Greenmarkets off to fresh start

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Photo Courtesy of Lela Champan
Greenmarket consumers purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown by regional farmers.Photo Courtesy of Lela Champan
Greenmarket consumers purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown by regional farmers.

Queens’ streets will be a little greener this summer, with six greenmarkets set to open throughout the borough.

Greenmarkets in The Shops at Atlas Park and Sunnyside opened on Saturday, June 6, and the Jackson Heights greenmarket opened on Sunday, June 7, according to the Greenmarket Program of the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC). Astoria and Long Island City greenmarkets will open in July, along with a new greenmarket in Corona.

Queens’ greenmarkets, which are part of the largest open-air farmer’s market program in the country, provide residents with fresh fruits, vegetables and other local produce from 200 regional farms. The markets also host cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and recipe exchanges.

“When you buy food from greenmarkets, you are helping to preserve genetic diversity and family farms,” said Sabine Hrechdakian, the special projects and publicity manager for the Greenmarket Program.

Farmers affiliated with this program contribute to the preservation of farmland through environmentally friendly farming practices, such as the use of well water and natural fertilizers.

"Our farmers are preserving watershed through sustainable practices," said Michael Hurtwitz, the director of the Greenmarket Program.

Greenmarkets also provide consumer health benefits by offering locally grown food that has not lost nutritional value due to transportation.

“The average food item travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles from seed to plate,” said Hurwitz.

The need to transport food long distances often results in the harvesting of food that is not yet nutritionally mature and requires the use of sprays and waxes for preservation. However, purchasing fresh, local food from greenmarkets eliminates these problems, said Hurwitz.

Among the vendors who sell their fresh produce at the greenmarkets are farmers from the New Farmer Development Project (NFDP) of the CENYC, which trains immigrants with agricultural experience to become local producers. Twenty graduates of the program, including three graduates this year, have established independent local farms.

“I saw a lot of products in the greenmarkets that were missing, and I began to think about starting my own business,” said Sergio Nolasco, a NFDP graduate and owner of Nolasco farms.

Nolasco, who sells a variety of melons, vegetables and specialty Mexican products at several Queens greenmarkets, said that the NFDP helped him to obtain farmland and farm equipment.

Eighty percent of farmers belonging to the Greenmarket Program would be unable to remain in business without the program’s assistance, said Hrechdakian.

Along with providing economic assistance for farmers, greenmarkets in Astoria, Corona and Jackson Heights accept food stamps. CENYC partners with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide greenmarket consumers with Health Bucks, a $2 coupon given for every $5 spent on fresh produce at the markets.

Check out your local greenmarket

Astoria Greenmarket

Open every Wednesday from July 8 – November, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

Located on 14th Street between 31st Avenue and 31st Road.

Atlas Park Greenmarket

Open every Saturday from June 6 through November, 8 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Located in The Shops at Atlas Park, Cooper Avenue and 80th Street, Glendale.

Corona Greenmarket

Open from July 10 – November, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Located at Roosevelt Avenue at 103rd Street.

Jackson Heights Greenmarket

Open every Sunday from June 7 through November, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Located on 34th Ave. between 77th & 78th Streets and around the corner on 78th Street between 34th Avenue & Northern Boulevard.

Long Island City Greenmarket

Open every Saturday from July 11 through November, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Located on 48th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard.

Sunnyside Greenmarket

Open every Saturday from June 6 through November, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Located on Skillman Avenue between 42nd & 43rd Streets.