New York City Council Launches City’s First Workplace CSA

July 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Speaker Quinn

Photo courtesy of William Alastriste of New York City Council

The New York City Council’s lunch room was as much the scene of the action yesterday as the hearing room. Council leaders and staff streamed in to do what they always do on Thursdays during their lunch hour: they picked up their share of fresh fruits and vegetables from Norwich Meadows Farms and Red Jacket Orchards, two upstate farms.

“I never saw a sugarplum that color in my life,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn of the yellow plums that were part of the week’s fruit harvest. Speaker Quinn collected peppers, squash, pole beans and other veggies from bins set up on a table and dropped them into her bag.

She and more than 50 other council members and staff were pioneers of sorts:  They were the initial participants in the city’s first workplace Community-Supported Agriculture or “CSA” program.

As with all CSA programs, they had paid the farmers months in advance for their weekly share of fresh seasonal produce. Unlike other programs, though, this one delivered produce to the workplace.  CSA programs — there are more than 100 throughout the city — typically drop off produce at community centers and other public gathering places during limited periods of time.

“It’s a win-win,” said Council Member Gale Brewer, a CSA participant.   Employees pick up fresh, healthy food, while supporting local farms, she said.

For the past two years, City Council has played an increasing role in championing efforts to promote regional farmers and encourage the consumption of sustainable, locally sourced food.  It has held press conferences and late last year released an 86-page report on Speaker Quinn’s FoodWorks initiative to improve the city’s food system.  With the launch of the CSA program, the Council went one step further:  it showed that it practices what it preaches.

The hearing room next door was equally abuzz.  There Council members voted in favor of a series of bills backing several recommendations in the FoodWorks report.

One of the bills will make it easier for entrepreneurs and others to build rooftop greenhouses.  Under the bill, rooftop greenhouses will be excluded from height limitations and will no longer be considered an additional story, provided they and other allowed rooftop structures do not occupy more than 33 percent of the roof area.

The City Council also voted in favor of a number of other bills, including the two that I blogged about here. One would require city agencies to provide annual metrics on the food they procure.  The other would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to create a public, user-friendly database of all city-owned and leased property, which would help community groups identify land that might be used for gardening and urban farming.

“These bills are crucial to the goal of FoodWorks to use our food systems to create jobs, protect our environment and improve public health,” said Speaker Quinn.

The bills still face hurdles ahead:  They need the Mayor’s approval to be signed into law.

For related blog posts, click here, here, and here.

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Entry filed under: Community Supported Agriculture, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , .

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