Seeing Green at the City’s Farmers’ Markets

| September 27, 2012 3:15 PM

Greenmarkets in neighborhoods all over town are shifting to a new and cooler season as New York City moves into autumn. At the crack of dawn, when vendors set up their stalls and unpack their goods, the cold is becoming tangible. Shorts and T-shirts make way for long trousers and jackets. Fresh corn, tomatoes and peaches are being replaced with fennel, leeks and apples. It’s a farewell to the lull of summer days and a welcome back to many of the regular customers who were away for all or part of the summer.

Every week, the team behind the greenmarket at the New York Botanical Garden updates a phone system that allows customers to call in and hear what’s fresh that week. Organizers say that helps families plan healthy meals. Photo courtesy of Erin Brodwin/ City Limits.

Stephen Batiz, an artist who spent the past two summers selling artisanal pickles at the grandfather of all markets on Union Square, confirms that business slows down in summer but usually resumes after Labor Day, especially for the spicy pickles. “People really like the Mean Beans,” he says.

A year after severe storms ruined many small farmers’ late-summer and autumn crops in the New York area, the farmers’ markets are thriving amid an ever-growing appetite for fresh produce. Over a quarter of New York State’s farmers’ markets (138) are in New York City according to a recent state report. In the last six years, 58 new markets have opened, an increase of 73 percent.

GrowNYC, the non-profit who organizes the Greenmarkets, started 36 years ago with 12 farmers on 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan. Now it’s the largest network of farmers’ markets in the country, with 54 locations in New York City. This summer four brand new Greenmarket sites were added in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Block by block, more communities are provided with fresh and locally grown food.

“They’ve got the best stuff,” says Matthew Heaphy, a customer at the green market at Bartel-Pritchard Square who stopped on his way to work to buy the ingredients for a Greek salad.

“It’s fresh,” says Richard Shanly, another regular, biting into a plum. “It goes directly from the farm to the stand.”

On a recent sunny Wednesday, a group of reporters from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism spread out across the city to sample the flavor of various markets. From Union Square to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, here’s a taste of what the reporters found in the waning days of summer. -Ezra Eeman

On a recent sunny Wednesday, a group of reporters from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism spread out across the city to sample the flavor of various markets. From Union Square to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, here’s a taste of what the reporters found in the waning days of summer.

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