Another Kind of Farmers' Market for NYC

I hope you all enjoyed National Farmers’ Market Week as much as I did last week! To commemorate it, I stopped by my local Union Square market (more than once, I must confess) to buy some fresh, healthy local food – organically grown when possible.

As you may know, conventional agriculture is one of the greatest contributors to climate change and air and water pollution. That’s why it’s so important to support sustainable farmers who go out of their way to produce food responsibly and in a way that is protective of the earth and human health – such as with minimal use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, efficient energy and water use, and without subtherapeutic antibiotics. Sustainable farming, whether it is certified organic or uses comparable natural methods, minimizes waste and pollution, encourages biodiversity, and plays an important role in preserving precious farmland and soil.

In addition to supporting our local retail farmers’ markets, we at NRDC are also working to support a different kind of farmers’ market – a wholesale one. Earlier this year, the New York Times published a story and follow-up editorial drawing attention to the plight of many local farmers and the need for a new wholesale farmers’ market for the New York region.

The area’s existing wholesale produce market in Hunts Point, which supplies food to 22 million people and provides New York City with 60 percent of its produce, has no seller or distributor dedicated to local farmers. And while many of the city’s retail farmers’ markets benefit small farms, a large wholesale farmers’ market could give regional farms of all sizes better access to New York City and its enormous unmet demand for local and sustainably produced food. Such a market could really benefit struggling farmers and the regional economy. Many of our farmers have the capacity and inclination to supply more local food to the city, with its world-class restaurants, numerous food retailers and enormous public school and hospital systems, but (currently) lack the right venue to do so.

In support of our local farms, many of which use sustainable growing practices, actor Mark Ruffalo, the New York Academy of Medicine, Sustainable South Bronx, NRDC and about 35 other partner organizations have joined together to encourage New York State and New York City to support this much-needed wholesale farmers’ market in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. Today we’ve submitted a letter to state and city officials, calling on them to ensure that the market becomes a reality for New York City. 

We hope that New York decisionmakers will join New Yorkers like the ones I see at my neighborhood farmers’ markets in supporting local and sustainable agriculture.

Be sure to stop by your local farmers’ markets! The earth will thank you for it.