With the increasing number of outdoor markets selling farm-fresh produce, dairy and meat products, New Yorkers and tourists alike are confronted with a wonderful selection of regional foods produced in surrounding counties and states. Here we clarify a bit of what is available:
The Council on the Environment of NYC's Greenmarket
program, which turned 30 in 2006, is based at Union Square and has 51 markets in 37 locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. Typical answers to questions about the Greenmarket program can be found HERE
How does Greenmarket differ from other Farmers' Markets? Well, Greenmarket allows only producers, so farmer co-ops are not allowed. In other words, only those who produce their own carrots, fish, lamb, eggs, etc. can sell at Greenmarkets.
What does this mean for consumers? It means that in a city with many choices, now even more are available. It furthers the healthy debate, in our view, about how and where purveyors—essentially small businesses—can sell their products and reach additional consumers who want healthy and fresh ingredients. Just as the expansion of Whole Foods in New York City threw the traditional New York supermarket business into a tizzy, so too did Greenmarket expansion bring bigger issues to the table: In particular, consumers are frequently baffled as to the interpretation of terms such as "sustainably raised foods," "natural," "organic," and "fresh," all of which we put in quotation marks because they are variously defined depending on whom you consult. But one thing is certain: additional choice is a good thing, and these additional choices are anything but industrial, processed foods.
Moreover, just as the arrival of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's did not cut into the Greenmarket's business, so too the arrival of new markets will benefit underserved neighborhoods. When Council Speaker Christine Quinn zeroed in on creating additional farmers' markets throughout the boroughs (including at public housing projects), it became clear that areas which have a dearth of fresh food purveyors would finally have more wholesome choices available, at least one day a week in the warmer months.
What's our advice? Visit as many of these markets as you can. For example, Union Square Greenmarket on a Saturday is a magical place, full of terrific ingredients. Visit frequently, and you'll see how the dynamics shift as the seasons pass. Flower availability changes weekly. Ramps in the Springtime are greeted with joy. The first appearance of basil is a wonderful thing. Fresh turkeys from family farms in November herald the end of the season. And so on.