By Clare Baierl | [email protected]
Just off of Main St. in Flushing, one of the busiest areas in all of the city and home to the largest Chinatown neighborhood, sits a lively fresh market on the corner of Sanford Ave. Underneath the tents piles of fresh vegetables sit in the glowing sun.
There is everything from multi-colored carrots, ripe tomatoes, bright green lettuce, to even baked goods and fresh speckled eggs. This market, a new location made possible by the non-profit GrowNYC, is on a mission to give Flushing residents access to quality food and support, no matter their income level.
GrowNYC operates over 45 green markets within the city, and yet only four within Queens. In partnership with the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, it became clear for both groups the need for locally produced goods in Flushing.
This is the operation’s first market to serve Flushing. With their services and markets expanding every year, the fact that this large neighborhood did not have a market yet made it the obvious choice for the new location. And for residents, it couldn’t be more welcome.
“I’m so excited we are finally getting a new market here,” said Deni Barrios, a local resident. “Finally!”
GrowNYC operates with the needs of their communities at the forefront. Meaning most locations are requested by community members through their online submission form. With over 3 million residents that participate in their programs, according to the GrowNYC, the requests are always coming.
Along with the markets, they provide fresh food box pickups, youth markets, food scrap collection sites, free waste reduction training, community gardens and educational programs to name a few.
Going along with their mission of equal access, all their markets operating within the city accept various types of nutrition support programs such as, SNAP/EBT, WIC and Senior FMNP coupons and Greenmarket Bucks.
The new market location seeks to bring fresh, local food to Flushing – while only using producers located within 200 miles of the city. There are multiple farms that will provide weekly produce to this location including Breezy Hill Orchard, Knoll Krest Farm Orchard and R+G Produce.
R+G Produce, a family-run business located in Orange County, NY, has been operating since the 1800s. Their farm, originally set on swamp-land, now produces thriving crops in fertile, compost-mixed soil.
They run a busy operation, with over 800 acres of farmland, and only 50-70 employees. “We are like a big family,” said Rick Miller, a delivery driver, worker on the R+G Farm and retired farmer.
The market will sell a rotating variety of produce and other goods locally produced. Residents will have access to everything from carrots, tomatoes, onions, baked goods, cider, fruit, eggs to pasta, among much more.
Miller is one of the many passionate people behind the food.
“It’s so fertile, so soft, so healthy,” he explained while rifling through the food. Soil makes a big difference for R+G, Miller explained. “Their carrots are sweeter than anything.”
While R+G Produce still uses pesticides, they are trying to get away from it by using new technology. Miller described one of the new high-tech machines; a laser-weeder, that can kill weeds as fast as an acre an hour. But cost cannot be ignored when trying to go fully organic, Miller explains.
As a retired farmer, Miller knows the challenges of running a farm, especially an organic one. “Organic is much harder to sell,” he explained. “You lose 70% of your crop.”
On top of that, farmers, organic or not, face piling costs of operating within the United States. Taxes such as electric, fuel and land are a big factor. Along with insuring their crops in case they lose anything to unexpected weather. The burden of insurance is put upon the farmers to pay monthly.
“Farmers are the backbone of this country,” said Miller. “But we aren’t taken care of.”
This is one of the reasons why GrowNYC is so proactive in their mission, by providing access to quality and fresh produce to residents, they are also helping local farmers thrive.
“Support your regional markets,” said Andrina Sanchez, Communications Director at GrowNYC. “They have the freshest local food you can buy.”