Browsing Tag

farmers market

Behind the Plate


May 26, 2016


Kori Petrovic, Youthmarket Program Coordinator at GrowNYC, is passionate about educating children about the food system. We all need guidance and opportunity to be able to make good food and life choices, and Kori is a crucial figure for our New York youth. You can follow Youthmarkets on Twitter @NYCyouthmarkets, and read Youthmarket staff experiences on their blog—Young & Green Homegrown.

For those just getting to know you, please tell us about your role at Youthmarket.
Youthmarket is somewhat different from a regular Greenmarket that you’re used to seeing on the streets. Instead of farmers coming to the market to sell their products, we buy wholesale produce through Greenmarket Co. and hire youth from the neighborhood to sell the produce at the stand. That way we provide seasonal jobs to teenagers, bring fresh produce to underserved communities, and support regional farmers. Youthmarket is also an educational program. We teach the youth how to run a small business; through cooking demonstrations we teach the community how to use veggies they’re not familiar with, and ways to store produce so it lasts longer; and through nutrition education workshops we show them how much sugar is in sodas and how many calories are in their favourite fast food meal. My role at the Youthmarket is to coordinate all fifteen Youthmarkets across four boroughs—from hiring and training the market managers and youth, to maintaining equipment and keeping track of paperwork. In a nutshell, I make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Foodstand celebrated Food Revolution Day last week, on May 20th. What does a food revolution mean to you?
A food revolution means going back to the basics—meaning more cooking at home from scratch with simple and fresh ingredients. I think as a society we distanced ourselves from the kitchen and communal cooking, and we’re too busy to share meals and enjoy what we’re eating. We should definitely start paying more attention to where our food comes from and how we’re using it.

What does the food world look like post-revolution, and how do we get there?
In my ideal post-food-revolution scenario everybody would have their own garden plots, would be involved with planting their own food, and would prepare food themselves. Wishful thinking. In a not-so-ideal-post-revolution-world we would just be more aware of what we’re eating—less processed foods and more home-cooked meals.

How did you first get involved with Youthmarket?
I first got involved with Youthmarket when I was part of GrowNYC’s program “Learn It Grow It Eat It.” It’s a program that works with high school teenagers, teaching them how to grow and maintain organic fruits and vegetables in three community gardens in the South Bronx. During the summer, as part of their summer job, they learn how to cook with fresh produce, teach smaller kids about gardening, and conduct simple nutrition workshops in schools and health centers. Part of their weekly job is to run a Youthmarket. At that market, three groups of five teens rotate through selling the produce, conducting cooking demos, and presenting simple nutrition workshops.

How do you define good food?
For me good food is tasty food. The kind that makes you go mmm. Food that makes you feel good after you eat it. If it’s prepared with fresh ingredients and potentially didn’t travel too far, all the better!

Who is your food inspiration?
My mum, firstly! I learned a lot by watching her prepare food while we were in the restaurant business. Secondly, being a food blogger myself, I’ve learned tons from my fellow bloggers as well. I now use spices and ingredients I probably wouldn’t use otherwise.

We believe that food can help change people’s lives. Can you tell about a success story you’ve seen at Youthmarket—how a youth’s life has been changed for the better by his/her involvement?
Every season about 60-70 teens participate in our program and early in the season most of them will be reluctant about trying fresh produce. However, by the end of the market season they’ll often proudly tell me what new fruit or a vegetable they tried and really liked (or disliked); they’ll tell me how they started to eat more veggies, and how they prepare meals at home that they share with their families. Some of them will tell me they reduced the amount of sugary drinks they drink; others say they stopped eating chips. These are small steps that lead to big changes. By positively changing their habits they directly influence their friends, siblings and other family members.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
At the end of the season—after the youth have struggled with cold and rainy weather in October and November, after the hundredth time the tent wouldn’t open, or a customer would complain about something—I’ll hear from the youth how this job was a great learning experience and how it changed them. They’ll usually tell me how it helped them improve their public speaking and that they are less nervous when speaking with new people. As a result they socialize more with their school mates; they are more outgoing, and more likely to try new things. In general, they become more confident and more patient. These are the stories I value, and these stories make my belief stronger that, indeed, we are doing something meaningful and worthwhile!

Are there any personal beliefs that you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
I think we are wasting too much food in general. We either buy too much of it and it goes bad in our homes, or we prepare it and don’t eat everything—in both scenarios too much food ends in the garbage and eventually in the landfills. We should start paying more attention to where our food ends up. Since I started composting my food scraps I have reduced my garbage by more than half. More and more places are offering drop-off sites, and it’s becoming easier to deal with the waste. This personal belief led to finally adding compost drop-off at two Youthmarkets this year. I hope that number will grow next year.


If you had to make a food resolution this year, what would it be?
To make a new dish by mastering a new cooking technique at least once a month.

What has been your biggest work-related challenge?
One of the struggles that continuously repeats year after year is dealing with the lateness of youth staff. Out of the whole pool of teens, there are always a few that are late more than others. For a lot of them it’s their first job ever and each teenager has a different learning curve when it comes to working at a new position. I usually start by talking to them to see what’s going on in their life (personal or professional) that’s making them being late. Some may just need a subtle reminder, while others require more clearly defined consequences to get the point. If talking doesn’t work, with the help from the manager we try to work on their motivation. We’re all late from time to time, so I start at the softer end of the scale, and take stronger measures only when nothing else seems to get through.

Weather can also sometimes be a challenge. Two years ago we had a lot of cold and rainy market days in October. You have to be innovative to keep everyone’s spirits up and keep everyone positive. I always try to encourage the managers to find fun activities during the day to take their minds off the miserable weather. On the other hand, last season was very sunny and dry. We have yet to see what this year brings us.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
One of the important issues to address soon is more support for small, diversified farmers! By providing small family farms a viable outlet through which to sell their products, we help preserve farmland. Protecting family farms becomes a shared goal for both farmers and their consumers when we create more local food systems that in turn create direct-to-consumer markets that further strengthen relationships between farmers and their consumers.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Less processed food!

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
During my childhood in Croatia, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house. Polenta and thick homemade yogurt was a spotlight breakfast before we took off to do our farm chores. But nothing could beat grandma’s warm bread with the best homemade rose hip or plum jam—the smell and the taste of which I still remember pretty vividly. I also loved chewing honey comb right after my grandfather pulled it out from the bee hives! (I also remember him saying a bee sting is good for arthritis!)

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t running the Youthmarket program, I’m pretty sure I would be involved in some kind food-related field. I think in today’s world it’s crucial to educate children and adolescents (and adults) about the food system and food cycle. Giving kids an opportunity to learn about the issues that affect food, and to take an active role in their own nutrition, prepares them for a lifetime of considering both health and sustainability when making choices about the food they eat.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Nobody in particular comes to mind. If I could, I’d really like to have a meal with a Native Indian a few centuries back. I think it would be truly remarkable to find out more about how they gathered food, prepared it and what different cooking techniques they used.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
Honey, carob powder, olives and dry sage! I love to bake so I use honey instead of sugar, and you can never go wrong with carob powder in sweets, and olives in salads. Sage tea just tastes wonderful, hot in the winter or with ice cubes in the summer.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
My favourite meal-on-the-go is oatmeal with roasted butternut squash, honey, chopped walnuts and cinnamon in a jar—it’s a great stress reducer (in combination with WQXR classical radio) while I’m driving the Youthmarket van on the FDR during the morning rush hour!

Favorite recipe?
One of my (many) favourite recipes is brownies with seasonal fruit (cherries and currants are soon to be found at the farmers markets!) Note: Once you click, scroll down for the English translation.

Your good food wish?
Cook! Experiment with new ingredients and try not to eat alone.

Behind the Plate


May 6, 2016


There was still a little chill in the air the day Foodstand’s Summer Rayne Oakes (@sugardetoxme) sat down to interview Barry Benepe. They agreed to meet at the Union Square Greenmarket on a Wednesday—one of the busiest market days of the week (~300,000 walk throughs in a given day) —and spend a good forty minutes talking about how it all came to be. It is the Greenmarket.

Barry, who was an urban planner in the 70s, went on to spearhead urban revival throughout New York City by ushering in the creation of our city’s Greenmarkets as a way to connect urban dwellers to surrounding farms. So in a way, you can say that Barry is the Father of NYC’s farmers markets. That’s how Summer introduced him to those who stopped by Foodstand’s demo booth at the market when Barry paused to thank Summer for the interview. Rest assured—the people there were genuinely starstruck, particularly because the 50+ Greenmarkets and 15 Youthmarkets in the city have become a fixture for many-a-people’s daily or weekly shopping habits. Here’s how it all began:

Why did you go with “Greenmarket” vs. the more traditional “farmers market”?
We talked to the city law department and consumer affairs and we wanted to have them say the “farmers market”. To do it legally they had to be farmers selling farm produce. They wouldn’t do it until city council passed a law. So we couldn’t go farmers market and then had to explain what a Greenmarket was—from the farm to table. You are really dealing with farmers—buying from the farmers. It used to be the farmers that sold, and it wasn’t until recent years that they began hiring city people. Even now, the farmer has to be there a certain number of days in the year.

Who was initially buying [from the market]? Ordinary citizens? Chefs?
Everyday people. Not chefs. Danny Meyer from Union Square Cafe said he located here because the market is here. He is devoted to local produce. That was the beginning of chefs shopping here, and I believe they pay retail prices when they shop here. I think there are at least 70 chefs that shop here now, if not more.

How often do you cook for yourself at home?
All the time. I love cooking for myself. I’m totally inventive. I love food. I love leftovers especially! One thing I do: I never repeat a meal.

What were the problems that you were looking to solve when you came up with the idea for creating a farmers market in New York?
I was a planning consultant and I hired a man named Bob Lewis… I had developed a zoning map that was unique. Up until that point, zoning maps were flat. I had a sense of the larger picture of land and how it was used.

While Bob and I were working with our clients, we saw the lack of attention to farming. That led Bob and me to discuss how we could help farmers save farming. The other thing that was obvious to us was that the quality of food in our stores was terrible! In August when peaches are ripening in Long Island, they weren’t appearing in New York. They were hard and green and from California or somewhere else. There was no sense of food taste, smell or handling—everything was wrapped in shrink wrap. We didn’t have a sense of real food. We wanted to link the sense of a farm economy with a concept of nutrition and enjoyment of eating food.

Also, I grew up on a farm. My father bought the farm in 1938 when I was 10, and as I became a teenager, I worked on the farm. I helped harvest, package and deliver the food to market which was usually an auction block. Or canneries for tomatoes and freezing plants for food to be frozen. None of it was shipped fresh. Occasionally my brother would drive to the market in Baltimore or maybe in New York to sell wholesale by the basket, but generally none of our food wound up fresh on anyone’s table.

Was there anyone running something equivalent to a farmers market at the time—whether in the city or otherwise?
The city of Rochester was running a successful farmers market program run by the Chamber of Commerce. And they did it because they wanted to bring business downtown. Business was suffering and they thought a farmers market would do it, and they were correct.

The woman who was head there, Susan Snook, was very generous with information and helped us get started. Bob also read about Richard Po who was part of Williams Farmland Preservation. Richard Po gave us a cash contribution of $800 to go out and raise money. At that time I did a feasibility study for the city to do a farmers market. We went to a couple of foundations—the Kaplan family (part of Welch’s Grape Juice) made a donation, and America the Beautiful Fund to bring life to city spaces.

Any stories of farmers markets in the city before yours?
Well, when I was looking for farmers, I came upon a farmer by the name of John Monaghan who I was told used to farm in Queens. He was a man in his eighties—and don’t forget this was in 1976. And he told me that he remembered being a young man in his 20s and coming to sell at the foot of the Queensborough Bridge. I looked this up in the 1911 Bureau Farmers Report and there was a farmers market there that only allowed the farmers to sell as a retail market. He said when that market opened, he would come across on the ferry. And that he was the first farmer on the bridge ever. I had this confirmed in an article on the 100th Anniversary of the bridge in the New York Times. I thought it was an interesting story that we were coming back to that origin, to that place, where the first market opened.


Where did the farmers come from for the Greenmarket?
Bob went to the county agents and cooperative extension agents in NJ and NY because they already had a list of farmers with farm stands and pick-your-own and things like that. These were farmers who were used to retailing. But they were very suspicious about coming in. Ocean County, NJ is just across the harbor—not one farmer from Ocean County was interested in coming. One made the comment, “Yeah we’re going drive our trucks home with empty pockets.”

They thought that somehow the mafia would control things. And that was a real fear because the waterfront was controlled by the mafia and they controlled everyone with a truck. They held people up, and took money from them—New York was a crime city. That was mainly in the 40s and 50s, and we were far from that time, but there was still suspicion about New York.

So it took some heavy convincing. What did he ultimately do?
Bob spent time on the phone reaching out to them. So that summer, we opened three markets—59th Street first. We handled publicity and got responses from three major TV channels. They wanted to cover the market—it would appear at the end of the major news. The news was bad back in the 70s and this was the “good news” at the end of the show. People were calling City Hall asking where the farmers market was, but City Hall knew nothing about it! It took time to educate the city that we were working there.

How was the Union Square Farmers Market formed?
We were asked if we would come down to Union Square; they were trying to revive the area. They had prepared a plan for Union Square that showed a tennis court where the market is, and I said, “Change your plan; take the tennis court out and have a farmers market,” which they did. And they also took charge in getting the permits that we need.

What was the area like?
Oh, this was a BAD area, all the stores were closed, and they were trying to use us as a mechanism to turn the area around. And so when we started, it was a dismal area. And people didn’t want to shop there.

How many farmers were you able to convince to showcase at Union Square?
We had at least 12 farmers, and grew to 18. We had 9 on each side on 59th Street. It was Saturdays only to start and didn’t go to the end of the day, but we had around 2,000-foot traffic. The farmers did well.

Did you go back to your original farmers?
I think in general, the farmers from 59th Street did both locations. Some of them are still around and can probably tell you—S & SO Produce Farm. Not only the same farmers came down but when we broadened Union Square to additional days—we went from Saturday to Wednesday and then we later added a Friday and a Monday—the same farmers kept on coming in and no other farm could gain access to the Monday markets. So we said Monday is only for new farmers. We had a lot of organic growers who couldn’t get into the other markets or didn’t know about them.

What were the rules of the farmers market—if you had any to start?
We were in the process of developing rules. The first day we opened at 59th Street, one farmer came in with toys, and another came in with bananas. I asked the guy, “What’s up with the toys?” He said, “Well, they were up in the attic, so I thought I’d bring them down.” So we nixed things outside of produce to start. Then the other rule became: you had to grow your own, but could buy 25% locally. That rule I think still holds. We started with fruits and vegetables, and then we started to move into dairy products, eggs, butter, and meat.

How were you advertising in the city?
My children worked with me in the Greenmarket and we made t-shirts in the first year. Signage was important. We tried a banner across 2nd Avenue where 59th Street location was, and we had it very high, but a big boom truck ripped it down, so we gave up on that. We got permission to put up signs on the poles.

What food issue do you want to see put back on the political agenda?
I would like to see all the stores sell food directly from the farmers.

So all local all the time?
I want to see the Greenmarket go out of business because all the stores go local.

What’s a good day at the farmers market?
Here [in Union Square] $3,000 or more. People who shop in the market often don’t shop for price (even though we might be cheaper). First of all, people shop from their favorite farmers. Also, they like the choices. We have 50 varieties of lettuce! You can’t find that in the supermarket.

What’s your local farmers market?
Abingdon Square Farmers Market. Usually on Saturday we go there first and get some of the heavy stuff, and then come here to Union Square. I need to get the dairy products here, the milk and things. Flatbreads we can get here.

What is your biggest #foodfail?
That’s funny. The one that failed also succeeded. Chocolate soufflé. The first one I made was perfect. The second one I made collapsed. I don’t know what I did wrong, but still ate it. The other thing I failed at was cooking roast beef for Colette Rossant, an acclaimed food writer and critic. And it failed when she came—I didn’t realize I put in a frozen piece of meat. So after two hours, when it was supposed to be done, it was still hard! I forgot to thaw it out the day before.

Any great restaurants you particularly like in the city?
One restaurant just opened a block from my house called Bespoke Kitchen. Judith, my wife, introduced me as the founder of the Greenmarket and the chef and team were so excited to talk about food. When the bill came out it said, $0.00, and the food was just magnificent. We have gone back, and they came with a huge amount of food. I took enough food home for five more meals. Another restaurant we love to go to is the restaurant in the Jane Hotel—Cafe Gitane. Seeing the sunset come through the windows over the Hudson… very beautiful. And they are very nice people. They do Moroccan cuisine there which is really good.

What are some good food tips?
One little thing I’ll do is use beet juice to cook carrots because it deepens the orange of the carrots. It’s fun. With greens, I use apples, raisins and nuts sometimes. One thing I particularly love to do are omelets. I beat the whites up separately and then add the yolk to it. I like to use a lot of ingredients.

How are you involved with the Greenmarket today?
As a customer!


How to do lunch from the Farmer’s Market

May 5, 2014

By 11:30am, my stomach is growling and I’m already distracted by sweet dreams of lunch to come. I try to pack a lunch, but some days (ok… a lot of days!) I opt to spend five extra minutes hitting snooze in exchange for the mad hunt for lunch in a 5 block radius of the office. And now that spring is (supposedly) here, farmers markets are back in full force, which means the lunch options are endless! We all have hectic days, but if you happen to work near a farmer’s market, you can get a pretty amazing lunch in the same amount of time and money it would take you to peruse the shelves at Pret or yawn in the Chipotle line.

Here’s our guide to great lunching if you work near one of the 130+ farmers markets in New York City. And what’s even better is that if you go just once, you can pick up enough stuff for a couple of lunches, 4pm-hit-the-wall-snacks with friends, and dinner ingredients.

Union Square / Flatiron

The Market: Union Square Greenmarket is along the northwest section of Union Square

Open: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays

Estimated price for lunch: $3.75 – $9.00

Estimated time to purchase and prep: 15 minutes + travel. And you know you’ll wait just as long at one of the usual suspect restaurants in the neighborhood.

Pick up these ingredients to stack up a quick and delicious lunch

Apples and pears from Migliorelli Farm for less than $2 a pound

Apples and pears from Migliorelli Farm for less than $2 a pound

Bread Alone Organic Whole Grain Bread for $4.75

Bread Alone Organic Whole Grain Bread for $4.75

Organic Arugula at $4 for 1/4 pound

Organic Arugula at $4 for 1/4 pound

Gluten free bread options are also available!

Gluten free bread options are also available!

Ham and cheeses from Millport Dairy for $6 each

Ham and cheeses from Millport Dairy for $6 each

Say hello to John from Millport Dairy when you stop by! 

Say hello to John from Millport Dairy when you stop by! 

Stack this stuff, and pop it in the toaster oven for a few minutes, and voilà! You have a delicious lunch for less time and money than most takeout spots in the neighborhood, and all the ingredients are fresh, delicious, and from local farms. 

Local Ham Sandwich

Local Ham Sandwich

This local ham sandwich stacks:


You can also make a veggie version of this by stacking

For the Mondays when you’re knocking over small children in a sprint to find lunch, you can grab one of Buon Pane’s Focaccia Pizzas. At only $3.75, it is one of the most affordable, balanced, fresh lunches around. Grab a few for the week while you’re there, like our beloved friend Matt does.

Buon Pane Focaccia Pizza

Buon Pane Focaccia Pizza

Farmers markets are open for lunch all over New York. So give that chopped salad a little vacation, head outside, meet some growers, and try out lunching at your nearest market!

Columbia University

Location: Broadway between 114th Street and 116th Street

Open: Thursdays

Easy lunch ingredients:  

Midtown West / Columbus Circle

Location: 9th Ave and West 57th Street

Open: Wednesdays (Starting 5/7/2014!)

Easy lunch ingredients:

  • Pears, apples, and a glass of cider from Breezy Hill Orchard
  • Breads from Meredith’s Bakery to pair honey and fruit butter from Toigo Orchard
  • Arugula from Morgiewics Produce to pair with a sharp cheddar cheese from Millport Dairy

City Hall

Location: Broadway at Chambers Street

Open: Tuesdays and Fridays, but there are more options on Fridays

Easy lunch ingredients: 

World Financial Center

Location: South End Ave at Liberty Street

Open: Thursdays

Easy lunch ingredients: 

Brooklyn Borough Hall

Location: Court Street and Montague Street

Open: Tuesdays and Thursdays

Easy lunch ingredients: 

  • Bread from Baker’s Bounty topped with jam from Wilklow Orchards
  • Delicious vegan turnovers from Body + Soul (Thursdays only!). Pick up an oatmeal raisin cookie for an afternoon treat. They are surely top 3 cookies in all of NY.

Do you have other great farmers market lunch hacks? Let us know here, on Facebook, or on Twitter! Can’t wait to see what you find. You’ll be able to share your finds on the Foodstand App soon. Make sure you are signed up to be the first to know when the app launches!