Most Saturday mornings I find myself walking through the farmer’s market in Union Square. This is my favorite time of year: SPRING!! I find that everything in the market is extra colorful and bright. It inspires me. Haven’t you ever wondered where that delicious broccoli, tomato or corn comes from? Who grows it? Who picks it? As I’ve grown in my professional career I have asked myself these questions. I’m still trying to figure out who I am as a chef and in the past few years I have realized I want a deeper connection with my food and my ingredients.
What I’ve learned so far is that there are several benefits to buying local produce. Firstly, it lowers the carbon footprint since the product has less distance to travel from farm to your plate. That also means it will be fresher (most likely organic), with less chance of spoilage and loss of nutrients. You also support farm families as opposed to industrial agriculture.
Also, Farmer’s markets are a great way to be introduced to new produce you may not normally find in a regular grocery store. This was my experience last Saturday as I walked through stalls with ramps, fiddleheads, and kohlrabi. I wanted to buy all of it, but settled with just ramps, spinach and baby purple potatoes in my bag. It’s only Tuesday and the ramps and spinach have been sautéed and eaten.
Another great thing about the farmer’s market is tht they donate some of their products to City Harvest at the end of the day. I’ve actually volunteered with them to collect donations from individual stalls. City Harvest then delivers them to various food pantries and soup kitchens in the NYC area.
To my delight, a couple of years ago, I happily discovered that there was such a thing as rooftops farms. There are numerous ones located here in NYC. It was one of the greatest discoveries and it blew my mind. I went to Brooklyn Grange’s Queens location and couldn’t believe my eyes. I was able to pick and cut my own zucchini blossoms and shishito peppers as well as discover a new fruit: ground cherries. This was also the first time I’ve ever heard of a CSA, community supported agriculture. It was a bit pricey but I knew I would eventually want to be a part of one. Buying a share in CSA, invests in the farm and you get a season’s worth of fresh, organic produce delivered to a convenient location near you once a week. Last year, a friend had offered to split a share with her. She had done it the previous year and it was way too much for one person. The weekly offerings are actually good enough for a family of 4. So she and I took turns picking up the packed bags of vegetables and just divided everything between us. It was such a great deal. The five month share was beyond what I thought I would be receiving. Some weeks, those bags were pretty heavy. We joined Katchkie Farms in Kinderhook, New York. The great thing about this new relationship is that not only were we able to support the farm, we were also getting weekly emails about what was in season and everything happening on that farm that week. We both just signed up again for this year’s share. I can’t wait to see what’s in those bags.
Written by Joanne Garcia
Edited by Diane Forte
Photo by Anbeter Photography