By Terence Sheridan
Union Square Greenmarket has something for everyone. It’s the one-stop shop: seasonal vegetables and fruits, arts, soaps, eggs, milk, flowers, meats, jellies, honey. It is the place to be for organic, healthy shopping.
I go to the Union Square Greenmarket every other day on my way to work to pick up fresh produce. This farmers’ market has a lot more to offer than high quality variety produce and I wanted to share some information I had found about their work.
This farmers’ market is loud, colorful, filled with rich smells, and friendly people selling goods they themselves nurtured from seed to your hand. Just as I feel better going to a small Hardware Store owned by an old timer who could fix anything I’ve managed to break, I feel a certain satisfaction about giving a vendor who cares about what I think about their products a five dollar bill for a huge bag of produce.
The New Farmer Development Project (NFDP) would make a great business school case study in economies of scale, but the immediate take-away is wholesale vs. retail. Since a farmers’ market is by definition farmers selling at a market for retail prices. These farmers are cutting out the middle man of distributors which for us, the consumer, means fresher and local produce. For the farmers, however, this means they can grow a wide variety of crops and keep their operation small and affordable by selling at the higher retail price.
The NFDP video states: ‘85% of farmers we work with say they would be out of business if they couldn’t sell directly to the consumer.’ The Union Square Greenmarket is doing great things to contribute to growth for New York’s farms.
The Union Square Greenmarket is one of 46 Greenmarkets throughout the city that operate under the Council on the Environment of New York City. This program’s directive is to promote sustainability and works with 180 producers to preserve 30,000 acres of local farmland. But the Greenmarket program isn’t just doing good by farmers. Another positive aspect of working with the city is the ease of access for different programs to be combined, for example EBT/food stamps.
At the Union Square Greenmarket, like others in the city, if you are on food stamps you can take your card to the market and exchange the dollar value for tokens, which you can then exchange for produce. As a regular shopper at the Union Square Greenmarket, I know you can get a huge amount of healthy, local, sustainably grown produce for less than what you would pay at a conventional grocery or convenience store.
It’s a wonder of our economy to think that at a Grocery Store the produce, usually labeled “fresh,” comes from Chile, Mexico, China, and India. But, for some reason I am more affected by the fact that I have never really thought about seasonal produce and the impact eating locally has on the land and people around us.