Founded in 1976, Greenmarket sells almost any product that can be grown, cut, harvested, baked and processed in a very small local region. New York City and the nation are embracing healthier diet trends, which has led to the rise in farmers markets.
Studies indicate that neighborhood residents who have access to farmers markets have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables daily, and surrounding commercial district experiences financial gains. As of mid-2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 7,175 farmers markets nationally. Citywide, there are 120 farmers markets, and 63 are operated by Greenmarket.
In contrast to traditional supermarkets, a farmers market offers a greater diversity of products, with some uniquely available items. A supermarket often carries two to five apple varieties, but a farmers market may offer 16 varieties. There could be thousands of varieties of pears, peaches, tomatoes, and berries.
Also available are unique produce such as ramps, spring green garlic, rhubarb, sour cherries, and horseradish root, and meats like ostrich, bison, and elk, as well as low-temperature pasteurized and un-homogenized milk.
“We would bring the freshest, most nutritious, and best-tasting produce to Forest Hills, which has been yearning for our market for years,” said the director of Greenmarket, Jackson Heights resident Michael Hurwitz. “Benefits include a mass of patrons to local businesses, amenities to boost our quality of life, and the transformation of unused space into active community space offering cooking demonstrations, music, children's activities, and educational programming.”
A Forest Hills farmers market would operate from either June or July through Thanksgiving or Christmas, but the biggest challenge has been securing a location.
Past considerations were MacDonald Park and Restaurant Row on 70th Road between Austin Street and Queens Boulevard.
“Greenmarket seeks to find an amenable location for all community constituents and businesses, and then we will approach the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and elected officials,” said Hurwitz. “We will represent everyone.”
“The farmers market idea was visited in 2010, when we met with Mr. Hurwitz,” said Leslie Brown, president of the chamber. “The market was met with a resounding 'no' from Chamber businesses, who felt it would adversely affect business on Restaurant Row and at SS Natural on Austin Street and Ascan Avenue.
“The Chamber suggested introducing the farmers market to school parking lots, and near the Kew Gardens Courthouse, so it could benefit more than one neighborhood,” Brown added. “The chamber favors farmers markets, but prefers locations where it's beneficial to every one.”
Hurwitz refuted that claim.
“It has been documented throughout the U.S. that farmers markets create a critical mass of business for a community,” he said. “People make a day out of attending a market, having a meal, and then shopping in the neighborhood.”
There are case studies that signify the success of farmers markets. According to Hurwitz, Union Square was greatly revitalized by a farmers market, in comparison to 1976, and a weekly farmers market in a Walgreens parking lot in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn marks the greatest business day at Walgreens.
Bravo Supermarket at Broadway and 175th Street is busiest when a farmers market takes place outside. There are products inside the supermarket being sold at farmers markets, but the supermarket still yields greater profits.
In addition, all of Greenmarket's Queens locations have flourished. Jackson Heights has their year-round flagship market, which has doubled in size in the last two years. It is their fifth largest, with 15 to 20 vendors in full season.
“People are becoming aware of the relationship between food, health, and active community spaces,” Hurwitz said. “We are inundated with new market requests throughout the boroughs.”
Greenmarket plans to re-launch its survey of Forest Hills sites based upon internal and local input.
“We have over 1,000 signatures from Forest Hills residents in support, and some businesses and elected officials have been supportive, too,” said Hurwitz. “Bamboo Moves, a yoga studio on Queens Boulevard, has been one of the leaders that approached Greenmarket with the idea. Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi is a supporter, as long as we find the right location.”
Professor James Voketaitis of the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a Forest Hills resident led a petition drive in support of a farmers market in the neighborhood.
“Everyone I speak with admires the farmers market concept,” he said. “I petitioned in 2010, and plan to continue. I recently wrote Congressman Bob Turner, and requested his support.”
“Introducing a farmers market would be a great way to support local farmers in the greater New York area,” said Steve Goodman of Forest Hills. “As a member of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), we obtain fresh produce from a Long Island organic farm, which is delivered to my home each week.
“A local farmers market would bring the same high quality food to the rest of our neighborhood, including those who may not belong to a CSA,” he added.