New York City is involved in increasingly tense negotiations with the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market coop over a new lease. Hunts Point in the Bronx is the biggest source of fruits and vegetables for the city’s 22 million people. New Jersey is courting the market, but the coop and the city agreed to keep talking with one another through the end of the month.
It’s not the biggest issue on the negotiators’ docket, but champions of regional food systems see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tie Upstate New York’s farmers into one of the largest food industries in the world.
Right now, Hunts Point doesn’t have a section dedicated to local farmers. The National Resources Defense Council, actor Mark Ruffalo, and 35 other organizations are spearheading an effort to get a wholesale farmers market included in the new lease negotiations. As NRDC staffer Johanna Dyer writes in her blog:
Such a market could really benefit struggling farmers and the regional economy. Many of our farmers have the capacity and inclination to supply more local food to the city, with its world-class restaurants, numerous food retailers and enormous public school and hospital systems, but (currently) lack the right venue to do so.
Here’s my question as far as North Country agriculture is concerned. We certainly have plenty of farmers and available farmland to take advantage of such a massive marketing opportunity.
But are we close enough? Regional food maps like the one above, developed by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, appear to leave out most of the North Country.
According to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s local foods maven, Bernadette Logozar, only one North Country farm currently sells produce at Hunts Point: Ralph Childs’ farm outside Malone. I also know of a few meat producers who are selling direct-to-consumer in the NYC area.
As for other farms, Logozar wrote me in an e-mail, “the interest is there but the production levels or final connections haven’t happened yet for the produce side of things. The livestock farmers are working towards this goal.”
Obviously, the future of Hunts Point is a key factor. But I wonder if distance would keep North Country agriculture on the outside looking into New York City’s market. It’s a long drive for individual farmers to haul produce down to the Bronx on a regular basis. Perhaps farms could organize their own mini-Hunts Point in northern New York that would then send trucks down to the City.
I’d love to hear from you if you’re a farmer thinking about this, or are involved in efforts to tap the NYC market. Or maybe you’re looking North, to Montreal or Ottawa?
With all those people, many of whom are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, it seems too good an opportunity to pass up.