David Rowley of Monkshood Nursery on salad shoots, Hurricane Irene, and more

Monkshood Nursery’s summer selection of cherry tomatoes, herbs and greens has earned a loyal following of customers at the Columbia (Sunday) and Jackson Heights Greenmarkets. This winter, farmer David Rowley has joined the Saturday line-up at Union Square, bringing with him a terrific variety of salad shoots—the perfect greenery to add a little lift to your local winter diet. First of all, can you clear us up on the difference between shoots and sprouts? The shoots are the aerial part of the plant that grows just above the soil—just the first leaves. A sprout includes the seed, the root and beginning of the shoot. Can you explain how you grow them, and when they’re harvested? Our shoots are grown in the greenhouse. First you soak the seeds, then distribute them on trays of potting soil. Then they’re kept in the dark for an amount of time that varies, depending on the variety. Then, we expose them to the sun, and again, the length of time depends on the variety. Finally, we cut them with clean scissors, bag them up, and bring them to market. From seed to finished product, the whole process ranges from eight days to three weeks, taking less time in the summer than in the winter, and of course, depending on which kind of shoot you’re growing. It’s amazing—such a vibrant thing—to see all those seeds germinating so close together at the same time in the greenhouse. How many varieties are you growing now? Seven. And which varieties are new to you this year? Oriental spicy mustard, arugula, and mung bean shoots. And those (the mung bean shoots) are fantastic! I eat them straight off the tray. If I’m making eggs, I just sprinkle them on top for breakfast, or add them to a sandwich at lunch, and I can have them in a salad at dinner. A little goes a long way—the flavor is very intense. What gave you the idea to branch off in a new direction with these products? It was the year of the tomato blight, a really wet year, and we had to come up with products to account for the loss of tomatoes to keep both our CSA members and customers happy. So we started to think about what kind of salads we could produce. We determined by trial and error what grows well at Monkshood. What do shoots offer your diet in the months when local eating relies heavily on squash, root vegetables, grains and proteins? Nutritional information on each variety of shoot is available at the market for shoppers to peruse while they taste the different products. Mung been shoots, for instance, are a great source of protein, Vitamins B and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and amino acids. How do you approach selling in the market during the winter? In the winter, the temps are beneath freezing, and the salads and shoots all have to be kept above freezing at all times. When we thought about selling them the first winter we grew them, we thought ‘What do we need here (to sell at market)? Walls? Heat?’ We made an environment at our outdoor market stand that’s almost like a shop. It’s comfy for the shoots, protected by walls and kept warm enough with a heater, and it’s also comfy for us. The vibe in there feels kind of like it does in the greenhouse at the farm. My motto for customers is: ‘Try before you buy.’ Mix and match your greens—it’s like a salad bar. Or, really, a salad booth. You were hit pretty hard by Hurricane Irene this past fall, how did you adjust your business to continue coming to market? We moved the majority of our salad production from where it had been on the farm, and we’ve just about finished construction on a new greenhouse—with many thanks to the help of my neighbor, a land owner. It’s half an acre in total. We started to build the greenhouse in the end of December, and expect to put the first shoots in it in the beginning of March. Outside of the greenhouse, what’s the first sign on the farm that spring is coming? We’ll start to see green garlic coming up in the ground. See the photo below—that garlic is already peeping through!

Spring Cleaning is Even Greener with NYC SAFE Disposal Events

New Yorkers generate about 8,500 tons of so-called Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) each year, not to mention what we store in basements and under our kitchen sinks.

Thanks to a new annual collection program, residents can safely dispose of hazardous substances such as household cleaners, mothballs, hobby supplies, glues, nail polish, batteries, paint, pesticides, medicine and more at the NYC Department of Sanitation’s NYC SAFE Disposal Events coming to each borough this spring.

Can’t make it to an event? Find everyday safe disposal options on GrowNYC’s Recycling Resources page. Finally, avoid disposal problems by learning to reduce toxins in your home.

Grow to Learn NYC turns 1 and registers its 200th School

We're proud to report that Grow to Learn NYC: the Citywide School Gardens Initiative has just celebrated its first anniversary. A public/private partnership between GrowNYC, the Mayor’s Office to Advance New York City, and GreenThumb, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Grow to Learn was created to inspire, create and maintain gardens in every public school in New York City. Offering mini-grants, free materials and technical expertise to registered gardens, Grow to Learn helps school gardeners create gardens that can be utilized as outdoor classrooms and indoor living labs.

We're also proud that we've just registered our 200th school garden. From the southern tip of Manhattan to the northern reaches of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, school gardens of all shapes and sizes are flourishing. Teachers are able to utilize the gardens to help students apply what they have learned in the classroom to everything from science and math to foreign languages, nutrition, health and even music. After-school programs in urban planning, environmental studies and urban farming are able to utilize the gardens as teaching tools, and summertime gardening programs are able to continue to harvest fresh vegetables through the peak growing season. Students report that they feel more enthusiastic about learning when they can see how it applies in "the real world," teachers report that the students feel a deep sense of personal responsibility and pride that their school has a garden and an overall greater interest in subjects where the garden is utilized. We are also told that having a school garden creates a sense of community within the school and also with the community at large as neighbors stop by to find out what the kids are doing in the garden.

Don’t see your school garden on the list or want to start one at your school? Visit Grow to Learn to read all about the benefits of registration at our website www.growtolearn.org, view Success Stories for some inspiration about what a school garden can look like, or get Step-by-Step help to learn how to start a garden at a school of your own. You can also find us on Facebook!

Starting a school garden is an incredibly rewarding endeavor; get started now and perhaps yours can be garden #201!

2/7 Bowling Green Greenmarket rescheduled due to Giants ticket-tape parade

The Tuesday, February 7th Bowling Green Greenmarket will be rescheduled for Wednesday, February 8th due to the scheduled ticker-tape parade through downtown Manhattan. Congrats, Giants!

We Need a New Tagline!

You know us best. You see us in your neighborhood leading recycling workshops, operating farmers markets, collecting textiles and food scraps for recycling and compost, and engaging NYC school kids in restoration projects. We are your resource for making New York City a greener, healthier City. Come up with a short, action-oriented tagline or even 4 or 5 words you associate us with. Tell us how you and GrowNYC work together to improve our city. If we pick your tagline, we’ll give you a shout-out on our blog and on Facebook and will give you a great prize! Email your submissions to ideas@grownyc.org.

Deadline: Feb. 29

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.