I am happy to say that this is the Summer of Farmers Markets for Harlem. What used to be a few Markets scattered throughout Harlem with limited weekday access have now reached a critical mass and you can find a market almost any day of the week above 96th Street.
Before the 125th St Farmers Market was open on Fridays after 5, the only Uptown Market my work schedule would allow me to get to was the Saturday Market on 110th St and Manhattan. Last Summer I wrote a post focusing on why, as Harlem Residents, simply shifting purchasing your produce at a Farmers Market instead of a grocery store will have an outstanding impact on your health, your local economy, reducing your carbon footprint, and the taste of the food that you put on your plate.
Though most of what I wrote in that post bears daily repeating because there are still people out there who just don’t know about the magic of farmers markets, for this post I would like to focus on how making the shift to buying at your super local Farmers Market is achievable for Harlem Residents on any income. Do you hear that—ANY INCOME!
Though I love the Union Square Farmers Market because the Farm Stands are massive, the variety is almost unlimited, and the Farmers are very friendly, it is also very very costly. Having been someone who has felt serious outrage at having spent $7 a pound on organic tomatoes (they were some of the best tomatoes of my life, but seriously–$7 a pound?), I understand why so many people on a limited income assume that Farmers Markets are elitist territory. Since I have been buying vegetables for more than ten years at Union Square Farmers Market, I have witnessed the amazing growth of this market, and the price increases to go with it. Like anyone who sells anything Downtown for a living, the Farmers at Union Square Greenmarket seems to have geared their pricing strategies towards making the most out of all of the Tourists that stomp through the market and to buy an apple and tweet a photo of them with some blueberries, rather than for people who actually try to spend most of their weekly food budget there (and, if you’re not careful, you could spend your who food budget under one tent).
I often get questions about how one can afford produce at Farmers Market, especially if you are on a limited income or receive some type of public assistance. What might have been a somewhat dubious answer last summer is now one that is such a good deal that you should be running to 125th St and Adam Clayton Powell first thing Tuesday morning.
Through a combination of Federal, State, and Greenmarket (City) Assistance Programs you could be eating yourself silly on fresh vegetable all week.
First Step: Do you receive SNAP/EBT/Food Stamps? If so then you are already on your way to Farmers Market Heaven.
Second Step: Go to 125th St Farmers Market on Tuesdays (from 10am to 5pm) or Fridays (from 3pm to 8pm) and go talk to one of the awesome market organizers at the Information Table. They will walk you through how you can take advantage of HealthBucks, New York State FreshConnect Checks, and Stellar Farmers Market/Cornell Cooperative Extension Voucher (Local) so you can get a 120% return on your SNAP/EBT/Food Stamps Investment.
Here’s how it works: For every $5 SNAP/EBT dollars you spend at any of their participating Farmers Markets you get a $2 HealthBuck Voucher, a $2 FreshConnect Check, and if you watch a Stellar Farmers Market (in cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension) cooking demonstration going on at the 125th St Farmers Market, you can earn another $2 voucher to spend on tomatoes, corn, greens, peas, potatoes, cherries, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, or whatever else they have at the farm stands that strike your fancy. By combining the benefits of New York Fresh Connect with use of your SNAP benefits, and then taking a few minutes to watch a cooking demonstration Stellar Farmers Market Cooking demonstration, you’ll be getting $6 worth of vouchers to spend at Farmers Market.
So what are you waiting for? Tuesday is tomorrow—and Friday only a few days after that, so you have two days per week (until the end of November) where you can take advantage of these awesome benefits. Since a quick walk over the 125th St Farmers Market has replaced my weekly train run down to Union Square, I’m sure I’ll see you there sometime. I’ll be the girl fondling the tomatoes, stuffing my canvas bag full of kale, and taking a million pictures of all of the great offerings these Farmers have brought to Harlem.