On Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. from April 7 through December 29 outside the post office on Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue, Forest Hills residents will see familiar and new farmers offering fresh and nutritious produce from local and regional farms has become a Sunday tradition.
Rather than opening in July like last season, patrons will now have three more months of opportunity to support a local and regional economy, and embrace healthier dietary trends.
Greenmarket, which originated in 1976 with a handful of farmers, now operates over 50 greenmarkets throughout New York City’s five boroughs and features greater than 230 producers farming over 30,000 acres of farmland.
“This keeps the land in agricultural production and safe from development,” said Jeanne Hodesh, publicity coordinator of Greenmarket for GrowNYC.
From springtime to wintertime, shoppers can always anticipate new products of a wide variety and taste.
“Even if you have seen a product at a stand before, it might taste different a week later depending on the weather, so talk to your farmer and ask them what's new,” said Hodesh.
For example, customers can expect foraged spring greens like ramps, baby lettuces, and spring onions from mid to late April, and in late May and June the season’s first asparagus will debut, followed by strawberries and sweet peas.
Greenmarket’s on-site tent has become more than an overseer. Shoppers can pick up seasonal recipes and watch cooking demonstrations featuring local items.
“This April, you might find recipes featuring eggs and spring greens, and a lesson on how to make a frittata with ingredients found at the market,” said Hodesh.
Greenmarket welcomes increasing its partnership with community organizations, which contributes to its success.
“Please stop by the market information tent, and tell us about your community group,” she said. “We are always keen to work with organizations that promote health and wellness.”
Greenmarket is also open to suggestions for seasonal activities for multi-generational patrons, alongside planned surprises for activities and guests.
Forest Hills resident Travis Terry, chief operating officer of Capalino+Company, which worked with the Friends of the High Line and who is now part of Friends of The QueensWay, proposed an activity for children.
“It would be great to see educational programs incorporating the arts to teach kids about the environment and healthy eating,” he said.
“I'd love to see more local musicians playing at the Greenmarket,” said Drake Mitchell, a Forest Hills resident and the man behind the blog Edge of the City. “As anyone who reads my blog knows, our neighborhood is just begging for more local events and places for residents to hang out and spend time out of their apartments in a fun, relaxed setting. There's no reason we should always have to go into Manhattan for that.”
To date, Greenmarket has successfully transformed underutilized urban sites citywide into vibrant community spaces where farmers can mingle with patrons, and neighbors can meet others and engage in discussions over fresh produce.
“Get to know the farmer who grows your food,” urged Hodesh. “Ask about what's in season, how long they have been farming, and where their land is. I always like to ask neighbors what's in their bags to be inspired by what to purchase and cook.”
A block away is Austin Street’s business district, where shops and restaurants realize the market’s role in increasing business, generated by foot traffic among local residents and visitors.
Perhaps most newsworthy, though, is how the wishes of last season’s shoppers are being fulfilled by Greenmarket, which formed a partnership with BIG!Compost. Debuting on June 2, between 10 a.m. and noon, shoppers can drop off food scraps as part of the NYC Compost Project Local Organics Recovery Program.
According to BIG!Compost, New York City residents discard 650,000 tons of food scraps annually only to be deposited in landfills hundreds of miles away, where food is broken down anaerobically and increases air pollution and methane, which is associated with climate change.
Rather than cultivating trees in poor quality soil and outsourcing healthier resources beyond local environments, BIG!Compost’s finished compost can benefit New York City residents who are stewards of street trees and community gardens, and engage in public beautification initiatives.
As the season progresses, shoppers will notice more farmers joining the market, since their available products vary according to the temperatures on their farms. Last December, Bread Alone of Ulster County, which offers predominantly organic artisan breads and pastries, told customers that they will likely expand their products to meet public demand.
Amantai Farm of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, will join the market in May and offer Mexican specialty produce, herbs, and eggs. In June, R & G Produce of Orange County will offer vegetables. Ronnybrook Farm of Columbia County will sell milk, yogurt, butter, and ice cream.
Andrew’s Honey of Fairfield, Connecticut, will offer honey products. From Suffolk County, Castello Di Borghese will offer wine, and Pura Vida Fisheries will sell wild-caught fish and seafood.
One of many farmers to increase their products this season is Judy Genova of B & Y Farms, based in Tioga County. She will introduce whole and split fresh rabbit, 100 percent grass-fed red Angus ground beef, 100 percent grass-fed tunis Moroccan lamb sausage, and will take tunis yarn to a new level.
“I can't wait for my Forest Hills knitting circle to see the bold new hand-dyed colors, such as merino and dazzling color blends, including a hand-painted rainbow pattern,” she said. “We want our patrons to feel what self-sufficiency farming is all about. We hope our customers can taste our love in every bite of our products, the yarn they wear, and our flowers that add beauty.”