dough', an homage to the artisanal loaves that are being baked in the city's top ovens. Greenmarket’s efforts to encourage more regional growers to start planting grain began back in 2004, when Greenmarket began to assess how and where its bakers could source local flour. Thanks to those early efforts, chefs and bakers have embraced these less familiar grains incorporating them into seasonal dishes on their menus, and even hiring bakers and building bread ovens for their restaurants (Roman's and Roberta's, both in Brooklyn, are two examples). The article's 'Bread (Time) Line', notes 2009’s introduction of Cayuga Pure Organics’ locally grown and milled flour to Greenmarket as one of the most recent milestones in a great history. No less than 6 of the 13 bakers mentioned in New York’s round-up of the baker's dozen best attended the landmark tasting of local grains held by Greenmarket and the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) nearly two Januarys ago at the French Culinary Institute (covered here by Edible Manhattan). This event helped lay the groundwork for New York’s local grains revolution. And since that tasting, three more bakers that made NY mag's list have become involved with Greenmarket's Farm to Bakery pilot, a program which connects bakers directly to regional grain growers. Due to the increasing demand in the city marketplace, Greenmarket's grain farmers are expanding their businesses and encouraging the development of infrastructure like mills and malting facilities. And outside the city, on a regional scale, Greenmarket's work to publicize these farmers, help build demand, and educate shoppers on the varieties of grains that grow well in the Northeast has rippled out to fields in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, where yet more growers and bakers are embracing this wave of heritage grain. Check out a list of where and when to buy local grain and flour at Greenmarket, as well as a list of Greenmarket grain-forward recipes to expand your baking repertoire.

Starting 2012 on a Healthy Note

EBT Yesterday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn stopped by Union Square on the first market day of the New Year to applaud an increase in use of food stamps at GrowNYC Greenmarkets across the city in 2011. Food stamp purchases at Greenmarkets increased from $505,166 to over $620,000 in 2011, a 23 percent increase from 2010.  Some markets reported nearly $6,000 in food stamp sales in a single day. In 2011, approximately 75% of food stamp dollars at Greenmarkets were spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, while EBT spent on baked goods dropped by nearly 5 percent. Families are choosing nutrition first by spending their limited food dollars on the healthiest options available at the farmers market. At the same time, these dollars are reinvested in our regional economy as increased revenues for farmers. The Union Square Greenmarket had the highest food stamp sales of any market at $151,813 in 2011. Greenmarket partnered with the NYC Food Bank to offer food stamp screenings for more than 250 New Yorkers at Union Square to determine if they qualify for Food Stamps, providing valuable public education and outreach on the program. GrowNYC is deeply grateful to Speaker Quinn and the New York City Council for their support of this program. In 2006, the City Council began partnering with GrowNYC to provide funding for EBT scanners, signage, community outreach, merchant account fees and dedicated staff members to operate the machines at the Greenmarkets. The program has been highly successful and this year EBT was accepted at 43 Greenmarkets. Read more about our EBT program, find a Greenmarket near you that accepts EBT, or read NY1's coverage of our great 2011.