Does NYC even need Upstate farms?
Is there a booth for Upstate agriculture at places like Union Square market in Manhattan? Or is NYC doing just fine on its own? Photo: David Sommerstein.
This week, I'll be in New York City doing some reporting on the reality of urban agriculture there, and how it relates to the farming practiced here in Upstate New York. I'll be blogging about what I see, hear and taste. I'm not sure what I'm going to find, but here's one hunch.
For years, Upstate and North Country farmers have been talking about the potential of millions of hungry consumers so tantalizingly close. In a recent story by NCPR's Sarah Harris, Cornell Cooperative Extension's Bernadette Logozar put it this way:
Are there farmers in the from the Adirondack North Country region selling products into New York City? Yes. Is it without its challenges? Absolutely not. Is that still kind of the diamond prize that’s hanging on the horizon for many? Absolutely.
Yes, hundreds of farms are indeed selling produce in NYC, from a meat CSA in St. Lawrence County to artesanal cheeses in Washington County to loads of inventive farms in the Hudson Valley.
And yes, 19 million mouths to feed in the metropolitan area means a whole lot of farms will be needed to make even a "local" dent.
But let's think north and west of the Hudson Valley for a minute (some Upstaters pause to even think of that region as "Upstate"). How much does New York City even think of all the dairy farmers and cabbage and lettuce farmers scattered from Buffalo to Binghampton to Malone? Do they have a place in the NYC local food revolution?
What might surprise many Upstaters is that the Big City is jumping ahead with agriculture of its own. Here are just five examples how:
- Gotham Greens in Brooklyn is one of the biggest rooftop greenhouses in the country. And it's stunningly big.
- Farm in the Sky, also in Brooklyn, is growing luscious, tender greens and more in recycled plastic containers on a roof. And it works.
- Just Food NYC is organizing dozens of CSAs and training the next crop of urban farmers.
- The largely West Indian community in East New York, Brooklyn again (!), has blurred the distinction between farm and neighborhood garden.
- New York City boasts the largest network of farmers markets in the country, including the immensely popular Union Square market.
So the questions I'll be asking this week have to do with whether there's a place for hip, new, urban agriculture to meet and mind-meld with good old fashioned Upstate farming? Does the urban agriculture movement even align itself with the traditional trappings of the Ag industry, like the Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and 4H?
What do you see where you are? Your comments will greatly help inform our reporting as we dig into the world of urban agriculture. NYC, look out. Here comes Upstate.
Tags: agriculture, farmers market, farming, new york, nyc, rural life