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Issue Seven / Profiles
“The market is the hub of the local food movement, and in the spring it connects us to life on the farms that surround the city”

Farmers Behind the Market

Words by Laura Fenton Photographs by Weston Wells

Every Saturday, 26 farmers set up shop at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza and connect with residents from Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. We met a few of them.

In New York City, spring arrives later than you might think. Each April, the weather softens, crocuses push up from the ground and trees break into blossoms, but it’ll still be weeks before the first asparagus arrive at the market.

Opened in 1989, the farmers market at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza connects farmers to city residents, including many families, who arrive from the adjoining neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.

Throughout the early spring, 26 vendors brave the cold: farmers sell potatoes, root vegetables and apples; the flower vendor stocks dried blossoms; and dairy farmers continue to peddle their cheeses. Devoted market shoppers will appear each week no matter what the season, but it in spring when the market comes back to life—both in the stalls and in the community. Spring’s fiddlehead ferns, spring onions, ramps and rhubarb are treasured arrivals for the of any stripe.

The market at Grand Army Plaza is more than a place to buy produce. Shoppers will find dairy, maple syrup, pickles, grains, cheese, wine and more. Greenmarket, the nonprofit organization that operates the market, also offers food scrap collections for composting and textile recycling. The market is the hub of the local food movement, and in the spring, it’s our connection to the first stirrings of new life on farms that surround the city.

From left:

Filmmaker Anna Rose Holmer has been selling flowers for Lebak Farms for the past two years. While she lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant today, Holmer worked for a CSA before moving to New York City.

Raymond Bradley of Bradley Farm in New Paltz, New York, rises at 2:30 in the morning in order to pack up his produce for the Saturday market. Bradley has always had strong ties to food: prior to becoming a farmer, he was a chef for 13 years.

3 Kendra Lewis started working the Bradley Farm stand in July of 2012, but on weekdays she is working on her master’s degree in education at Bankstreet Graduate School.

4 For two years, Brooklyn resident Rich Allium has managed the booth for Blue Moon Fish. The local fishing operation is based out of Mattituck, New York, which lies 90 miles east on the north shore of Long Island.

5 Author Robin Shulman visited the Grand Army Plaza market to promote her book Eat The City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers and Brewers Who Built New York.

6 Lynn Fleming’s dairy farm, Lynnhaven Farm, is based in Pine Bush, New York. Fleming has been selling her goat cheeses, goat meat and eggs at Grand Army Plaza for seven years, and in that time, she says, “I have friends here, and I have seen their children grow up.”

Liz MacAlister is the proprietor of Cato Corner Farm, a dairy farm with ninety head of cattle in Colchester, Connecticut. MacAlister has been farming since 1979 and working the Grand Army Plaza market since 1999. All of Cato Corner’s cheeses are made from raw milk and aged for at least 60 days.

8 Bill Maxwell was among the handful of vendors who sold their produce at the Grand Army Plaza market when it opened more than 20 years ago. His farm, Maxwell Farm, is located in Changewater, New Jersey, about 80 miles due west of the city. Maxwell, a former newspaper reporter, fell into farming when his own vegetable garden got so big that he decided to sell some of his excess produce.

Over the years, Karen Young has worked many booths at farmers markets. She started with Phillips Farms and spent a few years with Blue Moon Fish; today, she works for Liz MacAlister of Cato Corner Farm. When she’s not at the market, Young is a visual artist and sculptor.

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