A Market to Call Their Own
Sometimes people search far and wide for things they can find right at home. Such is the case with Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, the world’s largest wholesale produce market. Fruits and vegetables arrive there every day by rail, tractor trailer and air cargo from all over the planet. All told, the global food hub sells 3.3 billion pounds of produce each year, generating more than $2 billion in annual revenues.
Yet very little sold by its 50 merchants is procured locally. Only 2 percent, according New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, comes from local farmers.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is on a mission to reverse that. In a report released in February, Stringer proposes increasing the amount of local and regional food by adding a wholesale farmers market to the Hunts Point Terminal Market. This would be a boon for struggling local farms.
The thriving market at Hunts Point consists exclusively of well-established food wholesalers, such as Rubin Brothers and S. Katzman Produce. Unlike other large food terminals in cities such as Paris and Toronto, the Hunts Point Terminal Market does not have a dedicated space for wholesale farmers.
“Despite the close proximity of rural farmland, infrastructure barriers prevent the local supply from meeting the demand for local food in New York City,” notes Stringer in the report.
The creation of a wholesale farmers market would be part of a proposed $450 million renovation of the terminal market being negotiated with the New York City Economic Development Council. Without the renovations, New York City risks losing the market to New Jersey when its lease expires next year.
In 2006, the Bronx Terminal Market, the site for the last remaining wholesale farmers market, was demolished. Some 20 farmers displaced from the Bronx Terminal Market formed a modest wholesale farmers market in a lot adjacent to the New Fulton Fish Market, also in the Bronx. The market operates in an outdoor open parking lot without storage, refrigeration, or processing facilities.
Stringer is pushing for a larger, more modern home for the displaced farmers. He also recommends building small-scale wholesale farmers markets throughout the city and investing in food processing and distribution facilities to give local farmers a shot at selling their produce to grocers, restaurants and other institutional food buyers in the city.
“Officials and advocates working to incorporate local produce into institutional purchase orders frequently lament the lack of processing infrastructure necessary to meet institutional procurement specifications,” the report states.