The producer-only farmers markets operated by Greenmarket allow New Yorkers the unique opportunity to speak directly to the person who grew, caught, raised, foraged or baked their food. The result is a traceable, transparent marketplace. New markets open each year to meet rising demand. Greenmarket’s farmer community comprises 230 producers who sell at 53 markets in the height of the season, double the number of markets in 1997.
In 2010, thanks to funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, GrowNYC and the Open Space Institute began a year-long project to address a major concern that threatens Greenmarket’s mission: the lack of affordable farmland in the region surrounding New York City.
While we knew farmers faced major challenges in their quest for financing and secure land, our research revealed two critical needs in addition to long-term land tenure: technical assistance to help navigate the wide menu of existing resources for farmers; and loans for annual operating expenses and one-time capital purchases. Annual operating expenses, which falls under the rubric of “working capital,” refers to liquid assets to buy things like seed, fertilizer, and tractors, and to pay for things like staff, market fees and repairs. Onetime capital purchases mean long-term investments like cattle, machinery and permanent infrastructure.
The data we collected for this report comes from an 18-page survey mailed to 203 farmers in December, 2010, which focused on land and infrastructure needs. We supplemented the data with two focus groups and over a dozen one-on-one interviews. Finally, we regularly sought feedback from our advisory committee of farmers. The vivid and personal stories we heard, coupled with the data we collected, have convinced us that more help is needed.