At midday, an old, somewhat untamed looking man, with rough, long gray facial hair, wearing worn out dark blue slacks and a graying shirt, worked his way to the Eve Cidery Farm stand, to sample three different ciders being displayed. “I’ve been coming to these markets for 6 years, and every year it gets better and better,” said the man after he hurriedly swallowed all three samples, barely having any time to examine the variety in taste of dry and sweet flavors. As Ezra Sherman, part owner of the Cidery Farm gazed at the man in some disgust and humor; the old man finished, wiped his lips with his handkerchief, and walked off saying, “Thank you kindly,” from a distance.
The streets of Union Square were packed with shoppers, tourists, sellers and spectators of all sorts, despite the chilly weather conditions, curious about the green markets. Each owner or helper, managing a farmers stand, stood resilient against the cold winds, prepared with wool coats, thick sweaters and layers of clothes, as they sold goods, answered questions and engaged in friendly conversation. The managers of the Union Square Market were nowhere to be found, all of them preoccupied with the heavy activity taking place.
“I’m looking for a green market manager to interview,” said a Baruch High School student, working on a class project. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you guys where to start, just check for anyone wearing a staff hood,” the representative replied, walking back into the GrowNYC truck. The green market initiative has taken place since 1976, beginning with only 12 farmers on the parking lot of 59th street and 2nd avenue. Through numerous years, the primary initiative of the green markets has been to sell their large variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, breads and wines, to consumers, restaurants, and others interested in quality goods.
There are 54 markets in New York and over 230 participating farmers. The markets accept a variety of payments, EBT being one method, allowing not only those willing to pay high prices for fresh goods, but also to help those less fortunate also have the privilege of experiencing all that the markets have to offer.
“We have something for every one, at the green markets,” said Larion Bates, a helper at one of the meat stands. “Whether you’re vegetarian, or not we have some of the best stuff around, I mean no one takes the time to produce goods with the care we do,” he continued.
The many stands, each had an abundance of goods, but what was more interesting was the fact that nearly every stand sold something different from the next. “There isn’t much competition selling at the green markets, because the managers pay close attention to who’s selling pork, beef, vegetables, etc,” said Andrea Carvalho, part owner of Nature’s Healing Farm. “I participated in the markets with my husband for over 30 years,” she continued as she dashed to customers, greeting and answer questions on growing and maintaining certain plants to the differences between Perrennials and Tenders.
“I grow well over 10,000 kinds of plants, some have over 30 variations,” she said excited after selling some newly grown Tulips and herbs to an older customer.
The farmers’ faces lit with welcoming expressions, as customers frolicked to their stands, whether they were making purchases or simply asking questions or indulging a little conversation. It seemed almost as if the highlight of their days for curious customers to wander under their tents.
“It’s not a nuisance selling at the green market, it’s actually kind of interesting for us just as it is for customers,” said O’ Reilly, a worker at the Flying Pig Farm stand, where they sell high-end pork. Rare heritage breed of Large Blacks, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and Tamworths are grown under the Flying Pigs Farm, as their niche in the meat market. “The difference between our pigs and others you normally see in stores are basically, the texture and flavor of the pork meat being more moist under these special breeds.
Every beginning of the week in the night hours of about 6 to 7pm, O’Reilly and his partner pack there medium size truck with 2,000 to 4,000 lbs. of pork and begin their travel from the quiet, small town of Sushan in New York, making a five-hour long trip to the city. After a few hours of rest at one the cheap Manhattan hotels, they wake and head for Union Square to set up by 7am, when they begin selling the $12-$20 variety of meats.
“It may be grueling work for many of us to pack and ship our goods over long distance to the city every week, but often times when you finally get to the city, it’s like a sigh of relief, since often times you don’t have to worry about traveling back home until the end of the week to do it all over again,” O’ Reilly said with a sigh. “Hey, at least we get to go for drinks after the long days, that usually keeps us going,” he continued before finalizing a $20 sale for a pack of 12 pork sausages.