June 2012

15 Reasons To Eat Locally Grown Grain

Since 2010, Greenmarket has required its bakers to use at least 15% local flour in their breads and baked goods. Why? To make sure Greenmarket bakers are as much a part of local agriculture as Greenmarket farmers. The great news is that, since then, bakers have incorporated increasing amounts of locally-grown grains into their products. Greenmarket has helped by supporting grain farmers; creating connections to build processing infrastructure like mills, malt houses, and distilleries; and hosting tastings and other events to get customers excited about local grains. Greenmarket bakers now use an average of 50% local flour. With so many reasons to source local grains, this number will continue to grow! 15 Reasons to Eat Locally Grown Grain 1. Local grains taste better. Farmers grow a diverse variety of wheat and other grains, and these products travel a more direct path from the field to your pantry. Without the conventional additives, local grains have more interesting flavor profiles and taste fresher. 2. Local grains have more character. From their behavior in the bowl to their nutritional value, local grains are “alive”, making them more fun to work with and better for your body. 3. Local grains build healthy soils. Growing grains can prevent soil erosion and add organic matter to soils, building their fertility. In other words: Local grains help support the local vegetables we love! 4. Supporting local grains rebuilds regional food systems and the regional economy. In addition to the on-farm jobs they support, local grains require processing, storage, and distribution. This means more regional-scale infrastructure and jobs in these facilities. It also paves the way to create other regional food infrastructure for products like meat, pickled and processed goods, and more. 5. Nothing makes truly “artisan” bread like truly artisan grains. Bakers using regional grains are constantly innovating to celebrate the diverse flavors and characteristics of local grains, creating a richer array of products. 6. If eating emmer makes you sexy, eating einkorn makes you even sexier. Need we say more? 7. Local grains increase the diversity of products farmers can grow. This makes their businesses stronger and more resilient. It also makes local ecology more resilient by increasing biodiversity. 8. Greenmarket farmers grow these products really, really well. They do magic with tomatoes; imagine what they can do with spelt. 9. You shouldn’t have to go to Brighton Beach to get good buckwheat and rye bread. 10. Heritage corn makes better polenta, better tortillas, and better bourbon. 11. You can cook it, bake it, brew it AND distill it. 12. Local grains are traceable. No GMOs. No secrets. Just ask your farmer. 13. “Warthog” is fun to say. Our farmers love it for its beautiful agronomic traits. Our bakers love it for its rich flavor. We just like the way it sounds. 14. Because the “staff of life” should be local, too. 15. Bread is agriculture! And so is beer, whiskey, cake, and granola.

Bread is Agriculture: Greenmarket Bakers and Local Grains

In 2010, after years of conversations with its bakers and farmers, Greenmarket implemented a rule requiring its bakers to source at least 15% of the flour they used from local farms and mills. As an organization which seeks to strengthen regional agriculture, Greenmarket wanted to ensure that all of its producers were in support of this mission. On the other hand, much of the infrastructure to grow and process grains in the Northeast had been lost throughout the decades. By implementing the 15% local flour rule, Greenmarket was asking its bakers to reflect the organization’s mission in their business models, while recognizing the inherent challenges that sourcing local flour could create. Now, two years later, Greenmarket is proud to announce that its bakers use an average of 50% local flour in their baked goods. New infrastructure has been added to the Northeast’s grain-shed, and this sector of the food system continues to grow. To highlight the success of this partnership between Greenmarket and its bakers, over the next few months Greenmarket will be sharing regular installments in our Bread is Agriculture series. Look out for interviews with bakers on the GrowNYC blog; Baked Good of the Week features on Facebook; and literature at the info booth at our markets, including 15 Reasons to Eat Local Grain.

Senator Gillibrand visits Union Square to Challenge Food Stamp Cuts

Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of GrowNYC, welcomes Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and fellow anti-hunger advocates to Union Square.

On Monday, the Union Square Greenmarket hosted New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Marcel Van Ooyen, executive director of GrowNYC, as well as anti-hunger advocates including chef Tom Coliccio and Joel Berg, executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The Senator announced the introduction of her proposed amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill, challenging the $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP (Food Stamps) over the next ten years.

"This Farm Bill is much more than a set of esoteric numbers. It’s very much about the decisions we are making regarding economic growth, regarding our agriculture industries, and the moral obligation we have to our families that are at risk," said Senator Gillibrand. "Food stamps are an extraordinary investment because for every dollar that you put into the SNAP program, you get out $1.71. Under the current bill, families in New York will lose about $90 a month in their food stamps, which means in the third week of the month, many families’ children will go to school hungry. It also means less food on a kitchen table for children. I have very grave concerns about what that says about us, and what we’re going to do about it."

As Greenmarket shoppers know, Food Stamps are a critical component of GrowNYC's Greenmarket program. 90% of our markets accept EBT/Food Stamps, ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to healthy local food, and these dollars provide an important revenue source for Greenmarket farmers. Since 2007, Greenmarkets around the city have seen a steady increase in sales made at market with Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.

"Over the course of the last five years, GrowNYC's EBT initiative has resulted in $1.53 million in revenue to farmers, generating an estimated $2.8 million of regional economic activity according to the USDA," said Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of GrowNYC. "The exponential growth of EBT dollars spent at our Greenmarkets since 2007 demonstrates an ever increasing demand from all New Yorkers for fresh, healthy food. By providing access to the freshest food available, the food stamp at farmers market program plays a major role in curbing diet related disease, and ensures a healthier lifestyle for all citizens while simultaneously supporting regional agriculture. The proposed cut to the food stamp program would mean a devastating loss to farmers, as well as the families who need this assistance the most."

Read the full press release from the event, and watch the video below of Senator Gillibrand as she introduced her amendment on the Senate floor yesterday.