Farm Aid 2013 Highlights

February 21, 2014
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged youthmarket, farm aid

Farm Aid has just released a highlights video from the press event at their 2013 conference in Saratoga Springs, NY.  

GrowNYC's Youthmarket program, which has run a farm stand at Farm Aid for the past few years, is joined on the dais by Farm Aid President and co-founder Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Farm Aid's Executive Director Carolyn Mugar.

Check out the video and learn more about Youthmarket!

Greenmarket Director Visits Bologna, Italy

December 23, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket

In September, Greenmarket Director Michael Hurwitz had the incredible honor and privilege to visit Bologna, Italy to speak at a conference framed around feeding the planet in a sustainable way. Here is a re-cap of the trip in his words. 

My presentation specifically focused on the many roles farmers’ markets play: creating centers of community activity, driving regional economy and providing meaningful opportunities for small farms to thrive, as well as educating children, consumers and policy makers on the issues associated with sustainable agriculture, and among numerous other benefits, piloting city-wide initiatives such as residential food scrap collections. And while the marketplace needs no introduction in Italy, their farming communities share many of the same challenges facing those here in the States.

My most precious time on the trip was spent discussing potential solutions to those challenges with my dear host and ally, Paolo Russo, who I met years ago in New York City when he represented food producers from Italian mountain communities, working to have their products sold globally. And the highlight, not just of the trip but of 2013, was the time I spent in Sarsina with Paolo and his colleague Lucio Cangini, the former Director of Mountain Regions in Italy. Now Lucio is a philosopher, activist, mentor, inspiration, and an artist: his painting, Trans-Democracy, a commentary on the changing nature of democracy inspired by the Arab Spring, now hangs on my kitchen wall. Our conversation lasted hours, most of which were spent over lunch at La Maschere, a slice of heaven situated in the mountains of Cesena. 

It’s times like these that I wish I had a sophisticated vocabulary- as I am incapable of adequately describing the culinary experience that chef Federico Tonetti provided that day. Our second course, the Squacquerone made with milk from the town, was like nothing I’ve tasted prior- freshness was redefined that afternoon; and when we told Chef Tonetti that we couldn’t possibly eat dessert after our Cappelette with speck and white truffles floating in a pigeon broth, he opened his “favorite” American wine, a Mondavi Cabernet, the perfect complement to the lamb chops stuffed with anchovy that quickly followed.

That day was four men, two of whom spoke no English and one who spoke no Italian, bonding over the sharing of food and ideas. Lucio laments the cultural and economic loss of the traditional Italian mountain town, as younger generations leave the countryside believing their futures are elsewhere- you can see and hear the sadness as well the hope as he speaks. Together we discussed Greenmarket’s work to provide viable economic opportunities for farmers and the role we play in maintaining rural communities and farms, demonstrating to the next generation that there can be a real future in agriculture. I cherish those hours we spent that day and I look forward to sitting with Lucio again, either here in New York or back in Italy- preferably- to learn from a sage who has seen such transformation in his lifetime and worked effortlessly to strengthen community. And I am eternally grateful to Chef Tonetti for his incredible generosity and providing me a culinary experience that can never be matched.

I left Sarsina that day both physically and emotionally exhausted and exhilarated, thinking I was heading back to Bologna for a quiet last afternoon. I had no idea that part two of this incredible day was 45 minutes away in Bertinoro, a gorgeous hill town overlooking the Adriatic Sea. We were greeted by Giampaolo Amadori, a man larger than life, who is both the CEO of the Central University of Bertinoro as well as of the Foundazione Alma Mater Eventi, among the many other titles he carries. He’s basically The Man in all things Bertinoro if not the region itself.

Giampaolo had arranged a special tour of the Interfaith Museum, located in the dungeon of the 11th Century Bishop’s Fortress, which is dedicated to promoting dialogue between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. From there we walked the town, and of course ended the day with yet another meal. And while it felt sacrilegious to eat after the experience at La Maschere, the Piadina extravaganza at the roadside stand was as perfect an end to my trip as one could hope. These flatbread sandwiches, stuffed with pumpkin, cheese and spinach, which of course I had no problem putting down, were a game changer. And the company and the conversation were pretty amazing too.

These experiences did not occur in a vacuum, but rather took place in a context of exchange and education. I was invited to Italy to share my experiences and ideas how to address the gaps in our food system and the challenges that industrial production creates. This event was organized by BolognaFiere and CAAB- the Agribusiness Centre of Bologna- essentially the equivalent of our Hunt’s Point Produce Cooperative in New York. It functions as the major fruit and vegetable distribution center of Northern Italy, though it is operated by rather different standards and organizational structure as well as guiding values.

CAAB is primarily owned by the City of Bologna and the University; only 3% is held by the co-op members and banks. CAAB is a shining example of what is possible here in New York City, as this structure allows for the market to serve the best interests of all involved- farmers, distributors, consumers, and the houses. There’s even a community garden on its grounds that I had the privilege of helping to inaugurate with Bologna’s Mayor, Virginio Merola, during my visit.

I am deeply grateful to Duccio Caccioni and Andrea Segré for welcoming me so generously and for their incredible work building a more just and sustainable food system. Andrea is the President of CAAB as well as the Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna and Duccio serves as the Marketing & Quality Manager at CAAB and is a regular contributor to Fresh Point Magazine. I look forward to continuing my and hopefully New York City’s dialogue with Andrea, Duccio, Mayor Merola, Lucio, and Giampaolo, creating real cultural exchanges and promoting the food capitals of the world while highlighting shared values and visions. 2014 has much to bring, and I am excited to bang heads with my dear friend Paolo Russo and guide some of that process.

Solar Ovens and Earth Science Lesson Plan

December 16, 2013

GrowNYC's Environmental Education program engages New York City school children across the five boroughs with curriculum on renewable energy, habitat restoration, water health, and green design.

One of our office's most successful interdisciplinary activities has been building solar ovens from used pizza boxes. The project is both fun and educational and is for kids from upper elementary school through high school. Our lesson plan, available for free download below, guides teachers and youth leaders through the process of introducing key Earth Science concepts to their students while they engage youth in building working pizza box solar ovens.

Download a PDF of our 11-page unit Solar Ovens and Earth Science.

GrowNYC Community Compost Partner Profile: Gowanus Canal Conservancy

December 16, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged compost

GrowNYC collects food scraps and other organic waste at various Greenmarkets around the city to distribute to local compost partners in the surrounding area. With the help of community volunteers, New York City’s recycled food scraps are transformed into a nutrient rich soil amendment for farming and greening purposes throughout the five boroughs.

A few minutes’ walk from the F train, Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s (GCC) Salt Lot hosts a monthly compost windrow build for volunteers from around the city. November’s volunteers included about a dozen students from the Brooklyn Technical High School’s Red Cross Club, a group of elementary students from a Bed-Stuy Charter School, and a myriad of volunteers simply happy to enjoy an outdoor-community activity.

Sam and Maria Pruden of Harlem join GCC monthly to participate in composting. Behind Sam and Maria is an illustration of the compost build and process.

The volunteers arrived ready to tackle the record-breaking 10,000 pounds of food scraps that had been collected from four Greenmarkets the day before. The bins of food scraps are dumped and mixed in a large pile on the ground with leaves and yard scraps, taking about 4 hours. The pile, or windrow, will sit for two weeks, and then be turned by a GCC staff member once a week for the following four weeks, before it is sifted to make a final product. At the end of these six weeks, GCC has a fertile soil amendment for tree pits and rain gardens that help prevent polluted water from entering the canal.

Two students from Brooklyn Technical School’s Red Cross Club carry a bin of food scraps to the compost pile to be mixed with leaves and other dry yard trimmings.

GCC Coordinators Jared McGuire and Christine Petro, sift processed compost to make final product with a Bed-Stuy group leader.

Christine Petro has been volunteering with GCC for almost two years and has noticed a steady increase in the amount of food scraps being delivered from the weekend markets over the past three months. Salt Lot is just one of many community compost sites around the city. Asked about the objective of these local projects, she says, “The objective is twofold: to have a positive environmental impact for the surrounding community, and also to teach the practice of composting for educational and applications going forward.”

Jared McGuire and Christine Petro, GCC Volunteer Coordinators.

#GivingTuesday 2013 is coming…

November 14, 2013
Posted in GrowNYC

How do you give back?

We’ve all heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but what about #GivingTuesday?

This year on Tuesday, December 3, GrowNYC is joining a national movement to celebrate and encourage giving: a day when charities, families, students, businesses, community centers, and others come together for #GivingTuesday - a day dedicated to celebrate giving and encourage more, smarter giving during the Holiday Season. Mark your calendar. #GivingTuesday 2013 is Tuesday, December 3rd.

#GivingTuesday is about doing what you can to give back. It’s about showing that all of us can do so much more with our wallets than just consume. Last year #GivingTuesday included more than 100,000 individuals participating in ways that matter to them.

All of us here at GrowNYC know that you care about making a difference, and that's why we invite you to join #GivingTuesday. Donate, spread the word, volunteer for groups you care about (we hope that includes GrowNYC!) and encourage your friends to give in lieu of gifts or just because.

So mark your calendar and on December 3rd take action in ways that means something to you.

#Giveback this #GivingTuesday!

To learn more go to

Be sure to follow us on twitter @grownyc, and share how you give back with #givegrownyc

INFOGRAPHIC: A History of Food Stamps at GrowNYC's Farmers Markets

November 5, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket

This marks the 8th year that GrowNYC has been accepting EBT at Greenmarkets across the city.  The program has come a long way since our initial partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in 2005.  

Read all about it below!

A Pop-Up Greenmarket at JetBlue's T5 at JFK Airport

October 24, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged jetblue, pop-up greenmarket

GrowNYC is proud to announce that we'll be partnering with JetBlue on a pop-up Greenmarket in T5 at JFK Airport on October 29th, 30th, & 31st.

From the press release:

From October 29 - 31, 2013, travelers will be able to experience the Greenmarket at T5 and take a taste of New York home with them. The market will include education stations, a harvest-themed photo booth, a bike blender for people-powered cooking demonstrations, a composting pile with live worms, and a recycling game. The T5 Greenmarket will also include an array of goods all made from products grown locally in New York State. Products include baked goods, pies, grains, honey, jam, maple syrup, fruit, pickles, tomato sauce, wine, as well as Greenmarket Wheat Beer and Hard Cider.

"GrowNYC has been connecting upstate farmers with New York City shoppers for nearly four decades; by offering the best that New York state has to offer from its rich fields and orchards," said Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of GrowNYC. "Our Greenmarkets ensure that all New Yorkers have access to fresh, healthy food; now, JetBlue customers will be able to take a taste of the State with them when they pass through T5 on their way out of town. We hope they’ll share the bounty our state has to offer with others far and wide."

GrowNYC Partners Launches!

August 14, 2013
Posted in GrowNYC | Tagged grownyc partners

GrowNYC is proud to announce the launch of GrowNYC Partners, a professional consulting service for food, farming, gardening, and recycling projects.

GrowNYC Partners will help businesses, foundations, and government agencies transform and empower their consumers and communities, spearheading sustainability througout New York City's private sector and beyond.  And as a non-profit with 40 years of success, we are dedicated to providing simple, cost-effective solutions.  

Whether you are interested in building a rooftop farm, a courtyard garden, or a citywide food systems strategy, GrowNYC Partners can help.

Learn more about GrowNYC Partners or email us for more info!

Union Square Greenmarket Night Market

July 12, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket

On Wednesday, July 17, Greenmarket will celebrate its 37th anniversary, and we’ll be partying into the night at Union Square Greenmarket’s first ever night market. In collaboration with Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer’s office, as well as over 15 neighborhood restaurants, the market will offer the same great summer bounty customers have come to love and rely on through the decades, alongside prepared food, live music by the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and beer courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery.

Watermelon are officially in season, as are green beans, corn, okra, peaches and apricots. Fill your shopping bags and dine on summer fare while reveling under the stars at this Manhattan institution.

It’ll be a party for all ages-- we hope to see you out there!

Union Square Night Market and Birthday Party
Union Square Park - Union Square West and 17th Street
4pm to 8pm

View the full-size flyer below:

P.S. 154 Queens Wins the Big Lift Recycling Contest

July 8, 2013

This spring, GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions Program held a recycling contest amongst schools in the program to see which school could achieve the highest recycling rates. 22 schools participated in the six-week long "Big Lift"– where schools once weekly weighed the recycling and trash from classrooms, offices, and the cafeteria. With an overall recycling rate of 54%, P.S. 154 in Queens was the grand prize winner! P.S. 154 increased their recycling rate by 268% and reduced the amount of trash by 46%. Other top winners include: P.S. 29 Brooklyn and the High School for Law and Public Service in Manhattan which improved recycling rates by 146% and 88% respectively. P.S. 25 Bronx had a 47% overall recycling rate – 20% for metal, plastic, and cartons.

As a result of their outstanding recycling rate, P.S. 154Q won a school greening package valued at $2,000! The prize included tree mulching, park benches made from recycled plastic and a new school garden. On June 25, students and faculty worked alongside staff from GrowNYC to construct the school garden and assist with tree mulching. For many students, it was their first experience with hands-on landscaping and gardening. Students filled the bed with top soil and planted a number of perennials and herbs that will attract butterflies. In addition to beautifying the school, the 8' x 3' raised bed constructed from recycled lumber, will serve as a valuable educational tool for students to learn about the natural environment.

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