Posts tagged ‘local food’
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…)
It’s a Match: B&Bs and Local Food Producers
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets received a $74,000 grant to link local food producers with bed-and-breakfast operators throughout the state. The State Agriculture Department — in cooperation with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County and a host of farming and food producer groups — will use the funds to organize regional opportunities for B&B owners to meet local producers and sample their products. (more…)
After years of frustration, urban rooftop farmers now have reason to celebrate. Last month, the New York City Council passed legislation that will make the lives of rooftop growers a little easier. The legislation will help both greenhouse farmers and those that grow outdoors on soil-covered roofs. (more…)
Local Food Advocates Named to Regional Economic Development Council
Two local food advocates were appointed to Gov. Cuomo’s New York City Regional Economic Development Council: Marcel Van Ooyen, executive director of GrowNYC, the nonprofit behind the city’s thriving network of Greenmarkets; and Steve Hindy, president of the Brooklyn Brewery.
The New York City Regional Economic Development Council is one of 10 regional councils Gov. Cuomo launched last month to drive local economic development and improve the business climate statewide. Each council will compete for state funding from a total pot of up to $1 billion in economic development aid. (more…)
The New York City Council is moving forward on a proposal it made in its FoodWorks report last November: it is pushing for a new law encouraging city agencies to buy food from New York State.
The proposed legislation — introduced by Council Member Gale Brewer and eight other representatives — will require the city’s chief procurement officer to develop and publish food purchasing guidelines for city agencies within six months of the law’s enactment. It also calls for the submission of an annual report to the speaker of the City Council detailing each agency’s efforts to implement the new food purchasing guidelines, including how much local food each agency purchased in the preceding fiscal year.
Food from New York State — referred to in the legislation as “New York state food” — is defined as food products whose essential components are grown, produced or harvested in New York State or food products that are processed in facilities located within New York State.
A public hearing on the proposed law was held today.
Finally there’s hope for La Marqueta, the ailing marketplace in Spanish Harlem that was once a commercial hotspot for the Latino community. The push for local food has propelled the New York City Council and the Economic Development Corporation to build a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen in one of the surviving buildings of the city-owned market. The commercial kitchen will serve as an incubator for start-up artisanal and ethnic food businesses in New York City.
The $1.5 million kitchen, which is expected to open in the next few months, is part of an initiative to create affordable space for food manufacturers, said Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a speech introducing a plan to increase the availability of regional food in New York City.
Hot Bread Kitchen, a social enterprise dedicated to training immigrant women in artisanal baking and helping them launch food businesses, will be the incubator’s anchor tenant and run the “incubates” program. The maker of multi-ethnic breads expects to have 19 businesses working out of the incubator by the end of the first year. It aims to have 29 businesses in operation in five years, with 19 graduating from the incubator annually. By the end of five years, Hot Bread Kitchen plans to have 116 jobs created, according to a press release.
The new facility will have two production kitchens, two prep kitchens, a chocolate kitchen, a specialty production space and dough room, as well as dry and cold storage areas. It will be fully equipped for multiple uses and made available on a part-time or full-time rental basis.
The incubates program is open to all early stage businesses, with priority given to food entrepreneurs from the Harlem community. Participants rent kitchen space at below-market rates and receive business training and culinary support.
For more information about the program, please click here.
At what point is a movement no longer a movement? When its ideas and principles become mainstream.
The local food movement is rapidly approaching that moment. More and more celebrities are backing local food, and now even venture capital firms and Corporate America are paying attention to the rumblings of the masses over how their food is grown.
Just last week, TV personality Rachael Ray and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a public-private partnership to help schools build gardens and provide cooking and nutrition education to urban youths. In addition to providing school grants of $500 – $1,000, the initiative supports a variety of school gardening and cooking projects, including summer internships for teens.
Corporations, too, are building gardens as a perk for employees. According to a recent New York Times article, companies across the nation — Yahoo, Google, Toyota, Best Buy, Intel, Target, Kohl’s and Aveda among them — see corporate gardens as a way to boost employee morale and health and build teamwork at a time when they can’t afford to give employees pay raises or bonuses. Power company Chesapeake Energy, for example, created a $500,000 garden in Oklahoma City the size of a city block and hired someone, the reporter wrote, “to tend the crops when employees can’t.”
Venture capital firms have sniffed opportunity in the local food movement and are eager to fund promising ventures. New Seed Advisors, a New York advisory startup firm that brings together local food and farm entrepreneurs and investors, in March hosted a conference — Agriculture 2.0 — in Palo Alto, Calif., that drew a crowd of venture capitalists, according to this article in the New York Times. Many investors asked that the conference also be held in Canada, Europe and India.
Ordinary Americans, too, are fixated with growing their own food, in some cases experimenting with wacky new food production methods such as upside-down planters. In this New York Times article, reporter Michael Tortorello writes about growing interest in home hydroponics and aquaponics systems. These indoor growing systems are the greenhouse equivalent of Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory, complete with pumps, water tanks and a labyrinth of pipes, valves and drains.
On multiple fronts, the local food movement is gaining ground. And as it does, it ironically will cease to be.
I’ve always been a doubting Thomas. I need to see it to believe it. And even then, I don’t believe it.
That’s pretty much sums up how I feel about what many are calling a U.S. “food revolution.” Though I’ve met city gardeners, listened to urban chicken growers and beekeepers, and spoken to many young college-educated men and women with big dreams of having their own farms, I don’t buy the notion of a “food revolution,” at least not yet. I see the nation’s growing fascination with food as just that – an appreciation or an awakening to what good, wholesome food is all about. It’s a movement perhaps, maybe even a mini agricultural revival. But not a revolution.
Cheryl Rogowski, a second-generation farmer at W. Rogowski Farm, went so far as calling farming mainstream in a keynote speech (see “Farmers Rock” post below) at a local food conference earlier this month. I balked. Farming mainstream? Even with 250 food and farm advocates in the room and more than 20 local farmers at the conference, I wasn’t convinced that farming was “mainstream” or that it was in the throes of a revolution.
Let’s face it. The majority of New Yorkers and people I know shop in supermarkets, not farmers markets, and are hopelessly hooked on processed food. Most have never heard of community supported agriculture and would be hard pressed to tell a parsnip from a turnip.
Yet, there it was on the front page of the New York Times – a story about the “food revolution” and the push to create local food systems and entice Americans – children especially – to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. The Nation too ran an article a few weeks earlier about “the revolution” in food and farming. “This revolt,” writes Solnit, “is taking place in the vast open space of Detroit, in the inner-city farms of West Oakland, in the victory gardens and public housing of Alemany Farm in San Francisco, in Growing Power in Milwaukee and many other places around the country.” She describes the revolution as taking place in “little bits everywhere.”
Maybe it is, but I need to see those bits coalesce into a discernible whole. Until then, I’ll remain a doubting Thomas.
A big question with local food is whether enough of it can be produced to meet the needs of local communities. New York locavores can now begin to get an idea. The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell University has developed a neat mapping tool that shows the size and other characteristics of potential local foodsheds throughout the state.
The mapping tool divvies up all the food that potentially could be grown in New York among the state’s 125 population centers based on the shortest distance to transport the food. Not surprisingly, New York City doesn’t fare too well. In fact, it would barely get enough to eat. According to the mapping tool, New York City’s local foodshed would cover an area of roughly 519,000 acres of cropland, enough to feed about 2,300 people a year.
“New York City gets treated roughly,” explained Christian Peters, a post-doctoral associate at Cornell University who helped develop the mapping tool. New York City is hindered by geography. Tucked in the southeast corner of the state, it is the farthest from the state’s prime agricultural land in central and northwestern New York.
Cities near agricultural land do remarkably well. Take Rochester, for example. Its local foodshed supplies enough food to completely meet the nutritional requirements of its citizens. That includes fruits, veggies and grains as well as meat and dairy products. The fruits and veggies come from 1.6 million acres of cropland, while meat and milk come from 1 million acres of grassland.
New York City’s foodshed, in contrast, provides only 12 percent of the beef and milk needs of its inhabitants, while leaving them entirely dependent on outside sources for other foods. In addition to the 519,000 acres of cropland, the foodshed consists of 6.3 million acres of grassland that extends into central and southwestern New York. The fruits, veggies and grains from the cropland travel an average of 18 miles. Foods derived from grassland travel an average of 163 miles, based on the mapping tool.
Mr. Peters explained that the mapping tool could have been “optimized” or based on factors other than the distance food would need to travel. For example, it could have been based on energy use. The cities requiring the least amount of energy for transportation would have priority over cities with higher energy-use transportation modes. New York City would likely fare better under such a model because of its proximity to a harbor and its developed rail lines, said Mr. Peters.
It may well be that Mr. Peters will develop other local food mapping models in the future. Until then, the one that’s currently live tells New York locavores a great deal about where their local food could potentially come from.
Talk about stretching the truth. Shrewd entrepreneurs are positioning their companies as promoters of local food when their businesses in fact have little if anything to do with local food. Take Foodzie, a new online artisanal food store offering cheese, chocolate, cookies and other food items from around the world. The company helps small, independent food businesses reach distant markets. It does not promote local food or local farmers, as its co-founder, Rob LaFave, suggests in this recent blog post.
“Buyers are really supporting the local economy and small, independent food makers and growers,” he is quoted saying in the New York Times Bits blog.
The entrepreneur also brazenly likens his online gourmet food store to a farmers market. “You get a similar experience to a farmers market, when you get the opportunity to meet farmers, but it is much more scalable and you get a better selection,” he says of his store. Later in the post, the real, live farmers market is irreverently referred to as the “offline farmers market.”
<span style=”It’s very twisted, but not entirely LaFave’s fault. Throughout the post, the writer erroneously characterizes the store as an “online farmers market.” It’s not. Having fair trade organic coffee from Brazil, handcrafted cheese from Colorado, and olive oil from Italy all conveniently located in one place on a Web site is not representative of a true farmers market, where all the food is grown locally and buyers talk face-to-face with the farmers selling their goods. It’s just not.