I’ve lived in New York City all my life and I’ve become very used to eating whatever my local supermarket had available, which tends to be really bland foods, which make McDonalds seem much more appetizing. Lately, however, farmers markets have become ever more prevalent throughout N.Y.C., providing every urbanite with the opportunity to taste how amazing fresh produce can be.
It’s actually long over due. Believe it or not, New York has a long agricultural history. Queens NY in particular has a farming history that dates back to the 15th Century and is home to Queens County Farm Museum, which is the only working historical farm in N.Y.C. New York State however continues to have many established farms, which serve New York City residents and provides them with awesome wine, cheese, honey, maple syrup and much, much more. Shopping at local farmers markets, give residents the opportunity to support these farmers, who often times are struggling to stay afloat since it’s extremely difficult to compete with the behemoth supermarkets which most of us rely on.
There are plenty of reasons to support local farmers. For starters, supporting farmers and their farms means that a greater amount of New York State land will be devoted to the cultivation of crops, many of which are ingenious to the region, instead of using such land for commercial and real estate development. Devoting too much land for development can result in urban sprawl, which in turn can have serious environmental consequences. Yet another environmental benefit of shopping locally comes from the fact that since your produce is traveling a shorter distance to get to you, less fossil fuel is being burned, which in turn means less pollution.
Shopping locally can also have a positive effect on our current economic situation. Shopping locally puts your hard earned money back into the local economy, rather then shipping those dollars to other regions. Now-a-days, much of our produce is imported from other countries and as a result most of our produce dollars get sent back to those countries. Furthermore, since your produce must travel a long distance, by the time it gets to you, it far from fresh. It’s also pretty flavorless, since getting it to you without it going utterly rancid means that it must be picked well before it’s even close to being ripe. Now, I am not an inherent hater of globalization, it can definitely have it benefits, but if I can buy better tasting produce and help my local economy simultaneously, than it just makes more sense for me to do just that by buying from my local farmer.
One of the most important reasons to shop locally, however, is that it gives you the ability to have a greater say in the quality and diversity of your produce. Small, local farmers are more attentive to the needs and wishes of their customers. They are more likely to go out of their way to grow and cultivate their foods in a safe, clean, and sustainable manner in order to please you, the customer, as well as to protect the lands which they depend on. Most large, commercial farms, which currently dominate the produce market, often times put the best interests of their customers to the side when it comes to safety and cleanliness, with some seriously tragic results. In the pursuit of bigger profits larger farms have engaged in activities that have directly resulted in not only the death and illness of many individuals, but also in the devastation of our lands. The best way to stop such things from happening is by supporting those farmers who are responsible.
When it comes to shopping local, however, there’s no need to focus solely on local produce and foods. The growing “Handmade” movement has resulted in an explosion of new local craft and flea markets, which provide shoppers with all sorts of goodies, made my fellow city residents. In fact you can often times find yours truly selling her handmade crafts at some of these markets here in New York City. Buying more things locally allows you as the shopper to have a stronger influence in your local economy. Furthermore it provides you with the opportunity to learn how, where, and by whom the things you buy are made, which benefits all of us in the long run.
If you haven’t done so already, consider checking out the local markets near you. For those of you who aren’t sure where your nearest farmers market is, here’s a list of some of the local markets in Queens, NY:
Astoria – Wednesday’s 14 St - 31 Ave & 31 Rd
Jul 8 - Nov 8 – 3
Jackson Heights – Sunday’s 34 Ave - 77 & 78 Sts
Jun - Nov 8 - 3
L.I.C. – Saturday’s - 48 Ave btw Vernon & 5th St
Jul 11 - Nov 8 - 3
Sunnyside – Saturday’s - Skillman - 42 & 43 Sts
Jun - Dec 8 - 4
Corona – Friday’s - Roosevelt Ave & 103rd St
Jul 10-Nov 8 - 5
Glendale – Saturday’s - Cooper Ave & 80 St
Jun - Nov 8 - 3
For more information about all the greenmarkets here in N.Y.C. check out www.ceny.org.
Maria Isabel Olivera