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.

Attention NYC public schools: Apply for GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions Program for the 2012-2013 school year

Is Your School a Recycling Champion?

Update! We've extended the deadline to June 22nd at 5pm. GrowNYC is now accepting applications for the 2012-2013 Recycling Champions Program from NYC public schools! Recycling Champions is a free program available to K-12 schools in all five boroughs that helps to launch model, school-wide recycling programs. It's conducted in partnership with the NYC Department of Education Division of School Facilities and Office of Sustainability, and the NYC Department of Sanitation.

Recycling Champions aims to empower schools to comply with, and exceed, NYC's recycling laws, and in the process students create school wide projects and campaigns, and learn environmental leadership skills that place their schools on the forefront of NYC's Mayoral directive to double the City's diversion rate by 2017. Your school can receive a dedicated coordinator to help organize school recycling and events, galvanize staff, and educate students through hands-on lessons and activities. The application deadline is June 22! Download the application as a PDF file or as a Word DOC. See you at School!

Help GrowNYC Win a New Grow Truck!

Grow Truck is GrowNYC's mobile tool-lending program, delivering tools, donated plants, soil, compost, and lumber, and dispensing on-site technical assistance all across New York City, for free since 1977. We've had our current Grow Truck for 23 years, and it's time for a new one - and you can help us get a brand new truck by voting for GrowNYC in Toyota's 100 Cars for Good contest on Facebook. On Sunday May 20th, go to 100carsforgood.com and vote for GrowNYC. In the meantime, you can "Attend" our Facebook event so you get a reminder to vote for us on the 20th. Until May 20th, watch the video we made especially for this contest, and look through some of our photos below of the Grow Truck's past 35 years. And by all means - if you've got a project that you need to borrow tools for, let us know!

The Northeast Grainshed: 2011 Season in Review - Part 3: Retail Innovations and Spring 2012 Preview

The increasing prevalence of grains on New York area farms and in processing facilities throughout the region has manifested itself as a spectacular and delicious array of products and end uses in New York City, and around the Northeast. Conversations with businesses putting these locally-grown grains to work demonstrates a creativity and enthusiasm worthy of the hard work that has gone into their production. Bakeries are typically the first to come to mind when thinking about how consumers enjoy local grains and flours. The role that Greenmarket and its bakers have played in stimulating this facet of the food system confirms this important relationship. In 2010, interested in encouraging its bakers to be more mission supportive, Greenmarket implemented its Bakers Rules, which required bakers at market to use a minimum of 15% local flour in their breads and baked goods. Many staff and farmers in the Greenmarket community felt it only fair that bakers, who had long relied on commodity flours, incorporate practices into their businesses that would support local foods and farms. The 15% level was chosen in order to both create significant pressure on the Northeast grain-shed to grow, while recognizing that local flour was still somewhat of a novelty.

Greenmarket bakers have become increasingly enthusiastic about the local flour rule since its implementation, and today some bakers go well beyond the 15% minimum requirement. As a result, the use of local flour by Greenmarket bakers has grown to an average of 50% used by each baker, and some bakers source the vast majority of their flour from farms throughout the region. At the same time, bakers outside of the Greenmarket system have shown their support of local agriculture through their sourcing practices, as well. In 2011, Peter Endriss, formerly of Hot Bread Kitchen, began baking and selling bread under his own label, Runner & Stone. From the beginning, Peter was interested in using local flours for Runner & Stone’s products. He had first gotten experience with these products at Hot Bread Kitchen; as a Greenmarket bakery, they source from the Northeast. But his involvement in Slow Food, and his background in natural resources management and environmental inspections, contribute to what he describes as a “natural marriage” between making great food and ensuring that it’s done in a low environmental impact way. For Endriss, the challenge comes in adapting these local flours and whole grains to achieve the products he envisions for Runner & Stone. His father is from Germany, and Peter spent some time early in his career baking in the Black Forest region. The influence of this period can be seen in the pretzel croissants and Schwabian pretzels that have made their way into his offerings at the Brooklyn Flea, where he sells his products each weekend. It is also apparent in his TKTKT ryes. Endriss also bakes products that have stayed with him from travels to Paris, like the canneles he says he just started making because “I wanted to eat it”. All of the whole grain and all purpose flours Endriss uses are locally sourced, and in the fall he will be opening a retail bakery and full-service Runner & Stone restaurant in Gowanus, which will feature local and seasonal products throughout the menu. The crafting of locally-grown grains into delicious concoctions and products doesn’t stop at bread. Farm-forward restaurants are increasingly featuring local grains on their menus, from pastas to risottos to more out-of-the-box dishes that often depart from the traditional fixation on protein-obsessed cuisine. Chef Mike Anthony, who has been the chef at Gramercy Tavern for the past six years, describes the infusion of grains throughout his menu, both as a professional chef and as a parent. Anthony’s commitment to exploring products like freekeh or barley reflects his growing awareness that grains form a foundation of the way we eat. He explains that, at home, he can augment a basket of local produce with locally-grown grains to create meals that are nutritious, but also filling. Given that they are such a fundamental component of our diets, Anthony has likewise created dishes for his restaurant that pay homage to this food group, while re-defining what luxury food means to New York eaters. Rather than adopting a European palette focused on imported ingredients, Anthony defines luxury as a connection to source, and an ability to explore luscious textures and amazing aromas through ingredients that have a back-story. He describes a dish where barley is cooked until soft with vegetable stock, then folded into reduced carrot juice and a rainbow of glazed carrots of different varieties. Over the top he showers grilled carrots, then shaves raw carrot over the top. While lacking in the traditional richness associated with luxury foods – butter, cream, cheese – this dish explores texture and color through simple, incredibly fresh ingredients. In addition to an ever-evolving palette of dishes such as this one, Gramercy tavern uses spelt flour in their hamburger buns. In 2012, Anthony plans to introduce a spelt pasta, as well – which, he explains, will have a soba-like quality. He plans to pair it with grilled ramps. Also milling around in his imagination: How to bring Einkorn, an ancient grain with an emerging presence in the Northeast grainshed, into his kitchen. As farmers broaden the array of grains they produce, and processing capacity grows and diversifies, the number of end-uses for local grains has also expanded. Not least among the emerging users of local grains are the region’s brewers and distillers. Just last year, Greenmarket introduced its first beer vendor at market – Tundra Brewing. From this promising start-up all the way up to what is perhaps the city’s best-known beer-maker – Brooklyn Brewery – we are seeing more and more local grains in our pint glasses. In 2011, Brooklyn Brewery introduced the High Line Elevated Wheat, a seasonal brew available for sale exclusively on the High Line. While Brooklyn Brewery has used local honey for some time, many of the other ingredients necessary for brewing beer have been largely unavailable at the local level, until recently. For the Elevated Wheat, Brooklyn Brewery sourced red winter wheat from North Country Farms. The wheat was selected because it grows well in New York State, and also because of its nice, smoky flavor. While the Elevated Wheat was brewed specially for the 2011 season, Brooklyn Brewery has ambitions for expanding its repertoire of beers using local grains sometime in the future. One hope is to grow barley specifically for the brewery on Long Island, malt it locally in Brooklyn, and combine it with locally-grown hops to create an entirely local Brooklyn brew. The number of new distilleries cropping up in and around New York City is perhaps the most impressive example of the development of regional grain-focused businesses. Take Tuthilltown Spirits, for example. A pioneering farm distillery since the early 2000s, as of 2011 Tuthilltown sourced 90% of its grains from within NY State, the majority from within 10 miles of the distillery. These grains include a variety of corn called Whapsie Valley, as well as rye varietals that were identified with the help of a seed saver in New England. As a farm distillery, Tuthilltown must be financially responsible for its crops, meaning that it leases land from partner farms and hires the farmer to grow the grains for the distillery; this arrangement provides an incentive for a farmer to grow obscure grains that may otherwise be absent from the Northeast agricultural landscape. Tuthilltown Spirits spent some time in 2011 experimenting with some less conventional grains in its distillery, including spelt, oats, and triticale. While they haven’t released any of these experimental batches, they plan to continue trying different grains and eventually releasing small batches of these spirits, most likely within the next year and a half. They’re also working with a New York producer of wild rice, and thinking more and more about soju, which can be made from both locally-grown sweet potatoes or barley. Tuthilltown is not the only distiller using local grains to bring great spirits to consumers in the region. Finger Lakes Distilling, The New York Distilling Company, and Breuckelen Distilling are among other businesses with a commitment to supporting the local grain-shed. And, as growth continues to occur all along the Northeast grains value chain, the diversity of appearances of local grains in city restaurants, bakeries, markets, and on store shelves will likely grow, as well.

NY Times covers GrowNYC's efforts to establish Wholesale Farmers Market / Food Hub

The New York Times recently profiled local efforts to include regional farmers in the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, including GrowNYC's proposal to expand our Wholesale Greenmarket to include a Regional Food Hub that would provide valuable opportunity and space for more than 100 local farmers and producers.

GrowNYC, the agency that runs a network of 57 retail green markets with 240 small-scale farmers, has proposed a $12 million center at or near the Hunts Point terminal. It would have indoor space providing refrigeration and storage for 80 farmers and space for complementary businesses like makers of local cheeses and preserves. The plan also envisions an outdoor site for an additional 50 farmers. Marcel Van Ooyen, the agency’s executive director, said that such a hub would allow farmers to set their own prices, sell directly to wholesale customers and keep more money in their pockets, just as the small farmers do. “We think this is a huge game changer,” he said.

GrowNYC's Wholesale Greenmarket, located at the Fulton Fish Market in the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center in the Bronx, offers over 100 local and regional farm-fresh products including fruits, vegetables, herbs, plants, and flowers at competitive wholesale prices and quantities. Wholesale Greenmarket is open April to December, Tuesday - Saturday from 2:00 AM - 8:00 AM.

Read the article.

GrowNYC's Hurricane Relief Distributes $100,000+ to Regional Farmers

GrowNYC is pleased to announce that $100,862 in donated funds has been distributed to regional farmers who were hit hardest by last summer’s storms. When Tropical Storms Irene and Lee severely impacted 80% of Greenmarket producers last September, our community rallied together to help overcome the damage that was wrought. Greenmarket customers held benefit potlucks, concerts and after-work parties; a group of food writers organized the successful Dine Out Irene in which over one hundred restaurants donated a percentage of their sales from a Sunday in late September; instead of a wedding registry, a woman asked her friends and family to make donations to farmers, and close to $5,000 was raised by customers who opened their pocketbooks at Greenmarkets around the city to make donations directly to the GrowNYC Hurricane Relief Fund. "The generosity that Greenmarket shoppers showed during this time of need is proof of the valuable relationships that develop between farmers and customers at market,” says GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen. “While these storms had less of an impact on the city, New Yorkers felt the gravity of the situation through their rural neighbors and friends who sell at Greenmarket." One hundred percent of all funds raised by GrowNYC for Hurricane Relief were given directly to farmers. The funds were distributed based on need in two waves of grants—one in December and one in March. Recipients report that these resources have helped them overcome last September’s losses, and get a good start on the new season. In addition to repairing flood-damaged machinery and barns, farmers have used their grants to purchase seeds, laying hens, truck parts, pay fuel bills, and much more. "I could have pulled any number of other bills from the stack of need last fall," said Richard Giles of Lucky Dog Farm, explaining how he spent his relief check from GrowNYC. The bills paid by the Hurricane Relief Fund covered "Vegetable twist ties, a power bill, a seed bill, one for truck tires, another for truck parts, and one for potting soil. I am so thankful to Greenmarket for coordinating this wonderful support." With this assistance, Lucky Dog was able to continue selling at the Fort Greene and Union Square Greenmarkets through the winter, and is now launching into the 2012 growing season. “Greenmarket is our survival plan,” said Giles.

Food Scrap & Textile Recycling at More Greenmarkets!

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by visiting your local Greenmarket to recycle food scraps and textiles? GrowNYC is happy to help, with new sites for dropping off unwanted clothing, linens, and fruit & veggie scraps opening this weekend and throughout the Spring. Thanks to the support of community partners the Western Queens Compost Initiative, Lower East Side Ecology Center and Wearable Collections, this collective effort takes aim at nearly one-quarter of NYC’s residential waste stream and has diverted 1.8 million pounds from disposal so far. Here’s a handy chart to help you locate collection sites near you. Please note the hours for each collection differ from each other as well as market hours, due to routing and scheduling requirements of our community partners. Learn more about textile recycling and what to bring and find out what’s accepted for composting.

BOROUGH GREENMARKET ACCEPTING TEXTILES? ACCEPTING FOOD SCRAPS?
Brooklyn Bay Ridge Greenmarket 3rd Ave & 95th St NO YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm thru Nov 17, 2012
Brooklyn Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket Court & Montague YES - Saturdays, 8am-4:30pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-4pm
Brooklyn Carroll Gardens Greenmarket Carroll St b/t Smith & Court YES - Sundays, 8am-2:30pm YES - Sundays, 8am-1pm
Brooklyn Cortelyou Greenmarket b/t Argyle & Rugby Rds YES - Sundays, 8am-3pm YES - Sundays, 8am-1pm
Brooklyn Ft. Greene Greenmarket Washington Park at DeKalb YES - Saturdays, 8am-3pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-3pm
Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket NW corner of Prospect Park YES - Saturdays, 8am-4pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-3:30pm
Brooklyn McCarren Park Greenmarket Union Ave and Driggs YES - Saturdays, 8am-2pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-2pm
Brooklyn Sunset Park Greenmarket 4th Ave b/t 59th & 60th Sts NO YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm thru Nov 17, 2012
Brooklyn Windsor Terrace - PS 154 Greenmarket PS 154, 11th Ave b/t Sherman & Windsor Pl NO YES - Sundays, 9am-1pm thru Nov 18, 2012
Manhattan 57th St Greenmarket 57th St & 9th Ave YES - Saturdays, 8am-12:30pm thru Dec 22, 2012 YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm thru Dec 22, 2012
Manhattan 79th St Greenmarket 79th & Columbus NO YES - Sundays, 9am-1pm
Manhattan 82nd St Greenmarket 82nd St b/t 1st & York YES - Saturdays, 9am-2pm YES - Saturdays, 9am-1pm
Manhattan 92nd Street Greenmarket 92nd St & 1st Ave NO YES - Sundays, 9am-1pm thru Dec 23, 2012
Manhattan 97th St Greenmarket W 97th & Columbus YES - Fridays, 8am-2pm NO
Manhattan Abingdon Square Greenmarket W12th St & 8th Ave YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Manhattan Columbia University Greenmarket Broadway b/t 114th & 115th Sts YES - Sundays, 8am-3pm YES - Sundays, 8am-1pm
Manhattan Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Greenmarket E 47th St & 2nd Ave YES - Wednesdays, 8am-3pm NO
Manhattan Inwood Greenmarket Isham b/t Seaman & Cooper YES - Saturdays, 8am-3pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-12pm
Manhattan Tompkins Square Greenmarket E 7th St & Ave A YES - Sundays, 8am-4pm YES - Sundays, 8am-1pm
Manhattan Tribeca Greenmarket Greenwich St at Chambers YES - Saturdays, 8am-1:30pm YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Manhattan Tucker Square Greenmarket 66th St & Columbus Ave NO YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Manhattan Union Square Greenmarket NE Section of Union Square Park YES - Saturdays and Mondays, 8am-4pm YES - Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat, 8am-5pm
Queens Jackson Heights Greenmarket 34th Ave b/t 77 & 78 Sts YES - Sundays, 8am-2pm YES - Sundays, 9am-12pm
Queens Socrates Sculpture Park Greenmarket Vernon and Broadway NO YES - Saturdays, 9am-12pm thru Nov 17, 2012
Queens Sunnyside Greenmarket Skillman Ave b/t 42 & 43 St NO YES - Saturdays, 9am-12pm thru Nov 17, 2012
Staten Island St. George Greenmarket St. Marks & Hyatt St YES - Saturdays, 8am-1:30pm thru Nov 17, 2012 YES - Saturdays, 8am-1pm thru Nov 17, 2012
Staten Island Staten Island Mall Greenmarket Richmond Ave entrance (Parking Lot) YES - Saturdays, 9am-3pm thru Nov 17, 2012 YES - Saturdays, 9am-1pm thru Dec 22, 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.

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