By Henry Tamayo
Photos by Henry Tamayo
South Florida Media Network
New York City Bureau
It’s 30 degrees out, but farmer Rose Hubbert – her friends call her “Ole Mother Hubbert” — has traveled 80 miles from her farm in Westtown, N.Y., to sell her naturally grown dairy and poultry products at the Union Square Greenmarket.
You’ll find Hubbert at the market in Union Square Park on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, waiting for customers in the white tent where she displays the chicken, eggs, cheese, milk, butter and other products she and her family produce at their Back to the Future Farm.
It’s a cold day, but there have been colder, and cold or not, Hubbert is there because she insists on cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers.
“We just bundle up,” says Hubbert, who herself is bundled up in a thigh-length, dark green parka against the chill.
The Union Square Greenmarket is the flagship of the more than 50 similar markets in the city sponsored by GrowNYC, a non-profit that for more than four decades has provided farmers with the opportunity sell their goods, and consumers with natural, locally grown food. Union Square and 25 others are open year ’round.
GrowNYC requires vendors to grow or raise everything they sell within roughly 200 miles of the city, with the exception of bakers and jam makers who must locally source their ingredients from the same region.
And whether its 20 degrees or 80 degrees, farmers travel to Union Square on the edge of Lower Manhattan to sell their produce, dairy products, poultry, jam, craft beers and more.
Jason Shelton sells cage-free duck products – whole duck, smoked duck breast, duck sausage, duck bacon, duck prosciutto, duck salami, everything duck – from the Hudson Valley Duck Farm, 100 miles away in Ferndale, New York.
Shelton takes issue with food labeled “organic” at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
“Farmers markets are the only places in America to get local food, and to me that is more important than any organic label,” he says.
And, so they come, braving the record-setting temperatures of an especially cold winter.
Stewart Borowsky, known as the Union Square Grassman, sells the wheat grass and salad greens he grows in a greenhouse in Brooklyn.
“I am lucky to travel only six miles to come here,” he says, standing outside the yellow school bus in which he hauls his produce.
Madalyn Warren and her mother, Ji Kim, sell homemade kimchi, a salted and fermented vegetable side dish usually made of cabbage or radishes that is a staple of the Korean diet. They grow the ingredients 150 miles away, at their farm in Roxbury, N.Y.
“We wear layers and maintain a full stomach for warmth,” Warren says.
But, Kim says in her heavily accented English, there’s more to it than just staying warm.
“We need more people buying in farmers markets to support this system,” she says. “Supermarkets are taking over, selling their packaged food from across the nation.”