GrowNYC Schedule Changes Due to COVID-19

March 31, 2020
Posted in GrowNYC

If there are changes to GrowNYC programming or operations due to COVID-19 this blog post will be information central for up-to-the-minute schedule changes.

GrowNYC Greenmarkets and Farmstands
Most Greenmarkets and some Farmstand locations are open and operating on schedule, changes to the schedule are listed below. Follow us on social media (links below) or GrowNYC's Union Square Greenmarket app for real-time updates about Union Square.

Many Greenmarket producers are offering a variety of ways to purchase their products, from allowing customers to pre-order and pick up at a market, to direct home delivery and shipping products from their online stores. All of that information is available in one place at GrowNYC Greenmarket Online Ordering 2020

CLOSED GREENMARKETS & FARMSTANDS:
Greenmarket at the Oculus
Bowling Green Tuesday & Thursday Greenmarket
Brooklyn Borough Hall Thursday Greenmarket
City Hall Park Tuesday & Friday Greenmarket
Staten Island Ferry Tuesday & Friday Greenmarket
Tribeca Wednesday Greenmarket
Lincoln Hospital Farmstand

Food Scrap Drop-Off and Clothing Collection 
Collections at all food scrap & clothing drop-off sites are cancelled until further notice.
Sign up for Food Scrap Drop-Off Alerts
Read our blog post - How to Keep Composting in NYC during COVID-19

GrowNYC Fresh Food Box

Suspended (April 2-8 only) Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Project H.O.P.E.
East Harlem Health Action Center
Halsey Community Garden (now operating at Brooklyn MS 35)
Suspended Hunter College
Brooklyn Army Terminal
Centre Street
Department of Health
Location Change

Family Health Center of Harlem (participants can order and pick up at East Harlem Health Action Center on Thursdays)

Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church/Halsey Community Farm (now distributing outside of Brooklyn MS35 on Lewis Ave. and MacDonough St.)

Open
(operating outdoors)

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Project H.O.P.E.
East Harlem Health Action Center
Uptown Grand Central


Volunteer Orientations
All GrowNYC volunteer orientations have been postponed until further notice. 

Student and Adult Tours and Field Trips 
All scheduled adult market tours and DOE school field trips are officially cancelled until further notice

GrowNYC School Gardens
CANCELLED: Wednesday, April 1: GrowNYC Education Social 

GrowNYC Farmer Assisstance
POSTPONED: Farmer Assistance La Nueva Siembra Business Training Course
CANCELLED: Eastern New York Farmworker Master Class and Blueprint Racial and Social Justice Training at Soul Fire Farm

GrowNYC Wholesale
GrowNYC Wholesale (formerly Greenmarket Co.) is operating and providing wholesale distribution to our customers and partners.
CANCELLED (with potential for hosting digitally): Tuesday, March 24: Fresh Connect Food Box Community Training 

Follow us on social media or the app for real-time updates:
GrowNYC Facebook // Instagram
Union Square Greenmarket Daily List of Producers in Attendance // Union Square Greenmarket App
Manhattan Greenmarkets Facebook // Instagram
Queens Greenmarkets Facebook // Instagram
Brooklyn Greenmarkets Facebook // Instagram
Staten Island Greenmarkets Facebook // Instagram
Fresh Food Box Facebook
Farmer and Producer List and Social Media Links

Most GrowNYC Greenmarkets are OPEN

March 30, 2020
Posted in Greenmarket

Dear GrowNYC Greenmarket Community:

GrowNYC's 50 open-air Greenmarket locations are crucial to the 250 regional farmers and producers who sell through them, as well as to the hundreds of thousands of New York City residents who rely on the them as an essential source of fresh, healthy food.  Eighty-five percent of our farms report that they would not be in business if not for the ability to sell directly to New York City shoppers. 

View real-time updates on market closures and GrowNYC program schedule changes.

As New York City and State respond to COVID-19, we want to update you on the steps we've taken--and recommend to you--to maintain Greenmarkets as vital community spaces in this time of uncertainty.

We are, and have been since the beginning of COVID-19, in constant contact with city health officials, and we continue to follow their guidance. 

Most of our markets are currently operating, though for safety reasons and in consultation with health officials and other market operators, we have implemented the following best practices: 

  • Dramatically increasing the footprint of our markets to allow for shoppers to be be able to a maintain a healthy physical distance between each other
  • Adding additional chalk//tape lines to keep shoppers at least six feet apart
  • Assigning additional GrowNYC staff on the ground to regulate customer flow and ensure physical distancing
  • Only Producers and their staff may handle products. Customers must not touch any produce or products until after they have purchased
  • Market staff will separate farm stand spaces with at least 10 feet of distance between the tents, more where possible, to reduce congestion
  • There is no sampling of products at markets until further notice
  • There is no selling of apple cider by the cup
  • All Producers must wear protective gloves
  • All farm stands must use vinyl or plastic table covers for easy sanitizing
  • All producers need to be sanitizing their stands regularly, primarily wiping down tables, terminals, cash boxes, etc.
  • Reminder notices to farmers about proper food handling will be provided
  • All GrowNYC staff and Producers must stay home if they are sick
  • All staff processing credit/debit/snap transactions must wear protective gloves
  • We will provide additional hand sanitizers at our market manager stations

We also encourage you to protect yourselves, your fellow shoppers, and our Producers and their employees. 

  • Maintain a 6' distance between yourself, Greenmarket staff, farm stand employees, and other customers
  • If you are sick, stay home
  • Do not pick up any products or produce at the farm stands, ask an employee to help you
  • If you sneeze or cough, do so only into a tissue (and immediately dispose of it) or into the crease of your elbow
  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds
  • If hand washing is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash all produce thoroughly before using it
  • Regularly wash your reusable produce bags
  • Be patient, and kind--we're all in this together 

For now, our markets are open for business. View this slideshow of positive responses we have received from our customers. 

Greenmarkets March 2020

 

With your support, GrowNYC Greenmarkets have been operating through good times and bad for the past 43 years, building an interdependent regional food system that fosters community and nourishes our urban and rural neighbors alike. Together, we will get through this.

Thank you for your continued support,

Marcel Van Ooyen, GrowNYC President and CEO, & Michael Hurwitz, GrowNYC Director of Food Access and Agriculture

GrowNYC's Distance Learning Resources

March 29, 2020

Due to school closure and social distancing measures, our Education Programs are currently not operating our Zero Waste and Food & Nutrition programs in schools, School Garden workshops and giveaways, Greenmarket tours or Teaching Garden field trips. For a list of all COVID-19 related program changes, please click here.

BUT we miss seeing the students and educators we work so closely with throughout the year! We’re in awe of teachers and students as they undertake the immense task of continuing to teach and learn through new distance learning platforms. To provide some continuity for Green Teams and all those who do so much to promote sustainability work in their schools, we have created a Distance Learning Resource page with online activities, lessons and “virtual” field trips.

We look forward to seeing you all in person soon!

Keeping Up Composting During COVID-19

March 28, 2020

Keeping Up Composting During COVID-19

Due to the need to limit person-to-person contact and redirect personnel to essential services during the COVID-19 outbreak, all food scrap drop-off sites in the city, including the ones managed by GrowNYC, are closed until further notice. Beginning Monday, March 23, any food scraps left at closed Food Scrap Drop-off sites will be disposed of as trash. GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets remain open for food access purposes only, so while you can continue to get fresh, local produce at our markets, you can’t compost there for now.

The good news?  The heroes at the NYC Department of Sanitation continue to deploy core operations to keep the city safe and sanitary, including curbside garbage, recycling, and composting collections.  While the Curbside Composting program is not yet available to all New Yorkers, now is a critical time to use your brown bin if you have it, and to share it with friends and neighbors who don’t.

If all 3.5 million NYC households used the brown bins they were provided, we could compost 434,000 tons (868 million pounds) of food scraps, yard waste, and food soiled paper in a year. Using your brown bin is one positive thing you can do right now--keep NYC composting during this difficult time, when many New Yorkers are no longer able.


How to Keep Composting When Food Scrap Drop-Off Sites are Temporarily Closed

1)      Reduce Food Waste

Creating less waste is always best.  Learn how to store produce, check the shelf life for fruits and veggies, use up or preserve what you can’t use right away, get creative with your cooking, and learn some foods you can regrow from scraps

2)      Compost at Home

Compost the way New Yorkers did “back in the day” with a home composting system.  Dust off your backyard bin,or order an indoor worm bin.  Either way, composting is a great activity to keep busy, teach kids science, and finally get that pet you’ve been wanting! 

Outdoor Composting

If you have access to private outdoor space, this is an option for you! If you already have an outdoor compost bin, all you’ll need to get started are some leaves and food scraps.  Brush up on outdoor composting with this guide from the NYC Compost Project.  If you don’t yet have a bin, you can purchase online, find plans to make your own, or simply drill holes in a metal trash can. Remember that composting is an active, controlled process that requires effort beyond simply separating your food scraps and putting them outside. Scraps must be covered and properly managed--especially important in an urban environment! 

             Indoor Composting

No outdoor space? Do not despair! You can feed your food scraps to red wigglers, the most adorable and most voracious worms out there.  If you have a lidded plastic bin and a drill, this can be a very cheap DIY project for just the cost of some red wiggler worms, which you can purchase online. If you’d rather buy a ready-to-use worm bin, search online for a bin that suits your needs and style.  

To get started composting with worms, check out the NYC Compost Project’s  indoor composting guide and keep a troubleshooting guide handy for reference as you go.  We recommend freezing fruit scraps to prevent fruit flies and adding small amounts of food at a time as your worms adjust (Note: worms can be picky. They love apples, but aren’t so fond of citrus rinds).  Stick with it and you’ll have fun watching the process and creating food for your plants.  

3)      Learn to Love Your Brown Bin

Whether you’ve never tried the curbside composting service, or never fully adapted to the new habit, now is a great time to do something positive for NYC! While recycling is mandatory for all NYC residents, composting food scraps and yard waste is currently optional. Nevertheless, 3.5 million residents receive this service and now is the time to take advantage of it. 

Handy Tips: 

  • If it grows, it goes.  Unlike composting at home, organic waste collected by the city can include meat, bones, and greasy food scraps. Learn more
  • Start at your comfort level.  Not quite ready to go whole hog?  Try storing the week’s apple cores, coffee grounds, and food-soiled paper napkins.  Add more items as you get used to this habit.  
  • Line your bin with a clear plastic bag to keep it clean, and set out every week for collection (find your schedule here).
  • Keep lid closed and latched between uses. 
  • Reduce odors by refrigerating or freezing scraps and placing in brown bin closer to set-out day.  Add dried leaves, baking soda, or shredded newspaper for added odor prevention.  
  • Find more guidelines and tips on how to use the brown bin here and a guide for superintendents here.

4)      Phone a Friend

Apartment dwellers in neighborhoods with curbside composting may be able to connect with residents or supers who regularly set out their brown bins for collection and ask them if they’re willing to share access.  Try reaching out to block associations or social networking services such as Facebook neighborhood and Buy Nothing groups, or NextDoor. We’ve already witnessed people mobilizing to share their brown bin on social media and it’s heartwarming!

 

Farmers Markets Deemed Essential Businesses

March 24, 2020
Posted in GrowNYC

Dear GrowNYC Greenmarket Community,

Many of you have heard recent calls by elected officials to further increase social distancing at parks and other outdoor gathering places. Be assured that GrowNYC is committed to implementing stringent social distancing at our food access points; it is a vital action everyone must take in our shared efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Also please know that the safety of our customers, our staff, our farmers – and all New Yorkers - remains our number-one concern during this extremely difficult time. These are not just words. We have taken (and will continue to take) decisive action to create the safest places to access fresh produce. We have been ahead of the curve. Our current protocols are being used as a model for farmers markets across the nation.

To give just a few examples, we have already banned the public from touching produce, and we require that only gloved farm staff handle the selection and bagging of products. We’ve discontinued product sampling and reconfigured our markets, barricading food from direct public access and dictating additional space for social distancing. (A full list of our current food safety and social distancing protocols, as well as those we are in the process of implementing, are listed below.)

And, with the support of the city, we are doing more each day to increase social distancing. This includes spreading our farmer tents further apart; taking over additional public space to expand market footprints; increasing safety signage; and redeploying staff from our other programs to enforce social distancing. We are working hard on all of these and other safety protocols. In fact, GrowNYC is temporarily pausing (for two days only) its Greenmarket operations until this Wednesday, March 25, 2020. During this time, Greenmarket staff will prepare additional measures we can take to ensure your safety, as well as that of our farmers and staff.

While it may be easy to confuse our essential operations at parks and other public spaces with non-essential public activities that have been prohibited or discouraged, it is a simple fact that people must eat -- even in a crisis, especially a crisis that has shuttered many usual food access points.

Healthy, fresh produce is more vital today than it ever has been. For example, our markets process over $1 million in SNAP/EBT (formally known as food stamps) and Health Bucks (a city SNAP incentive program) each year, as well as $2 million in Farmers Market Nutrition vouchers, which serve WIC recipients and seniors. These programs are only redeemable at farmers markets like Greenmarkets and cannot be used online or at grocery stores. (Go here for more information on these programs.)

It is important to note that under Governor Cuomo’s recent Executive Order, food outlets like our Greenmarket Farmers Markets and GrowNYC’s other food access outlets are designated as an “essential business.” (A copy of the governing language is copied below, and the full Order can be found here.)

We are in constant contact with state and city health officials, and we continue to adapt and modify our operations. We believe that open-air farmers markets, with transparent chains of custody, reduced travel times from farm to table, and proper safety and social distancing, are critically important places for the public to access the food they need. And we are making them safer and better each day.

Our farmers and staff appreciate the outpouring of support that we’ve received over the past several days on social media regarding our intense efforts to keep our markets open as a way for New Yorkers to get fresh, healthy food during this crisis. We’re also taking note of all concerns that have been expressed and folding them into our evolving safety measures and policies.

These are difficult times for everyone. It’s important that we all support each other and treat each other with respect and kindness.

Thank you for your support in these challenging times.

We invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns at info@grownyc.org.

 

Stay safe and be well.

Marcel Van Ooyen

President/CEO GrowNYC

 

GrowNYC’s/Greenmarket’s Safety and Social Distancing Protocols:

In addition to the already implemented safety protocols listed below, we are planning further safety measures. At all markets where we have the ability to spread out (down a sidewalk or into other adjacent vacant space), Producers’ tents will be separated at least 10 feet from one another. For those markets where this is not an option (like the Union Square Greenmarket), we will reconfigure markets and limit the number of customers shopping at any given time. At all markets we will provide clear demarcations to keep shoppers at least 6 feet apart, and we will engage additional staff on the ground to help customers and Producers navigate these new systems.

Already implemented safety protocols:

  • Only Producers and their staff may handle products. Customers must not touch any produce or products until after they have purchased (as mentioned above)
  • Market staff will separate farm stand spaces with at least 2 feet of distance between the tents, more where possible, to reduce congestion
  • There is no sampling of products at markets until further notice
  • There is no selling of apple cider by the cup
  • All Producers must wear protective gloves
  • All farm stands must use vinyl or plastic table covers for easy sanitizing
  • All producers need to be sanitizing their stands regularly, primarily wiping down tables, terminals, cash boxes, etc.
  • All GrowNYC staff and Producers must stay home if they are sick
  • All staff processing credit/debit/snap transactions must wear protective gloves
  • We will provide hand sanitizer at our market manager stations

Please respect our market staff on the front lines and the farmers behind the stands who are coming into the city to feed us.

Governor's Executive Order

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced he is signing the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone. It includes a new directive that all non-essential businesses statewide must close in-office personnel functions effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22. Guidance on essential services under the executive order is as follows:

ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES OR ENTITIESincluding any for profit or non-profit, regardless of the nature of the service, the function they perform, or its corporate or entity structure, are not subject to the in-person restriction.

For purposes of Executive Order 202.6, "Essential Business," means:

4. Essential Retail, Including:

  • grocery stores including all food and beverage stores
  • pharmacies
  • convenience stores
  • farmer's market
  • gas stations
  • restaurants/bars (but only for take-out/delivery)
  • hardware and building material stores

Women's History Month, Staff and Farmer Picks

March 5, 2020

For our celebration of Women’s History Month this year, we asked GrowNYC staff and producers to tell us about those women, famed or unsung, who influenced their passion for food, gardening, and/or the environment.

We’ll be adding more magnificent women throughout the month as submissions come in. Check back soon!

 

Maria (Baldassarre) Naglieri, (1902-1997) born in Santo Spirito, Bari, Italy, submitted by GrowNYC's Green Space Director, Gerard Lordhal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Eldest of five, my maternal grandmother was raised on a Mediterranean farm with olive groves, vineyards, and an almond orchard. She first introduced me to arugula, focaccia and dandelion and mint omelette. She lived through WWI, raised 5 children, four sons returned from WWII.

Her cooking secrets included: nothing out of a can, good Italian olive oil, semolina flour, anchovies, and sea urchins (to tease her grandchildren with), homemade cavatelli pasta, and, of course, her own homemade tomato sauce. Canning plum tomatoes, making wine in the fall and planting a spring garden with basil, arugula, and mint were annual events in my childhood.

Cipollini onions were her holiday favorite, which I would often find for her in the Belmont section of the Bronx."

 

Dolores Huerta, submitted by GrowNYC’s School Gardens Coordinator Laura Casaregola 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“When I moved to California for college, I was surprised to find that classes were canceled on March 31st for Cesar Chavez Day. I started looking into the farmworker labor movement in California in the 1960s and was inspired by a key figure: Dolores Huerta. She was at the forefront of the Delano grape strike and co-founded the United Farm Workers. She coined the famous organizing phrase, "Sí, se puede!" Her activism for a more just food system includes a fight for labor, civil, LGBTQ, immigrant and women's rights, and even at age 89 these days, she is still active on the scene. Although classes and work are not cancelled for it, California recently declared April 10 as Dolores Huerta Day.” 

 

Dorothy Darlene Donoghue Schupp Crawford, submitted by GrowNYC’s Communications Specialist, Catherine Crawford

“Growing up in the 80’s in the suburbs of San Francisco, Mom always had two huge compost piles going in our back yard.  All of our food scraps went in one of two bowls: dog or compost. I felt like the only 7-year-old in the Bay Area regularly brandishing a pitchfork after dinner (from the only family in town that had dogs but never bought dog food).”

 

Suzie Carollo, submitted by GrowNYC's Food Access and Agriculture Assistant Director, Liz Carollo

"While most of the other girls my age were learning important life lessons like how to dress and look presentable, my mom was cramming as many neighborhood kids as possible in the station wagon and taking us to the beach to fish and hunt for shells, or picking up a pack of raw chicken wings and teaching us how to set a trap for blue crab. In this photo she is leading a lesson for me on operculums."

 

Frances (Fannie) Griscom Parsons, submitted by GrowNYC’s School Gardens Director, Kristin Fields


“She started the first school garden in 1902 in Hell’s Kitchen, right next to the Hudson River railyard - aka "Death Avenue" -- and a bunch of factories, because she wanted to teach kids to be urban citizens. It was such a hit that there's still a garden on site today at De Witt Clinton Park.” 

 

Lynn Loflin, submitted by Lela Chapman, Sales and Relationship Manager for GrowNYC Wholesale


“Lynn is retiring from Lenox Hill Teaching Kitchen this year. She has been a huge partner to GrowNYC Wholesale and instrumental in helping NYC institutions incorporate more fresh food and a farm-to-table model.”

 

Wendy Rizzo, submitted by her husband, Joe Rizzo of Blue Oyster Cultivation

“She's the co-owner and founding farmer of one the farms that started the current wave of small mushroom farms. Twelve years ago, she quit her executive position in Manhattan, moved to the Finger Lakes and helped start Blue Oyster Cultivation from scratch.” 

 

Mary Emmett, submitted by Jodie S. Emmett de Maciel of Beth’s Farm Kitchen

“At two years old, my parents purchased 100 acres in SE Michigan and started planting apple trees. My father worked for General Motors while my mom transformed the land from an abandoned field to a thriving cider mill business.  I played under the table at farmers markets in the fall while she connected with all the growers in the Ann Arbor area - and eventually built not only a viable farm-based business but a cultural phenomenon that has created fond memories for generations of fall-time visitors."

 

 

Farmworkers Fair Labor Protection Act

February 28, 2020
Posted in Greenmarket

In June 2019, the New York State Legislature passed historic legislation, the Farmworkers Fair Labor Protection Act (FFLPA), making New York one of a handful of US states that provides overtime, housing protections, and a series of other rights to the people that harvest the crops grown in our state.
 
Farmworkers, along with domestic workers, have been excluded from the federal labor protections established in the 1930’s, and the FFLPA begins to address this inequity. 
 
While this legislation is essential, the FFLPA will result in a 30-50% increase in labor costs to our New York farms. Additionally, the federal guest worker program that so many of our farms rely on for its labor force increased its base wage by 7.5%. Accordingly, some of these farms will have to increase prices on certain items in order to survive. And because these policies went into effect January 2020, the time of the year when our farms bring in the least amount of income, you may see these price increases implemented over the next few weeks.
 
We thank you, our incredible community, for continuing to support the 240 Greenmarket Producers who drive into the city every week. You ensure that the 38,000 acres represented at Greenmarkets continue to produce more than 12,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables, thus preventing the land from being paved over. Without you, over 85% of these farmers, fishermen, and bakers would be out of business, having to rely on the industrial, wholesale system that prioritizes profits over people and land. 
 
We thank you for shopping with your values and buying your fresh food directly from the farms paying the most equitable wages in the world while promoting biodiversity and land stewardship. 
 
Time after time we have come together as a community: most recently after the destruction upstate caused by Hurricane Irene, and when our neighbors were devastated here by Superstorm Sandy. Our fates are interconnected, and despite the narrative of a national rural-urban divide, our community proves what is possible when we engage and truly prioritize what unites us.
 
If you have any questions, we encourage you to talk to the farmers at market, go to the Market Information Tent and speak with a Greenmarket Manager, call the office, or write to us at info@greenmarket.grownyc.org

GrowNYC Fresh Connect Food Box Funding & Training Opportunities

February 20, 2020
Posted in GrowNYC | Tagged Fresh Food Box


Out of an abundance of caution due to the current situation with COVID-19, GrowNYC has decided not to hold our Fresh Connect Fresh Food Box Training as an in person event on Tuesday, 3/24.  We are currently working to evaluate whether we will be able to hold an online training on Tuesday 3/24, or whether we will reschedule the training completely.  We will notify you as soon as possible about our updated plan for the training.  If you would be interested in attending an online training, you may wish to hold that time on your calendar from 1:30pm – 5pm on Tuesday 3/24 for now.

GrowNYC is happy to announce our Spring 2020 Fresh Food Box Training.  This free training is for nonprofit organizations interested in operating their own Fresh Food Box wholesale buying club for fresh, high-quality, local foods at below-retail prices. Customers pre-order bags one week in advance on the designated distribution day, and the next week pick up their Fresh Food Box share. Each share contains 6-10 seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as information on how to store and prepare the produce they’ve received.

This training will cover:

  • How to source farm-fresh foods in wholesale volumes via Greenmarket Co., GrowNYC's local food distribution program
  • GrowNYC's Fresh Food Box best practices that can be adapted to meet the needs of your community
  • Resources including manuals, order guides, and recordkeeping documents to help you operate a successful Food Box site

In order to operate a Fresh Food Box, organizations need the following capacity:

  • 6-10 staff hours per week (for distribution, program administration, promotion, and bookkeeping)
  • Accessible distribution location with good foot traffic
  • Storage space for equipment (folding tables, tents, etc.)
  • Some organizations may be eligible for $10,000 in funding from the New York State Department of Ag and Markets to support the operation of your Fresh Food Box site. For more information, click here.

If your organization or community group meets the above capacity guidelines and wishes to operate your own food box, please join us!  Please kindly fill out the google form.

 

GrowNYC Celebrates Black Farmers, Agriculturalists, Chefs, and Advocates

February 5, 2020
Posted in Greenmarket

In the Foreword to Monica White’s book Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, LaDonna Redmond writes, “The contributions of people of color and indigenous nations are missing in our understanding of food history. Our legacy has been erased.”

For Black History Month, GrowNYC will highlight partner organizations and people working to present a counternarrative, inclusive of the history and invaluable contributions of black farmers, agriculturalists, chefs, thinkers, and food advocates.

COMMUNITY



Fannie Lou Hamer, the subject of our final Black History Month post, is so indomitable and inspiring that you might find her featured again next month in GrowNYC’s Women’s History Month Coverage. 

In 1963, Hamer was severely beaten, almost to death, while in jail for assisting black people in Mississippi to register to vote. Hamer was not deterred, and she worked on Civil Rights issues throughout her life. She was one of the main organizers of Freedom Summer, a voter registration drive in 1964 to increase the number of registered black voters in Mississippi, and she co-founded both the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. 

Another aspect of Hamer’s civil liberties work focused on agriculture and the importance of food sovereignty. 

In the late 60’s, Fannie Lou Hamer bought 40 acres of prime Delta land and founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, Mississippi, allowing poor residents of Mississippi an opportunity to have a say, and stake, in the production of the food they eat. Hamer said that food “allows the sick one a chance for healing, the silent ones a chance to speak, the unlearned ones a chance to learn, and the dying ones a chance to live.”

Her work and ideas have been profoundly inspirational to many, including GrowNYC’s Green Space team who work on Community Gardens throughout the City.

One of these gardens is the Nehemiah Ten Community Garden in East New York.  We recently spoke with Teresa Girard-Isaac, one of the 10 women (from 10 different countries) that originally comprised the garden, about the Nehemiah 10.

GrowNYC:  Why was the garden started by women?

Teresa: It wasn't on purpose, just the kind of way it happened.  Block by block, house by house, it was the women that came around.  the men came out after.  I’d be happy to have more men. Bring them on!

Everybody involved in the garden is from a different country.  I think it has to do with then everyone bought their houses.  I'm from St. Lucia, and Ms. Ana is from Puerto Rico.  There are women from Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada.  Ms. Hassan from Egypt.  Every house in this neighborhood is a different nationality.  

GrowNYC: Where did your interest in gardening come from?

Teresa: I was not interested in agriculture.  My husband's family grew up farming.  My mother's family had land in St Lucia. I picked mangoes as we walked along the road…mischievous children. My mother's people were into working the ground.  Her parents had lots of land and all kinds of fruit, but I didn't grow up gardening.  It's kind of strange that I ended up being so involved in a garden. 

I grew up in St. Lucia and got married in 1981. Then I was up here in 1982. We moved to Crown Heights, on Sterling St., but we always talked about wanting a house.

My daughter went to Hotchkiss and wrote the most beautiful essay about East New York. I was stunned at the ay she saw the neighborhood. She saw beautiful things and beautiful gardens all over the place—and this is when it was really bad, but she didn’t see it that way at all.

GrowNYC: What do you especially enjoy about being involved in the garden?

Teresa: I used to be anti-social and shy. But being in the garden has helped me so much, and now I talk to people all day. 

I like the idea of growing fresh food, especially cucumbers. I don’t have to think about pesticides. I can eat the skin and not worry about it. When I first moved here, I planted flowers in front, and people would steal them. All of my yellow flowers would be gone in one day.  But now I can grow my own peppers and it reminds me of the countryside of St. Lucia.

So many of our other members grew up farming, and it reminds them of their childhoods. You can say that it grew on me. It took me a while, but I enjoy it so much now.

In East New York, people's yards are full of fruits.  One woman has a banana tree growing in her backyard.  

I learn about different foods through the garden, but I also learned about different ways of raising children.  We all have differences, I can't lie about it.  The garden is a great place to learn.

FOOD

Edna Lewis is a clear standout among our farm-to-table heroes here at GrowNYC. She was a fervent champion of GrowNYC’s Union Square Greenmarket and of using local ingredients. In fact, in her cookbook In Pursuit of Flavor, published over 30 years ago, Lewis references some of our farmers that still come to sell at Union Square today. It would be impossible to discuss the history and inestimable contributions of black chefs and thinkers without acknowledging Edna. She is perhaps the most famous, but other unsung black culinary pioneers, like Flora Mae Hunter and James Hemings, are beginning to receive the recognition they deserve.   

The granddaughter of a former slave, Edna Lewis published her first cookbook nearly five decades ago, and ever since she’s been teaching people all over the world to love the flavors of the South.  

She once wrote, “Greens are a dish that most Southerners would walk a mile for.”  

This week, we spoke with Kia Damon, who, like Edna Lewis, is an avid cook who moved to New York City from the South.  Although Kia is only in her mid 20s, she’s electrified the NYC culinary world.  And Edna Lewis is one of her heroes, too.



GrowNYC
:  What are you doing in the food universe these days?

KIA:  Right now, I am the Culinary Director at Cherry Bombe Magazine. I used to be an executive chef, but I’ve shifted gears a little bit and now dabbling in food media. Within my job there is a whole lot that I do and a whole lot that I have yet to do just because it’s a very new position It’s a  still blossoming brand and media group.  Right now I spend a lot of my time recipe testing for our next cookbook, trying to do great community work, and making the job interesting. 

GrowNYC: When you were on a panel at MOFAD about Edna Lewis last year, you mentioned you have a tattoo of Freetown on your arm.  Is that a nod to Edna?

KIA: Oh absolutely. I said to my friend in Florida who did my tattoos, “can I get a quick little something?” He’s like, “What do you want?”  “Just Freetown, Edna Lewis’ birthplace, on my arm. Hahahha.”  He said, “you want to do Freetown, Virginia?” But I didn’t want that.  Then everyone would think I was from Virginia.  Just like everyone think’s I’m from Detroit because I have a ‘D’ on my arm for my last name.  I feel like just the word ‘Freetown’ in itself invokes really good feelings in me, especially when things get difficult. It just feels good to look at it. It brings me back to where I was when I got it, so that I can remember why I do the work that I do. 

GrowNYC: What is it about Edna Lewis that you admire?

Kia: For a lot of Black folks, American and otherwise, we go a while before we see other people in the food world (or other people’s respective industries) that we can reflect ourselves in. I grew up watching Food Network and Cooking Channel shows. I felt like those chefs were great, but none of what they did seemed attainable because innately I knew that that wasn’t my story, those aren’t my circumstances or privileges. Then I came across Edna and I was like, “ooh!”  Here was this very tall, wise-looking, gentle-looking woman making phenomenal, delicious food, and food that seemed very relatable. And not relatable in the sense of food that people project onto African American communities, but just food that was really good. Food that I felt I could and that I wanted to make. And the way she highlights and cooks with the seasons…The first time I heard of ‘farm-to-table’ was from a Chef’s Table episode – I was like, “Oh wow. I want to do this.”  And then I read about Edna and she was doing this from way, way back. Then I’m like, “wait a second, we were all doing this way, way back.” 

GrowNYC: We are all about the seasonal--and regional--cooking here at GrowNYC.  Do you incorporate this into your work?

Kia: Yeah.  Well, more so in Florida. I spent time interning on a farm and working on a farm.  I was growing microgreens and feeding the animals. In Florida, it was easier to work with the seasons. I worked at a farm and I worked a restaurant that used the produce from the farm. It was very community oriented.  Since I’ve been in New York, I’m still trying to get a grasp of what the hell is in season and what the growing periods are and, really, what’s going on.  Now that I’m out of the restaurant I will probably have more time to talk with farmers and speak with communities, and to have my own garden, and get back into it. Honestly, that’s where I feel the most together.  If I’m not cooking, I want to have my hands in some soil-- being able to literally sow seeds, and put love and care into them.  To see the thing grow and then nourish you, it’s the most basic and fulfilling cycle. It just hits you really deep.  It’s something that really puts me in tune with myself and with past & present. A great feeling.

GrowNYC:  I’ve noticed that you often talk about community in interviews. Why is that?

Kia: Being from the South and then coming to the North, where things are much more fast-paced, the way community looks and works is a little different. I feel like it’s a lot harder to find that sense of community. Even though everyone is hanging out, I feel like it’s harder to do work that feeds back into other people as it feeds back into me.  I am trying to do work where I can meet people face-to-face. Being seen all the time, I feel like who I actually am has started to become invisible. It becomes difficult to talk to people because the only thing they can interact with is the person they’ve projected me to be from what they’ve seen on the Internet or these other spaces. I really can’t keep up in that way,  and my only default is to just retract from it all. Then I end up isolated.  So now I am like, how do I break away from that? I’m going to talk to people face-to-face, and I’m going to be side-by-side with people, whether it’s in the dirt or with the crops or at the restaurant or whatever.  I know things don’t look the same as they did when I was home, and I know I can’t change that.  So, how can I change the way I interact so that I can still find that sense of community.  I am devoted to the people and to the community. Not in a weird superficial way, but with authenticity. And I’m still searching to find it. 

GrowNYC: I wonder if Edna Lewis every felt something similar, coming up from the South. If you could talk to Edna and ask her just one question, what would you ask?

Kia: Wow. If I could ask Edna Lewis anything…?  No one has ever asked me this before. I would ask her what she envisioned when she decided to leave Virginia and go to NYC. Was she doing it for other people or was she doing it for herself?  I would love to know what she saw for the future of food.

Learn more about Kia via her Instagram @kiacooks and @cherrybombe 

LAND

To put the extensive contributions of black farmers, agriculturists, and chefs in perspective, consider the Pigford v Glickman Lawsuit of 1997.

In 1920, there were nearly a million black farmers in the United States. That number plunged over the years due to decades of racial discrimination and the unlawful denial of loans to black farmers by the USDA. In 1997, black farmers in the South filed a federal class action lawsuit, seeking to end this legacy of bigotry – and they won.  Pigford vs. Glickman was settled in 1999. It was a followed by another suit, Pigford II, which was settled in 2010.  Although the settlements reached into the billions, they are just a tiny drop in the bucket.  This 2019 article from the New Food Economy discusses the inadequacy. In addition to payout problems is the fact that the settlements resulting form the Pigford lawsuits deal only with relatively recent claims of discrimination resulting in refusal of loans and even foreclosure, “and none stretching back to the period of the civil-rights era, when the great bulk of black-owned farms disappeared.”

Today, black farmers (1.3% of total number of farmers in the US) own just 0.52% of our farmland. 

LaChaun Moore took GrowNYC’s Whole Farm Planning course in 2018 in preparation for a move to South Carolina to cultivate organic naturally colored cotton for her “farm to textile” venture. We recently asked LaChaun a few questions about her work and her influences. In her thoughtful response, LaChaun reflects on this notion of the land, dating back well before the Civil-Rights era.

GrowNYC: Is there a particular agriculturist, grower, chef, historian, etc. that influenced you? 

LaChaun: There are quite a few, however, what has inspired me throughout this journey is my ancestors-- the generations within my family as well as the many black bodies that were captured during the transatlantic slave trade. My grandfather was my first introduction to agriculture. He and his five brothers were sharecroppers. I grew up hearing stories about how they had to steal away in the night to escape the Jim Crow South by pushing their car in the dark dead of night with the engine off until they made it to the main road where they took off to Philadelphia. They did this to avoid waking their sharecrop overseers who, in that era, were next of kin to slave masters. My grandfather never farmed again, but when he ultimately settled in New Jersey he tended a beautiful vegetable garden on a plot next to his home. As a child, I was so amazed when he pulled carrots out of the ground. I believe that the garden represented a piece of the past that he held close to him.

GrowNYC: Cotton is such a beautiful plant with such a violent history here in the United States. What kind of reactions do you get when you tell people about your project?

LaChaun: This is a great question, but it is difficult to answer because each person's experience will differ depending on who they are, where they come from and their personal circumstances and surroundings. For me, the South is full of energy, and that energy varies from place to place. For instance, I live in a very small rural community in an unincorporated city called Pineland, located in Lowcountry South Carolina. It is further inland but the Sea Islands known for the Gullah Geechee culture is no more than an hour away. The most recent census says the area is 90% African American. Everyone that lives around me knows each other and is related in some way. That being said, about 20 minutes from where I live is a confederate flag monument. This represents the racial climate that is often covert. I haven't faced or witnessed any atrocities in my interactions, but I can attest to the lack of development and resources in the overall South--specifically how it affects rural black communities. The expression poverty is expensive is very real in the rural South, whether it be paying a premium for necessities like utilities and internet (which many people don’t have) or traveling for an hour or across state lines for a minimum wage job. The cost of living is low but the absence of opportunity is high. The lack of infrastructure has made it difficult to create generational wealth that can lead to independence and development within these communities.

The land that I live and work on was passed down through the generations from the Rivers brothers who were former slaves. Therefore, everyone living on the land is related and they collectively own it and the houses on the property. This is the reality for most rural southern communities. Although this is ownership there is very little development other than housing. The history of this land is one not to be confused with a plantation. I say this because many people make that assumption. Plantations still exist, however, because they have so much land they are being converted into "private spaces" such as golf courses. This is problematic for several reasons but mainly because they keep the plantation aesthetic. These plantations are located in rural areas so they provide jobs, but these are hospitality jobs which, given the race and class structure of the South, eerily echo the past. I’ve given these examples with hopes to convey the complexities and juxtapositions throughout the rural South that makes trying to pinpoint what land, property and agriculture “means” difficult. 

When we talk about farming and working the land, specifically in the South, the stigma left by slavery still exists. However, I get the sense that native southerners' relationship to these stigmas is different than those who’ve moved up north generations ago. Seeing cotton fields isn’t an oddity in the South. Many black Baptist churches are on land that grows cotton. Cotton decor is a staple in many southern homes, although what it represents in a black home differs from the very popular plantation aesthetic. I have certainly experienced aversion from people when talking about cotton but mostly before I moved down South. Many people were warning me about the South and how dangerous it was and that the connotation of growing cotton as a black person was problematic. It was incredibly disappointing and discouraging in the beginning, but I didn't give up and I kept researching. Eventually, I learned about naturally colored cotton. Hundreds of varieties of cotton still exist today and it is believed that years ago there were thousands. Within those varieties are shades of cotton that grow in green, reddish-orange browns and even mauve pinks. Very few people know that cotton grows in colors other than white, let alone the history of the plants' origins. Cotton open pollinates, so naturally colored cotton can come from both cross-pollination over the years as well as manually cross-breeding plants. Crossbreeding is a skill that was brought to the US by the enslaved from West Africa whose efforts can be seen in various heirloom southern crops like rice varieties and sea island cotton. It is believed that slaves used it for cloth as well as medicinal purposes. Naturally colored cotton has a rich history in various Indigenous Latin American countries, however, in the US black slaves and native americans, were only allowed to grow it because plantation owners saw no value in it. The “value” has a lot to do with the fiber quality and genetics (which is why it still isn't commercially viable), however the correlation to the people that cultivated it is one not to be missed. Sally Fox is an Organic Bio-Dynamic naturally colored cotton farmer who has made a huge contribution to organic cotton farming. She bred her own variety of commercially viable naturally colored green and brown cotton called FoxFibre. On an episode of my podcast, she tells the history of naturally colored cotton, as well as her struggles developing and bringing it to market. If you are interested in learning more about naturally colored cotton, I highly suggest you give it a listen. 

This past year, on a small plot of land (less than a 1/4 acre) I grew Sea Island Brown Cotton (Gossypium Barbadense, native to South Carolina, crossbred by African slaves), Acadian Brown Cotton (Gossypium Barbadense, from rural French Cajuns in New Orleans, Louisiana), and Green Cotton (Gossypium Hirsutum, from Tututepec Oaxaca Mexico). I also grew Indigofera Suffruticosa that I sourced from a plantation in Charleston. This variety of indigo is the same variety that was a cash crop during slavery. Indigo carries the same painful history in South Carolina as does cotton through the South, However many descendants of the Gullah Geechee people use it as a symbol to honor their ancestors. This is what being a farmer and growing represents to me as well. The pain, trauma, and destruction that happened in this country are at the fault of the system created by the founding fathers and plantation masters alike, not at the fault of my ancestors. My work is not to aestheticize their pain but to honor it and use their strength and resilience as a motivation to build upon.

I understand where the aversion comes from and why it exists, but I don’t think it should act as a catalyst to deter Black Americans from agriculture. In fact, I believe the inverse, keeping black folks out of these systems allows the underbelly of the American financial system which was built on slavery to continue to re-invent itself. There is that saying the only way out is the way through. The South is our people's land, and in this country cotton and indigo are our people's crops. It saddens me to see how indoctrinated the vision of those who created these systems has lingered and continued to place obstacles in the journey towards empowerment through self-sustainability. I‘ve learned plenty on this journey; I’ve grown closer to myself, who I am and where I came from. When you do things consciously, they take longer, which is why I understand how difficult getting this project off the ground has been. But what I also know is that if my ancestors could make it through what they had to endure, then I know it is in my blood to push through as well.

Hear more from LaChaun on her podcast, Weave

GrowNYC Grains Annual Home Bakers Meetup Fundraiser

January 15, 2020
Posted in Greenmarket

Break bread with GrowNYC Grains and your fellow home bakers! Bakers of all experience levels are welcome to swap samples with fellow grain geeks and share secrets on how to get a really crusty crust. Some of New York City's best professional bakers will also be on hand to talk tips and techniques.

GrowNYC Grains Home Bakers Meet-Up
Monday, February 24
Project Farmhouse, 76 East 13th Street (at 4th Avenue), MHTN
6-9pm
Tickets here

Professional bakers attending:
Austin Hall (She Wolf Bakery) 
Alex Bois (Lost Bread Co.) 
Martin Philip (King Arthur Flour) 
Sharon Burns Leader (Bread Alone Bakery) 
Dan Leader (Bread Alone Bakery) 
Adam Leonti (Author of Flour Lab) 
Johanna Kindvall (Author of Smörgåsbord) 
Nora Allen (Mel the Bakery) 
Savannah Turley 
Reva Castillenti (Bread and Roses) 
Sarah Magid (Knead Love Bakery)

Other special guests attending:
Thor Oechsner (Oechsner Farms, Farmer Ground Flour, Wide Awake Bakery) 
Amber Lambke (Maine Grains) 
Amy Halloran (Author of The New Bread Basket)

Bring a loaf of your favorite home baked bread, made with locally-grown grains and flours, and copies of your recipe and/or starter to trade with others. 

Each ticket includes event entry and one drink.

Purchase grains and flours from the Greenmarket Grainstand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and other locations listed here.

Visit our ONLINE AUCTION

About Our Auction
Your participation in our online auction will enable GrowNYC Grains to keep driving the growth of regional grains, a crucial component of our food system, in the Northeast. 
The auction ends at 9 p.m. on February 24th - the night of our Home Bakers Meet-Up! 

All proceeds benefit GrowNYC Grains. 

About GrowNYC Grains
GrowNYC Grains has acted as the essential value chain coordinator, convener, and market booster behind the resurgence of small grains in the Northeast, bringing cereal grains and other staple crops from the research stage to commercial distribution in the country’s largest consumer market, New York City. Small grains and other cover crops are the core of a functioning regional food system. They have lasting environmental and economic impact and give consumers nutritious and flavorful options in the marketplace. Our grains work underscores GrowNYC’s mission to provide essential services and take action to make NYC a place where every person can enjoy a healthier, more sustainable life.

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE

 

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