Report Champions Local Farmers

February 27, 2009 at 3:19 am 1 comment

Two years ago, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer championed East Harlem’s low-income residents, pushing a “Go Green” initiative to bring community gardens, green roofs and farmers markets to the blighted neighborhood — all in an effort to alleviate the high rates of asthma and diabetes there. 

Now Mr. Stringer is expanding his “better health through better eating” philosophy citywide. In a report released earlier this month, Mr. Stringer and a group of food advocates make a series of recommendations to increase the availability of fresh, locally grown food in New York City. 

“Our food system in New York City needs a radical overhaul,” he states in a press release.

The report — the outgrowth of a food conference last November — makes several recommendations that would make it easier for local farmers to sell their produce in New York City.  For example, it proposes giving farmers within a given radius of the city special access to New York markets, providing them with let’s say “green EZ passes” that would help facilitate food deliveries.  It also recommends establishing a wholesale farmers market and storage facility at Hunts Point Food Cooperative.  This would help farmers overcome a major obstacle to supplying schools, hospitals, and other institutions that buy in bulk. One particularly bold recommendation would require government food buyers to purchase a certain percentage of their food from farmers in the designated area or “foodshed” — an area that could initially be set at a 100- to 200-mile radius from New York City.   

The report also encourages urban agriculture initiatives, including community and backyard gardens, green roofs, and even a vertical farming model. 

Of all the recommendations, one is especially timely.  It proposes its own “stimulus package” for local food entrepreneurs.  The report calls for an industrial retention policy that would entice small-scale local food manufacturers and processors to start or expand businesses by streamlining fees and permitting processes.  It also recommends a job incubator program tied to urban food production and processing. 

With the economy in tatters and thousands out of work, such a stimulus, however modest, might even inspire former financial services workers and financiers to launch local food enterprises.  It might be time for many to turn from the business of making money and to the business of making healthy food.

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

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