Squash and apples, and many other types of produce and wholesome foods, will be available at the Tompkins Square Greenmarket right through the winter. Photo by Heather Dubin
BY HEATHER DUBIN | Temperatures may have reached 70 degrees this past weekend, but, just as it is on the calendar, it is officially winter at the farmers market at Tompkins Square Park. Several vendors were out on Sunday at the Greenmarket along Avenue A, and six of them plan to be there year-round — in snow and whatever else comes our way this season.
David Jose, a volunteer, was working the stand for Pura-Vida Fisheries, Inc., based in Hampton Bays. Although he lives in Brooklyn, Jose is learning about the fishing industry, and how to fish, as well.
He was collecting information on what kind of profit they need to generate versus the amount of income from sales.
“We need to calculate that into our expenses,” he said. “You spend a lot of money to earn money. The cost of diesel fuel to fill a boat for a week is $8,000.”
Pura-Vida Fisheries, Inc. covers a 70-mile range from Hampton Bays to Montauk, and uses sustainable fishing methods, including hand-operated drag nets and drag lines.
From bay scallops at $31.99 per pound, to tuna at $23.99 per pound and black sea bass at $25.99, the local catches looked fresh on ice.
“Prices are hiked up because fishing has been scarce lately, which is weather-related,” Jose said. “The prices are usually $2 less.”
While the fish available may fluctuate throughout the winter, Pura-Vida Fisheries, Inc. will be at the Tompkins Square market year-round, as well as at the Union Square Greenmarket.
Red Jacket, from Geneva, N.Y., will also be at both Greenmarkets year-round. Lobsang Norbu, a salesperson, said they would have apples and all-natural, fresh juices, pressed by hand, with no sugar.
The juices will remain in stock, but toward the end of February, there will only be eight or nine kinds of apples left.
“In February, the apples still look fresh, and are better than in a supermarket,” Norbu said. Crispin, Empire and Red Delicious apples will most likely make it for the duration.
“Sometimes it’s not worth it to come out in winter, but sometimes you have a good week,” he added. “If it’s nice weather or a holiday, business is good.”
Farmer Jim Stannard, who owns Stannard Farm in South Cambridge, N.Y., with his wife, Melissa, have “decent” enough customer traffic in the winter to justify their drive into the city. They also frequent a market near Columbia University twice a week.
The Stannards started their farm in 1995. They began selling their produce at Tompkins Square Park the next year, and have been doing so ever since.
They raise animals naturally on their farm, and do not use antibiotics or hormones. Large coolers filled with chicken, beef and pork will be available at the Tompkins market year-round.
“Right now, it’s all our storage crop because we’re under snow Upstate,” Stannard said.
Throughout the winter they will offer root vegetables, eggs, honey and apples, which are stored in a huge refrigerator.
“We try to be done with apples by May. We’ll grind the rest up for cider when it gets warm,” he said. “Melissa makes cider donuts and they have been a big hit and success.”
This past summer, the Stannards delivered on customer requests for a Community Supported Agriculture, or C.S.A., where individuals can buy a weekly vegetable and fruit share from the farm, which is brought down to the Greenmarket.
“Unlike other C.S.A.’s, we give people choices of what they pick,” he said. “They bring their own bag, and choose from a list on the dry-erase board. That worked really well.”
The couple just began their winter C.S.A., which runs from Dec. 15 to March 13, with vegetables from their 180-acre farm and eight greenhouses. The cost to become a member is $190 for 16 weeks, with an option to add eggs for an additional $114. There are 50 people signed up for winter with room for more.
Other year-round stands include Meredith’s Breads, Dipaola Turkey and Ronnybrook Farm, which sells bottled milk, yogurt, butter and ice cream.
Mark Breckenridge, a self-described “farmer / everything except for the owner” of Norwich Meadows Farm in Norwich, N.Y., will not be at the park until next spring. Last Sunday was his last day at Tompkins, but loyal customers can still find the farm’s stand at the Union Square Greenmarket after New Year’s.
“This time of year slows down, especially down here,” Breckenridge said. “It’s sad, but that’s what happens.”
East Village residents who make the short walk over to Union Square will find root vegetables, celeriac (also known as “knob celery”) and greens from Norwich Meadows Farm’s 43 greenhouses.
B & Y Farms from Spencer, N.Y., will also not return to the park until April. Aficionados of certified organic-fed pork, lamb and chicken, as well as fine yarn, will have to shop elsewhere for the next several months.