March 2012

Rampwatch '12: Ramps are here!

What do airports, interstate highways, skateboard parks, and Greenmarket all have in common?

THEY ALL HAVE RAMPS!

Want to get your hands on some ramps? At the Union Square Greenmarket, you can get them on Mondays from Race Farm and on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm. They'll be appearing at more and more farms at your local Greenmarket in the near future.

Some of GrowNYC's Best Volunteers

We are truly thankful for the time volunteers commit to helping GrowNYC provide resources for a better NYC. Meet a few of our awesome volunteers! JOE BUCK As an Open Space Greening volunteer with GrowNYC, Joe has led teams of volunteers at Greening's biggest event of the year, the Annual Spring Plant Sale, which distributes plants to over 500 neighborhood garden projects every year. Why he does it: I enjoy the opportunities with GrowNYC and the community gardens because I get to tap into my imaginary “Inner-Gardener” in the midst of the urban jungle. “To be of service” was instilled in me growing up, so it feels natural to lend a hand. Besides, being self-absorbed is far more exhausting. The best part: Getting dirty! My job is a suit and tie. So having the opportunity to dig in the dirt, learn about a flower or vegetable or help create an oasis in what was once an empty lot is magical. It sounds bit corny, but I mean it. The impact: It connects resources with needs! It gives people the opportunity to step out their comfort zones and actually be part of the solution. Each one teach one, right?! NANCY RAPHAEL As a recycling volunteer with GrowNYC, Nancy has helped teach New Yorkers about composting and contributed to successful recycling at large events. Why she does it: I thoroughly believe that it takes a collective effort to make a difference and enjoy working with GrowNYC staff and fellow volunteers who have dedication visible in their faces. I do not view my volunteering experience as giving up my Saturday or Sunday, or as sacrificing my sleep. Instead, I see it as contributing my time to making a big difference in changing the carbon footprint of New York and I am proud to be a part of such a large task. The best part: The fun of engaging with New Yorkers and asking them to take care of the city they live in and think of the world they are a part of as well as connecting with fellow volunteers. I also enjoy the camaraderie between recycling volunteers that makes for a successful effort. The impact: As people become more and more conscious, they will feel compelled to volunteer their time and recycle at home and everywhere they may be--picking up stuff on the ground or advising others to recycle. ERIN EASTERN As a Greenmarket volunteer with GrowNYC, Erin staffs Union Square Greenmarket's Market Information Station and answers customer questions while assisting with cooking demonstrations and other market promotions. Why I do it: I volunteer because I believe in the farmers market/food justice movement and enjoy being helpful to the Market Managers so that they can run one of the best Public Markets in the world. I am proud to be a small part in the success of Greenmarket. Also, I love being outside rain or shine. As an indoor worker during the week, I genuinely miss the time I spent working outdoors and the feeling of being out there (especially when the weather is beautiful, of course). The best part: Having a community that is separate from my work, family, and friends. The people I meet through Greenmarket cross the usual cultural boundaries (e.g. urban/rural, young/old, farmer/organizer) and broaden my social world. I enjoy meeting the other volunteers and learning how they came to Greenmarket; making new friends that also have an interest in food justice, urban growing, CSA's, and a myriad of other cool things unrelated to food like film studies, United States law, and sports. The impact: The larger impact of Greenmarket is huge and I like thinking about how I am part of what they accomplish: Encouraging New Yorkers to interact with their food producers and learn where their food comes from; providing underserved communities access to fresh, healthy foods; creating a learning environment for schools and media; incubating small businesses and helping farmers to stay on their land.

Local Recycling Options for Obsolete High-Tech Trash

When coming across some of the dated materials accumulating around the GrowNYC office, it’s not hard to believe that we are a 41-year-old organization. We recently discovered a stash of floppy disks and decided to purchase a Technotrash bin to have them recycled. These bins, available through a company called Greendisk, accept all kinds of media and tech-related waste for reuse or recycling. With all the great resources at hand in NYC we’re reserving our bin for the most obsolete materials, like VHS and audio tapes. Check out some of the many ways for NYC residents to recycle ever-accumulating e-waste and tech trash, thanks to recent laws, voluntary initiatives and community efforts: • Inkjet and toner cartridges: Return to Office Depot, Staples, check manufacturer packaging for mail-back labels. • Cell phones: NY state law requires all wireless providers to accept phones for recycling free of charge. Many charities also accept phones and chargers. • Rechargeable batteries: Prohibited from residential waste, but easily recyclable by returning to any retailer that sells the same type of battery. • Alkaline batteries: Bring to the DSNY Special Waste Drop-Off Site in your borough or to one of the City’s Household Hazardous Waste collections this spring. • Best Buy: Vacuums? CDs? Video game cartridges? What won’t these guys recycle? Bring up to three pieces of e-waste and other appliances per day free of charge. • Staples: Accepts up to 6 items per day of any brand computer, monitor, printer, shredder, UPS device, peripherals, and small office electronics like mobile phones, GPS and digital cameras. • Goodwill: Stores accept any brand of computer and peripherals at no charge. • Lower East Side Ecology Center’s E-waste Warehouse: Will accept electronics and alkaline, button, lithium and rechargeable batteries at no charge at their new drop-off site in Brooklyn. • Sims Recycling Solutions: Offers NY residents a free, postage-paid mail-back program for any brand of electronic equipment. • We Recycle!: Offers NY residents a free, postage-paid mail-back program for any brand of electronic equipment. Find upcoming electronics collections in neighborhoods across New York and visit NYC WasteLess for more info on electronics recycling in NYC.

Ground Breaking Bread Baking

In late-February, when Greenmarket farmers could still claim they were in ‘winter hibernation,’ Thor Oeschner and Erik Smith of Farmer Ground Flour and Cayuga Pure Organics snuck away from their farms in the Finger Lakes to make an appearance at the Brooklyn Kitchen. Each presented a series of slides that documented the process that takes place from seed to market to bring local grain and flour down to sell to city customers. It wasn’t so many years ago that they started selling their products at Greenmarket to begin with, and now their whole grains like freekeh and emmer appear on the menu at places like the John Dory Oyster Bar and have graced the airwaves on National Public Radio. With a burgeoning market for their products in the city, their business has been able to expand, meaning new equipment, new varieties in the field and luckily for us, many new loaves of bread around town. Earlier this week, 75 bread baking enthusiasts from around the city made their way out of the woodwork (okay, their pint sized city kitchens) to share what they’ve been concocting with local flour. Into the Home Baker’s Meet-up streamed carefully wrapped loaves of hard red wheat sourdough, whole wheat levain, honey whole wheat, Irish soda bread, sourdough topped with flax, nigella sesame, celery and mustard seeds, and thin sheets of einkorn flatbread, among many, many others. Bakers eagerly shared recipes and ideas: how to use fermented apple peels to make sourdough starter, or how to make a rye and pickle loaf (again, nice and sour). People talked about experimenting with the local flour available at farmstands like Oak Grove Plantation, Cayuga Pure Organics and Wild Hive Bakery to make monkey bread and pizza dough.

Professional bakers Sharon Leader of Bread Alone, Terrence Geary of Orwasher’s and Peter Endriss of Runner and Stone talked to the group about what the introduction of local flour to the market over the last few years has meant to their respective businesses. They have adjusted long-standing recipes and invented new ones based on the products that are now available. And they’re literally buying tons. Turning from the commodity hard wheat crop from big mills in the Midwest, these bakers have figured out how to work with varieties that grow well in our immediate surroundings like spelt, einkorn, buckwheat and triticale while still meeting customers’ expectations for superior taste and quality, and at the same time introducing them to products they have never tasted before. Gable Erenzo of Tuthilltown Spirits has embraced regional grain in liquid form: we love him for his excellent Hudson Baby Bourbon, but in the distillery’s reserve he’s got trial bottles of spirits made of triticale and whatever else he can get his hands on. We can’t wait to taste what makes it to the top shelf. Visit our collection of recipes < http://www.grownyc.org> for inspiration to start baking on your own with local grains!

Recycling Volunteer Profile: Michael Mullaley

We asked some questions to Michael Mullaley, age 25, an Office of Recycling Outreach & Education volunteer who has been volunteering with us almost every weekend and who has made promoting composting a passion of his ever since moving to NYC from Oregon. Check out our conversation on his volunteerism! OROE: What prompted you to volunteer with OROE? Michael: I majored in Environmental Studies in college and have been doing various conservation work over the last couple years. After moving to New York City, I wanted to learn about, and get involved with, environmental organizations here and some of the work that they are doing. OROE’s volunteer opportunities to get out on the ground, talk to people and help educate them about recycling and composting really appealed to me. Also, I wanted to personally learn more about recycling in NYC since guidelines are a little more specific here than back in Oregon. OROE: What was your best experience volunteering with OROE so far? Michael: I have two. I really enjoy working up at Inwood because of the sense of community that is generated at a farmers market. All the community members make me feel right at home. The other best experience came when I tabled at the Chinese New Year recycling event. It was very exciting to see the young kids get enthusiastic about the recycling game, and was quite impressive how quickly they picked up all the various details. OROE: Have you always been a recycling enthusiast? Michael: Definitely. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where recycling is second-nature. There are much fewer recycling-specific constrictions on items, which makes the overall experience simpler and less confusing. The city’s recycling infrastructure is very well organized too.

OROE: What’s your environmental policy? Michael: Try and do things that limit my ecological footprint, which means becoming more aware of my actions and its impact on my surroundings. Develop sustainable habits in your everyday life (ie energy and water conservation, public transportation, recycling, collecting food scraps, buying less “stuff”), while trying to get involved with groups and organizations to have a greater environmental impact. Also, it has become a passion and priority to just get out and enjoy nature. Not only is it a chance to revel in the many gorgeous American landscapes, but it helps to put a face on that which is threatened by anthropogenic actions, and why it is so important to conserve, protect and fight for ecosystems. OROE: What’s your personal philosophy? Michael: Always be kind, work hard, and be open to new experiences. OROE: What is your favorite thing about living in New York? Michael: The wide diversity of people, cultures and languages here are incredible. I also love the public transportation, city parks and the surprisingly large amount of community gardens. OROE: What is your favorite thing about volunteering in New York? Michael: Meeting all sorts of people and listening to their individual stories. OROE: Has volunteering with OROE helped you see New York or New Yorkers in a different light? Michael: New York is more sustainable than people give it credit for. But there is still plenty of recycling and compost education to be done! OROE: What upcoming events are you signed on to volunteer for with OROE? Michael: Compost collection at Inwood, and Earth Day recycling education. OROE: What are the benefits of volunteering with OROE? Michael: You get to talk to people about environmental issues and help empower them to take action. In general, you have a chance to give back to the community, support a cause you believe in, gain additional experience you might not have had, and, of course, meet people.

The Northeast Grainshed: 2011 Season in Review – Part 2: Processing and Infrastructure

While grain farmers in the Northeast grappled with rainy weather and growing demand for regional grains in 2011, off the farm, millers and processors worked to keep up with the expanding popularity of locally-produced flours, malts, and other products throughout this past year. This meant both challenges and exciting new additions to the region’s grain infrastructure. The relative newness of the small-scale grain system in the Northeast presents some challenges to scaling up. According to Glenda Neff of the Farm to Bakery project, almost all of the mills currently processing locally-grown grains are fairly new, small, stone mills. Few have the equipment to test for grain quality, so they have to send out samples to labs to check such characteristics as protein level and falling rate. In addition, access to equipment for post-harvest cleaning is limited; an increasing number of small-scale mills are considering how to add this to their set up.

Another challenge to infrastructure is the lack of additional processing equipment for those grains needing specialized processing, like oats. Cut oats need to be steamed and processed, so that the oils in them don’t go rancid. Currently, the set up to do this on a regional scale is largely lacking. Likewise, de-hulling equipment for grains like spelt and emmer is available in only a few locations throughout the region. Only two mills have de-hulling equipment, and process grains that need the hulls removed as a service for other farmers and millers in the region. Wild Hive Farm and Mill is one such processor hoping to provide this service. The need for growth in infrastructure creates an opportunity for scaling up, and 2011 marked a year of significant growth for the Northeast grainshed. According to miller Gregory Mol, for example, over the past six months Farmer Ground Flour has been purchasing additional equipment to expand its grinding capacity from 300 pounds per hour to an eventual 800 pounds per hour. Mol, who describes milling as a process of grinding and sifting, is adding a bigger stone mill and a couple more sifters to his facility. Some of the equipment was purchased used from the old Hodgson Mill facility, a national-scale processer of whole grain and organic products. Mol expects that, once the equipment is fully installed, his increased production capacity will lead to an eventual need for more storage space. Wild Hive Farm and Mill also greatly expanded its processing capacity in 2011. Owner Don Lewis previously operated one 20-inch mill, and in 2011 added a 30-inch mill and a 16-inch mill. This meant he more than doubled his capacity. The addition of the smaller mill also means he can do more specialized orders for smaller clients. Like Farmer Ground Flour, Wild Hive’s “new” equipment was actually purchased used; according to Lewis, used equipment is preferable, since factory standards are low so new equipment often needs significant work to get it functioning properly. Wild Hive Farm and Mill expects to continue expanding in 2012, opening to the public for tours and educational programming. Valley Malt is another processor who made great strides in scaling up in 2011. As one of only a handful of micro-malting facilities in North America, Valley Malt is a pioneer in grain processing in the Northeast. The business started in 2010 when owner Andrea Stanley and her husband, Christian, started looking into establishing their own micro-brewery using all local ingredients. What they quickly discovered was that locally-grown grains would need to be malted before brewing, and the closest malt-house—in Wisconsin—required a minimum order of 30 tons of grain. The Stanleys decided this was a gap that needed filling, and decided to become the first small-scale malt house in the Northeast. This past year, Valley Malt made some exciting additions to their business. One highlight is their Brewers Supported Agriculture program. Eight breweries bought shares of the field where Valley Malt’s barley is grown (the company works extremely closely with farmers like Klaus Martens to produce food-quality barley with appropriate characteristics for malting), and then received distributions of malt throughout the season. One participating brewer commented that adding Valley Malt’s product to their mash caused an immediate reaction to their senses. The aromas produced by the local malt were so distinct and delicious that brewers were taken aback. To Andrea, this highlights not only the growth in awareness for locally-produced grain products; it also affirms the need to make local products that are superior in quality. Like Farmer Ground Flour, Valley Malt expects continued growth in 2012. The company will shut down its equipment for the first two weeks of March to install a new system, which will allow them to increase production from 1 ton of malt per week to 4 tons weekly. This will allow Valley Malt to catch up, to some degree, to current demand. Re-building the regional grainshed has meant a lot of creativity and self-sufficiency. Christian Stanley, an engineer by training, designed the malt vessel for Valley Malt, and did the installation and mechanization work himself. At NOFA-NY’s winter conference in January, a workshop led by R.G. Bell, Tim Baty, and Robert Perry covered small-scale grain cleaning, storage, and milling; a major focus of the workshop was how small-scale equipment can be fashioned out of easily-accessible and re-purposed materials. Finally, growth in 2011 could be seen in the expansion of local-scale distilling in and around New York City. A number of new distilleries opened up this past year, many of whom proudly use local grains in their product. Stay tuned for Seasonal Updates Part 3 – Regional Grains Retail for more on local distilleries.