By Skye Wu
On a sweltering Thursday afternoon on the Upper West Side, Devin Washington is packing up produce from the GrowNYC’s Tucker Square Greenmarket on West 66th Street and Broadway.
“GrowNYC (formerly the Council on the Environment of New York City), founded in 1970, is a hands-on nonprofit, which improves New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block,” according to Charity Navigator.
One of the ways it does this is through its Greenmarkets program. Not only do Greenmarkets offer locally grown produce to New Yorkers, they give regional farmers the experience of selling fresh produce at farmers markets throughout New York City, and providing New Yorkers with compost access.
Devon Washington prefers working at the Tucker Square location to GrowNYC’s world-famous, flagship Union Square farmer’s market, which has been running since 1976. “The Upper West Side has much more community than Union Square’s transient energy….it really feels like an extension of living in New York. Around 75% of customers are residents of the Upper West Side,” he said.
Jo-Ann Wasilewski, Greenmarket manager site leader for the Tucker Square location, remarked on how Upper West Siders “love to compost and mob Greenmarkets.” She concluded that we’re “sick and tired of rats. The more we compost, the less garbage there is and the less rats,” she said. “It is up to us to fix environmental issues and it is a group effort.”
Note: Currently, composting is even more accessible with the ‘NYC Compost’ app which displays all orange compost bin locations scattered throughout New York City. While Greenmarkets offer compost opportunities, these permanent compost bins can be used at someone’s own convenience and service.
All the farmers and producers selling at Greenmarkets come from small to midsize family-owned farms, within a 200-mile radius of New York City. They produce, grow, catch, bake, and forage every product sold. By shopping at Greenmarkets, customers are supporting regional agriculture and helping to create a symbiotic relationship between the city economy and the rural economy. Farm stands focus on providing underserved neighborhoods with access to fresh local foods through nutrition benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to Andrina Sanchez, Communication Lead of Grow NYC, “People using these benefits stretch their dollars, having more access to food daily.”
When the pandemic hit, all of the programs were impacted. However, the greenmarkets were still able to operate considering their outside location. Grow NYC’s team was able to pivot, incorporating social distancing by not allowing customers to interact with the produce.
There are Greenmarkets at these locations on or near the UWS: West 57 Street & 10 Avenue; West 66 Street & Broadway; Columbus Avenue between West 77 & 81 Streets; West 97 Street between Columbus & Amsterdam Avenues; and West 114 St & Broadway. Click the link for exact times and locations.
When the construction of the Natural History museum’s glistening new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation was in progress, GrowNYC worked closely with the AMNH to adapt. Sanchez explained, “GrowNYC navigated changes by moving producers’ stands to new locations, identified alternative parking spots for trucks, and continued to bring the community the freshest, local food in our region!”