This week, my column profiles the New York wholesale farmers’ market. Most people, including chefs who are interested in such things, don’t know it exists. It does, but it’s a shadow of its former self. Back before farmers’ markets were cool, around the 1950’s, there were hundreds of farmers who sold their wares at wholesale quantity and prices from the Bronx Terminal Market. But over the years their numbers have dwindled, and since the Bronx Terminal Market is now being turned into a mall (where you’ll be able to eat at Applebee’s!) the farmers are essentially homeless, renting out space in the Fulton Fish Market parking lot.
Basically, the reason this matters is because individual consumers are never going to change the way food is produced and distributed in this country. You and I feeling good about ourselves for shopping at the farmers’ markets only goes so far. If you really want to support local farmers, there has to be a way for supermarkets and restaurants to buy their wares, and those businesses need a wholesale source—large quantities at reduced rates.
Guess who wanted to provide the wholesale farmers’ market with a nice building and some organization and infrastructure (which would attract more farmers to sell and buyers to buy)? Gov. Spitzer! Guess where that went?
Now the farmers are waiting for various state and city agencies to decide where and how to create a dedicated space for the market.
On a side note, a co-worker sent me this essay from the Freakonomics blog, giving a counter-argument against the notion of locovorism.