Posts filed under ‘Urban Agriculture’
New York City local food advocates on Wednesday got a taste of how the city’s mayoral candidates think about food. In one-on-one interviews with blogger, author and New York University professor Marion Nestle, mayoral contenders addressed issues that ranged from hunger and school lunches to living wages for food workers, urban agriculture and the Hunts Point market.
The event drew some 1,000 food policy enthusiasts and mayoral candidates Sal Albanese, Bill De Blasio, John Catsimatidis, John Liu, Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner. Bill Thompson was the only mayoral candidate who did not attend.
The fact that nearly all of the mayoral contenders participated was a coup for the city’s food policy thinkers and activists, Nestle remarked as the crowd awaited the arrival of Quinn and Liu. It’s the first real example of the political clout that food policy experts are beginning to gain, she said, after years struggling to correct flaws in the nation’s food system.
Each of the candidates answered three questions from a list of about 10 questions that Nestle had on hand. They also answered a question from the audience.
Here are snippets of some of the more interesting things the candidates said regarding their views on local food and urban agriculture.
Both Albanese and Liu said they would make information about vacant land more transparent. As Albanese put it, he would make sure the city’s 5,000 acres of empty land “is on the computer.” Even more important, he said he would not accept contributions from developers, saying that community gardens “add food, awesome quality of life and environmental soundness to neighborhoods.” He also said that that he would work to both grow and preserve gardens.
Bill De Blasio and John Catsimatidis both seemed to be on board with increasing the amount of local food available in New York City. Both want to bring in more local food through the Hunts Point market in the Bronx. “I want to reorient over time to more local produce from our broader tri-state area as part of our overall effort to wean us off the culture of produce from 3,000 miles away,” De Blasio said of his vision for Hunts Point. Catsimatidis also said that he wanted to expand and get better road access for the market.
Liu noted that he would “grow the food economy,” saying that he supports rooftop gardens, upstate farmers and the expansion of farmers markets.
Quinn, long a champion of local food and overall food policy issues, noted her work on a comprehensive report released in 2010 that analyzed the city’s food system from farm to table and beyond. During the forum, she emphasized the need to capitalize on the city’s purchasing power to reorient buying toward regional and local produce. It’s the second biggest institutional food purchaser, second only to the U.S. military, she said.
De Blasio had similar views with regard to the city’s purchasing clout. “I think we can focus our city power on the produce from our region and work with other cities to do the same,” he said.
Caption for photo above: Columbia University’s Marion Nestle (left) speaks with mayoral candidate John Liu.
Farm Table Opens amid Urban Farm Fields
Riverpark Restaurant, a tony new restaurant off the FDR Drive in Midtown Manhattan, added a new twist to urban farming when it unveiled a novel outdoor growing operation that surprised even the most jaded New Yorkers. Peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and a multitude of other crops grew in thousands of double-stacked milk crates, the urban equivalent of farm fields.
Now diners can enjoy those fields close up. Riverpark Restaurant set up an outdoor “Farm Table,” which customers can reserve for family-style lunch and dinner celebrations. The restaurant can host up to 12 people at the outdoor table. There’s a minimum charge of $1,800 for dinner events. For lunch, it’s $1,400. (more…)
Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Heritage Farm had planned it for years. Last month, it finally happened. A one-acre field was tilled and covered with winter rye, hairy vetch and field peas and oats, marking the farm’s first official planting.
It was probably the longest-planned — or rather longest-delayed — planting ever, but Gus Jones, the farm’s newly hired full-time farm manager, wasn’t at all surprised.
The land was last used for agriculture 50 years ago, when cows grazed there, Jones explained. The forest had to be cleared, trees chopped and tree stumps removed. And compost — 1,000 cubic yards of it — had to be brought in. (more…)
The urban agriculture movement in New York City has made enormous progress this year. New legislation favoring urban farming was introduced. New farms opened. There’s even a new farm school. It all happened within the last nine months, all of it summarized here. (more…)
CSA Stands Strong Post-Irene
Tropical Storm Irene has tested the will of even the sturdiest farmers. In an interview with NPR, Cheryl Rogowski, owner of W. Rogowski Farm in Orange County, N.Y., talks about the considerable storm damage to her 150-acre farm. She lost 80 to 90% of her crops with most of the farm underwater at the time of the interview.
Rogowski’s farm is one of 15 CSA farms supplying New York City that suffered severe damage, said Jacquie Berger, executive director of the advocacy nonprofit Just Food, in the interview.
Irene may have knocked out half the city’s CSA farms (31 farms run CSA programs in the city) for the season, but it did little to diminish support for the concept of CSA (community supported agriculture). The tropical storm put CSA to the ultimate test, as CSA customers — shareholders in farm harvests — bore crop losses along with their farmers. (more…)
The temporary one-acre urban farm that opened in April at the Battery is not so temporary anymore. It will shift to a new location in the park when a planned bike path comes through in 2012, said Warrie Price, founder of the Battery Conservancy, a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing the Battery at the tip of Manhattan.
“It’s been too much of a great positive thing for the neighborhood and for us as an organization,” she said as she made her rounds amid rows of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans and a riot of other crops on Saturday.
Since it opened, the farm has received a great deal of media attention with Inhabitat New York City naming it one of the city’s top five urban farms. It’s been a hit with neighborhood school children, Lower Manhattan residents and local community groups who “adopted” or planted half of the 100-plus vegetable beds. It also drew hundreds of volunteers eager to help the Battery run the operation.
“This is a dream come true,” said the farm’s manager Camilla Hammer, as a bevy of volunteers swirled around her with shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows. (more…)
BrightFarms, a Manhattan-based company that designs, builds and operates hydroponic rooftop greenhouses for others, is planning to build one for itself. The company will build a 25,000-square-foot greenhouse on top of a building near LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, according to an article in the New York Daily News. The facility — slated for completion by March of next year — is expected to produce 200,000 pounds of fresh produce annually for the local markets. If built as planned, the hydroponic greenhouse will be the largest in the country.
In an interview with New York Bounty in July, BrightFarms discussed its plans for marketing rooftop greenhouses to supermarkets. The company was in talks with a dozen national supermarket chains, eight of which had signed up for the facilities.
BrightFarms will move its headquarters to the Long Island City rooftop location. It will build a 7,000-square-foot office space on the 32,000-square-foot roof it plans to lease.
In the vast expanse of barren rooftops that mark this north Brooklyn neighborhood, one stood out far above the rest: the one atop Bushwick Starr Theatre. It was the only roof with plants — all happily soil-free, or “hydroponic.”
Rather than soil-filled terracotta pots, the plants grew in trays and tubs attached to tubes that piped in liquid nutrients. Most grew vertically, like the tomatoes and cucumbers climbing the roof fence and onto a trellis. Others — the bok choy and collard greens, for instance — grew sideways from the side of a wall built from milk crates.
The plants – green and laden with vegetables – seemed at home in the Willie Wonkaesque environment. Miniature melon-shaped “Mexican sour” cucumbers dangled from plant stems like earrings. Peppers lounged under the shade of floppy leaves, while the herbs — basil, thyme, sage, parsley — basked in the sun.
The rooftop Eden functions as a lab for Lee Mandell, founder of Boswyck Farms, a start-up business that designs and builds hydroponic growing systems for residents, nonprofits and other small organizations in New York City. Mandell tests and tinkers with the systems on the roof — as well as those in his loft apartment nearby — to see which ones work best for which plants. (more…)
Farmers Markets Grow Despite Bad Economy
If only the economy would grow as rapidly as the nation’s farmers markets. The number of farmers markets operating throughout the country grew 17%, from 6,132 in 2010 to 7,175 this year. The results were released in the USDA’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory.
New York reported 520 markets, ranking second among the nation’s top 10 states with the most farmers markets. California, with 729 markets, ranked first.
The market listings were submitted to the USDA by market managers on a voluntary, self-reported basis between April 18 and June 24, 2011, as part of the USDA’s annual outreach effort.
Alaska experienced the most growth. It reported 35 farmers markets, up 46%. Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico, with 166, 130, and 80 markets, respectively, jumped 38%.
Mayor Bloomberg Signs Local Food Legislation
For the past two years the New York City Council has pushed to make more local food available to New Yorkers. On Wednesday its efforts paid off: Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed comprehensive legislation aimed at increasing the production and procurement of local and regional food. (more…)
© Photos by Margarida Correia. See captions at bottom of article.
Manhattan is not the world’s best place for a restaurant to build a farm. But Riverpark Restaurant, a new restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, did just that — thanks to an open-minded, eco-conscious landlord and some out-of-the-box thinking.
The 15,000-square-foot farm — located 100 feet from the restaurant at Alexandria Center for Life Science, a new but unfinished biotechnology complex on 29th Street between 1st Avenue and the FDR Drive — is not your typical farm. It’s portable. The hundred different crops that grow there — everything from arugula and collard greens to eggplant, zucchini and squash — are raised in thousands of double-stacked milk crates. (more…)