New York, New York
What began in 1976 as an experiment with just 12 farmers in an empty lot in Midtown Manhattan has since grown to the nation’s largest network of open-air farmers markets, operating 49 growers-only markets throughout New York City. As a program of the privately funded Council on the Environment of New York City (which is based in the Office of the Mayor), Greenmarket provides urban residents with access to fresh, locally grown food, while providing the region’s farmers with critical revenue.
Greenmarket employs strict rules governing who may sell and what may be sold; with very few exceptions, farmers may only sell what they grow, raise, catch and bake themselves, and must be located within 250 miles of the city. Nearly all of Greenmarket’s revenue—approximately 92% in 2008—comes from vendor fees.
Greenmarket strives to make fresh food available to all customers, regardless of neighborhood or income level, by placing markets in a diverse variety of sites throughout the city. Before opening a new market, they must first get approval from the local community board, a process that builds support and trust with new neighbors.
Within its budget, Greenmarket has allocated significant resources to the implementation of a food stamp (EBT) program. Fourteen Greenmarkets are between 65 percent and 85 percent dependent on food subsidy programs like WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). “These programs are a win-win,” says Michael Hurwitz, director of Greenmarket. “They guarantee that those who are most in need of fresh fruits and vegetables have access to them, and their funds go directly into the hands of small businesses."