Posts tagged ‘Cheryl Rogowski’

LOCAL FOOD News Roundup

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…)

September 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm 1 comment

Wrap-up of a Year’s Worth of Blogging: Power of the People and a Politician Propel New York Local Food Movement in 2009

Sheer public support for local food and small farms made 2009 a banner year for New York City locavores.  Farmers markets and community gardens flourished, and new urban farms emerged, including the city’s first rooftop farm — a 6,000-square-foot site that drew scores of eager volunteers each Sunday throughout the 2009 growing season.

The local food movement had the power of the people behind it, and gained extra momentum, thanks to the power of a colorful and forceful politician:  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

“New York City must be front and center in the international debate over food,” Stringer told some 1,000 foodies at a conference earlier this month at New York University.  He proposed forming a New York City Department of Food and Markets that would report directly to the mayor and pushed for a more regional food supply system.

“Food policy will be a top priority for my office,” he rallied the crowd of urban gardeners, nutritionists, chefs, teachers, civic leaders, community activists and others with a stake in food and farm policy.

The conference, which sold out within hours of its announcement, came only days after New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn launched “FoodWorks New York,” an initiative to analyze the city’s food system and tap its potential to create jobs by working with local farmers.

New York locavores found more than champions in positions to shake things up.  They also discovered what could turn out to be a symbol for their movement:  the city’s heirloom apple, the Newtown-Pippin.  The green-yellow apples originated on a farm in Maspeth, Queens, in the 1700s and became popular throughout the country.  Now a campaign is underway to reintroduce the apple tree in parks and gardens citywide and even name the Newtown-Pippin the city’s official apple.

Without a doubt, 2009 gave the local food movement a big boost.  Here’s a look back at some blog posts that chronicle turning points for advocates of a more localized food system:

  • Report Champions Local Farmers:  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer releases a report calling for a “radical overhaul” of New York City’s food system.  The report makes several recommendations that would make it easier for local farmers to sell their produce in New York City, including requiring government food buyers to purchase a certain percentage of their food from farmers in the city’s foodshed.
  • New York Urban Farmers Draw Large Crowd:  A panel discussion on urban farming draws a huge crowd of local food enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Participants hear from a Brooklyn-based indoor grower of wheatgrass and sprouts who “moved his farm to the city” from upstate New York “to be closer to his customers.”  A few weeks later, the keynote speaker at a conference on community supported agriculture — upstate farmer Cheryl Rogowski — noted that “farmers are rock stars” and that “it’s never been a more challenging or exciting time to be farmers than now.”  Not so fast, I say, in this post.  An unrepentant doubting Thomas, I question what many are calling a U.S. “food revolution.”
  • Farmers in Training:  This post profiles Michael Grady Robertson, the farm supervisor of the Queens County Farm Museum, and the opportunities the farm provides for breaking in would-be farmers.
  • Battalion of Volunteer Bee Keepers Invade City Parks and Gardens:  Local papers and blogs (including this one) covered efforts to legalize beekeeping in New York City.  Less well-covered was the Great Pollinator Project, a citywide effort to better understand and raise awareness of the importance of city bees.  The blog post describes my participation in the project.
  • The Greening of City Rooftops:  Farming on rooftops may become a hot new trend in New York City.  The post reflects on the development of green roofs in the last two years and where they’re likely to go. In this post, urban farming leaps ahead with visionary Dr. Dickson Despommier’s notion of a “vertical farm,” one in which crops grow indoors in multi-story buildings.
  • Phoenix Community Gardens Brings Neighbors Together:  This account of a refurbished community garden in Brooklyn peers into the lives of the people who garden there.  There are other posts on urban gardeners, including this one about Karen Washington, founder of the Garden of Happiness, and this one about Abu Talib, director of Taqwa Community Garden.  There’s also an account here of “wild man” Joe Gonzalez, a backyard gardener and community leader.
  • What Price Milk?:  The troubles facing today’s dairy farms recall the 1930s when dairymen were getting a raw deal on the price of milk.  They, too, we going bankrupt, even as consumer milk prices were going through the roof.  The turbulent time in New York milk history is documented in the online exhibit New York Bounty describes in the post.
  • Visions of Urban Farmland for the Grand Concourse: A proposal to transform the Grand Concourse, a nine-lane motorway in the Bronx, into four miles of contiguous urban farmland won second place in a global competition to remake the 100-year-old thoroughfare.  Farming inspired other artists in 2009.  In September, artist Leah Gauthier celebrated the close of a five-borough micro-farm installation consisting of modest growing spaces donated by New Yorkers.  In return for the spaces, Gauthier became a “sharecropper,” paying donors with a portion of the produce she grew on individual locations for the season.  It’s the ultimate high-concept art project.
  • The Nature Nut: I introduced former organic farmer and certified holistic health counselor Susana Correia as New York Bounty’s resident expert on organic farming and nutrition counseling.  The “Nature Nut” received and answered several questions throughout the year, and is waiting for more.  Have questions about what to grow in your community garden or your roof or terrace or even in your kitchen?  Questions about nutrition?  Try asking the Nature Nut.  She’ll know.

It’s been challenging keeping up with all that’s happening in urban agriculture in New York City, but I’ve had quite a bit of fun.  One day, though, was the highlight of the year – the day my blog got noticed.  In April, New York Bounty was listed in the information section of the Manhattan User’s Guide, a daily e-mail that keeps readers on top of the city.  Here’s how MUG described New York Bounty:  “With refreshingly few bells and whistles, thoughtful commentary on food, health, and the environment, particularly the ways in which urbanites are trying to reconnect with the good earth.”

The praise sent me over the moon — at least for a day or two.  It’s going to be hard to live up to the description, but I’m sure going to try, every single day of 2010 and beyond…

Happy New Year, everyone!

December 31, 2009 at 3:32 am 1 comment

Farmers Rock

Two Sundays ago, as the nation adjusted to daylight savings and a lost hour of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed to attend Just Food’s annual conference on community supported agriculture (a.k.a. CSA*) in New York City.  I’ve been a regular at the conference for several years, an event that’s always been held on Saturday, never Sunday, the day I like to linger a little longer in bed. 

Was the conference worth giving up the most cherished Sunday of the year? Or the trouble of a subway and bus ride uptown to Columbia University?  You bet.  Once I got there, I was greeted by swarms of earnest, well-meaning people — dreamers and idealists intent on building a better world through better food.  There were workshops and the usual panel discussion with local farmers, always a big draw.  And, of course, there was plenty of healthy food, compliments of local food providers.  For lunch, I feasted on a roasted eggplant and goat cheese sandwich, and nibbled on salad greens drenched in a soy, honey and sesame seed dressing.  

I also got the latest on the number of CSA communities in New York City.  They grew again this year, to more than 80 from 62 in 2008.  Starting May – the beginning of the CSA summer season – more than 24 local farmers will be providing food directly to New Yorkers citywide.   

The focal point for me was the keynote speaker, Cheryl Rogowski of W. Rogowski Farm, a 150-acre family farm in Pine Island, New York.  The former employee of a real estate development company farmed in her spare time before making a full-time commitment to the family’s second-generation farm.  In 1999, she started a small CSA program with 12 members.  Today she has 600.  

CSAs, she said, are “the hot sexy thing now,” not farmers markets. “It’s never been a more challenging or exciting time to be farmers than now. Farmers,” she later went on, “are rock stars.”

With an auditorium packed with local food supporters, the claim didn’t seem farfetched.  The conference, like last year, was sold out.  Rock star status was evident in another meaningful way.  Investors, noted Rogowski, were dumping real estate development and buying agricultural land. 

Still, Rogowski warned local farmers and food supporters not to grow complacent, as agribusiness behemoths were watching and lurking from corners (figuratively, that is), ready to stymie the emerging local food movement. 

She rallied the audience for their support, saying that everyone had a role to play in keeping the local food movement strong.  She appealed to consumers of local food as well at the broad network of CSA organizers and community activists in New York City.  “We can never rest,” she said.  “We need to make this movement as strong as we can.”

 

*Look for my article in the dining section of Resident.com dated Feb. 6, 2008, entitled, “Community Supported Agriculture Takes Off.”

March 19, 2009 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment


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