Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Observations from the NYC Union Square Farmers Market

When I was living in NYC, the Union Square Farmer’s Market was the only easily accessible farmer’s market. The market wasn’t nearly as large as it is today (think mostly produce and honey), and as I spend much of my summer preparing for, setting up and occasionally working at markets my company participates in locally, I was curious to see what’s changed.

Any vendor that attends a farmer’s market in NYC already deserves a lot of credit just for showing up (literally). Braving the long drives and steep traffic through the bridges and tunnels is on a good day daunting. Traffic is no joke on the east coast and you could be looking at a 2 hour (plus) back-up just to get in and out of the city. The market it’s self runs from 8am – 6pm already making it a loooong day. 

The two days I walked through the market it was over 90 degrees out, thinning out the crowds (though it did make it easier to grab a few photos). We have much of the same produce on both coasts, though some farms had early corn and (non-hothouse) tomatoes.

Prices in some cases were higher than what we find in Portland (garlic scapes were oddly expensive) and some were the same (cherries, lettuces, artisanal goat cheese). 

There is less prepared food in the Union Square Market. The baked goods I saw were from farm stands who were baking items like pies (and occasional breads & muffins) or bakery off-shoots of existing restaurants. Kitchen space rental for small food companies is tight and very expensive and/or non-existent (which was part of my own deciding factor in founding my company in Portland). Additionally, hot food vendors aren’t allowed in the market.

During one walk through the market with a good friend and our hostess we dropped off compost (those large Tupperware containers you can’t fit into your cabinet get a new life!) and picked up assorted produce, cheese and yogurt, happily making our way back to the central AC to enjoy the bounty.

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