• 50 Years - A Million Thanks
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Greenmarket at 30


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It's hard to imagine that in a city where you can get a bagel with ten kinds of cream cheese at 4 a.m., it used to be a challenge to simply find a fresh, juicy, delicious-tasting peach. 30 years ago, our restaurants were great, but our fruits and vegetables left much to be desired. Visionaries Barry Benepe and Bob Lewis saw a produce-challenged city surrounded by struggling small farms, and thought "aha!" And thus, the Greenmarket was born.

What started with a few farmers selling tomatoes and eggplant on 59th Street has become a New York institution. With 45 markets sprinkled throughout the five boroughs, the Greenmarket system has changed the way New Yorkers shop, eat, and cook. Today, one need look no further than the local Greenmarket to find produce so fresh, it may have been dug out of the soil just a few hours earlier;
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produce so varied, one can spend all day deciding which of 350 different varieties of peppers to buy, or figuring out what to do with unusual vegetables like purslane or crosnes. It's one of the reasons celebrated restaurateur Danny Meyer opened up his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in that area: he wanted his chefs to be within walking distance of the market and all that it had to offer.
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The Tasting Room's chef Colin Alevras, who gets almost all his ingredients at Greenmarket, points out, "you can't get this stuff in a grocery store. "
Grocery stores also don't offer the chance to ask the farmer how he grew his tomatoes or how best to prepare burdock, and it's these exchanges that have made Greenmarkets unofficial "town squares." According to Danny Meyer: "it's really the piazza of our neighborhood - in the way that you could go to Rome or Florence and people really come together and talk in a very animated kind of way that doesn't tend to happen in a city like New York that's always in a hurry. When you get people talking to each other, with farmers, discussing the recipe that they read in THE NEW YORK TIMES, it really fosters a wonderful sense of community."

The Greenmarket has also helped save small farms like Stokes Farm, that would have been out of business had it not been for Greenmarket. In a city of discerning foodies who ask for exotic things like arugula and thai basil, farmers learn what they are, and they grow them, while also introducing urbanites to things they never though of eating, like the leaves of the fava bean or turnip tops. In the case of Union Square, the Greenmarket even saved a neighborhood, helping to transform a seedy, drug-infested area, into one of Manhattan's most vibrant. 30 years and counting, the city's now a little more country, and the country, a little more city.

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Greenmarket History: Historian Barry Lewis and Greenmarket co-founder Barry Benepe on the history of the Greenmarket and of Union Square, the neighborhood home to New York's biggest and most successful Greenmarket.View this story
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View this storyDave Williams: An apple farmer grows new varieties to satisfy New Yorkers' changing tastes.
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From Field to Plate: The food's journey out of an organic farm's soil, through the Greenmarket and onto the plates of a well-loved downtown restaurant.View this story
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View this storyInterview with Danny Meyer and Florence Fabricant: Host Rafael Pi Roman discusses the culinary and cultural impact of the Greenmarket with a noted restauranteur and a TIMES food writer.
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Violet Hill Farm: All the rage amongst New York's tops chefs, this farm raises high-quality pastured poultry and meadow-grazing animals, without the use of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, or appetite stimulants. View this story
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View this storyStokes Farm: A 6th-generation farming family found a second life for their farm at Greenmarket.
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Ray Bradley: A chef-turned-farmer whose customers appreciate his culinary expertise. View this story
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