Closing Bell: Malcom X Farmers Market on the Ropes

malcom-x-farmers-market-072809.jpg
So much for that momentum we wrote about a couple of weeks ago! Weak community support is threatening the viability of the new Malcom X Farmers Market within the first month of its life, according to an email being circulated from the one of the market’s organizers. The main fresh food vendor, Migliorelli Farms, just announced it’s bailing on the new scene because it’s been unable to cover its labor and gas expenses to date. The problem? Not enough people are coming to the market. This is particularly distressing given how much attention is given by the press and politicians about the desperate (and very real) need for fresh food in some of our poorer communities. (The fresh food argument has been the primary rationale given by the proponents of tearing down Admirals Row to build a supermarket to serve the surrounding housing projects.) Bottom line: If you care about preserving this incredible amenity in the neighborhood, you better vote with your feet and your wallet on Saturday. Otherwise, to paraphrase the organizer’s email, you’ll be proving the haters wrong who said Bed Stuy couldn’t support a farmers market. Don’t let that happen. The Malcom X Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1p.m. in front of Jackie Robinson Park on Malcom X Boulevard between Marion and Chauncey Streets
Come Support the Malcolm X Community Market!!! [Bed Stuy Blog]
Photo by Ultraclay

0 Comment

  • it takes time to change people’s habits.

    if ever there was a good use of a community-oriented grant to give the market time to develop, this would be it.

  • most farmers markets ive seen anywhere tend to be kinda yuppie-ish so i can’t imagine they do that great in non yuppified neighborhoods. were the prices really high as well? it might just take time for something like this to catch on tho. you always hear that there’s a lack of fresh produce in bed stuy, but is there really any truth to that?

    *rob*

  • “you always hear that there’s a lack of fresh produce in bed stuy, but is there really any truth to that?”

    Can’t speak for bed stuy, but my part of crown heights was seriously lacking while i was there.

    This is a shame, i think every neighborhood should have a farmers market – but of course, it needs to be ecomically feasible for the farmers.

  • How can one participate in this discussion without being called out as a ‘racist’.

    Let me count the ways —

    Ummmm…Zero.

    Ok then. CYA later!

  • denton

    Damn, that looks like the same woman that I embarrassingly pegged as a man last time! Is she the only customer or was that the same photog?

    Rob, what’s a yuppyish farmers market? It’s a truck and a table and maybe an awning.

  • Cumberland Yo

    aren’t farmer’s markets generally expensive? like basically whole foods expensive?

  • denton

    Knick, I’d say slick pulled it off. Rob, not so much.

  • daveinbedstuy

    I went the weekend before last and the prices at Migliorelli, essentially the only vendor at 9:00, were rather high, especially for the neighborhood.

    Wherever I see a cart vendor in Manhattan, usually outside a large grocery store, the prices are very cheap. For example, I usually see two pints of blueberries for $3.00 and I believe the blueberries at the bed Stuy market were at least $3.00 per pint if not more.

    If everything they were selling was “organic” then that’s why the prices were too high.

  • denton

    fgp, I’d have to agree that they are expensive. But if you shop carefully you can do ok. I remember back in the day when the farmer’s markets first started, not only were they fresh, they were cheaper than supermarkets. Boy did they learn fast.

  • East New York

    There are at least two small stores selling fresh vegetables and fruits on Kingston Ave. in Crown Heights – one between St. John’s and Lincoln Place, and another between Dean and Bergen. Each are pretty good.

  • denton

    dibs, the stuff the carts sell is not local, tho. It’s the same stuff everyone buys up at Hunts Point. But, paying no rent, and of course not being unionized, lol, they can sell it cheaper.

  • if my comment came across as racist, that wasnt my intentional. seriously. :(

    *rob*

  • I stopped by the market week before last. I had my canvass shopping bag in hand and was all set to buy a bunch of produce. I got there and expected to see a market, perhaps a smaller version of Fort Greene or Prospect Park, but when I arrived at about 10 AM, there was a lone vendor there with a small selection of veggies. I asked about what he had and he seemed to blow me off. So guess what? I blew him off and took the 8 min train ride to Fort Greene and went shopping.

    This is just one man’s experience and it may not be representation of everyone’s experience. However, I would wager the reason they failed were two fold:

    1. Lack of participation due to very low awareness in the community.

    2. Limited supply of produce – why waste time here for the sake of “supporting the farmers” if the “farmers” don’t have enough “farm” goods. A trip to Foodtown on Fulton or a call to Fresh Direct (YES Fresh Direct does deliver over here) seems to be WAY more efficient.

    I don’t mean to sound overly negative, but my humble opinion is that they reason this didn’t work is because it seemed to patronize the folks in this neighborhood rather than supply them with a meaningful produce addition. My goodness, the random fruit markets and bodegas on Fulton have way more selection than what was present the weekend before last.

  • daveinbedstuy

    Among the supermarket on Marcus Garvey, the independents on Fulton and the Super Foodtown on Fulton there is no lack of fresh produce. Towards this end of Bed Stuy and further east it is a problem.

    There would be more were it not for the fact that essentially there is no retail spave avilable on Fulton between Marcus garvey and a block east of Malcolm X. not sure why there isn’t one on Malcolm X but then there’s also a grocery store ( not great) further up around hancock or so.

  • daveinbedstuy

    They also told me that the corn was from upstate NY and the fact that PA is just beginning to harvest corn last week made me think it was Carolina corn. No problem, just don’t tell me its from upstate NY when i know the season hasn’t progressed that far north yet.

  • Seperately – I heard that there were a few other Farmer’s Markets in Bed Stuy. Can someone list the others?

  • dittoburg

    “the random fruit markets and bodegas on Fulton have way more selection than what was present the weekend before last”

    Well thats because the farmer’s markets and bodegas have stuff imported from all over the world whereas the farmers market is locally produced and therefore seasonal. You won’t be finding any bananas or mangoes for a start.

  • dittoburg

    My post made no sense due to the double use of “farmers markets”. sorry.

  • Ditto. I get that. My point was that there was only one vendor. The Fort Greene Market has tons of variety which is all locally produced.

  • daveinbedstuy

    bedstuyhoya, i think they’re listed on bedstuyblog

  • dittoburg

    Its a real shame. I learnt about ramps, and how delciious they are, at a farmer’s market from two old Southern black ladies who used to eat them when they were young. And who were eating them again now they were available.

  • Yeah… I would have to say, a “lack of produce” should first be taken up by the supermarkets and other permanent stores… no? If there is then demand for something *more* then a farmer’s market would be appropriate.

    Are there vegetables at the supermarket? Are people buying them?

    Farmer’s Markets are always nice and all… but NYC farmer’s markets are ridiculous. A lot like the Brooklyn Flea (sorry Brownie). Way too expensive and should be named something different to avoid suggesting they are anything like the reasonably priced (or even inexpensive) marketplaces found elsewhere.

  • denton

    t6, there are some things you just can’t get at the supermarket. Heirloom tomatoes. Or any real-tasting tomatoes for that matter. Ramps. I agree tho, not cheap.

  • “This is particularly distressing given how much attention is given by the press and politicians about the desperate (and very real) need for fresh food in some of our poorer communities”

    i still dont get how if there’s really a huge demand for fresh produce, any person looking to profit wouldnt fill that demand. now if the demand is Whole Foods quality at C-Town prices, the economics just aren’t going to let it happen.

  • I agree with those who said the prices at Farmer’s Markets are generally to high. I go to the Ft. Greene one every now and then but don’t have the luxury of going on a regular basis. I’m not surprised by the low turnout.

  • Right… can the economy in Bed-Stuy support a *luxury* market? Cuz that’s what Farmer’s Markets are in this city. They’re not great places to get good priced, high-quality stuff. They’re places to get high-quality, high-priced stuff.

  • Oh, by the way… why can’t a supermarket sell ramps?! If people want them, the supermarket can get them. They just have to actually BUY them.

  • Is it possible that the people in Bed Stuy don’t really want the stuff they are selling at the Greenmarket and that it’s the city pushing “healthier” food down the throats of neighborhoods which really don’t have as much interest as others…? Just thinking aloud…

    And I’ve always found the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket to be fairly priced for the quality (which is excellent). And we certainly have MORE than our fair share of places to buy fruits and vegetables around here, but it’s packed every single weekend…

    So that theory doesn’t really work…

  • italiana71

    This happened when the farmers market first arrived in Bay Ridge. When word got out that the farmer was not satisfied with his sales, the community board printed posters and posted them all over Bay Ridge. Now the market gets quite a crowd and the popular stuff sells out quickly (strawberries, blueberries, garlic scapes, etc). And the market is also growing. We just got a new farmer that has eggs. So it is growing.

    Maybe Bed Stuy could do the same?

  • daveinbedstuy

    Agreed, tybur6. I go to farmers markets for fresh tomatoes, exotic mushrooms, that sort of stuff. I don’t expect stuff to be cheap but nor do I have any need to buy ordinary staples there. I don’t give a crap about the whole organic thing.

  • As someone touched on earlier, the point of the farmers market is to eat locally grown, organic produce. Sure you can get gassed mass-produced oranges at the grocery store, but this is supposed to offer us something different and better. The price is higher because it’s grown with more care on a smaller scale and is better for you and the world at large.

  • East New York

    I’m with 11217 – perhaps the majority of people in Bed Stuy simply aren’t interested in the stuff they’re selling at the Greenmarket. Could be as simple as this.

  • Susan,

    That’s awesome and I appreciate it fully. I’m willing to pay more for the care taken to grow things on a smaller scale.

    But I believe more people than not don’t give two rats asses about that. Especially people on a tight budget.

  • susan summed up the reason (at least in nyc) for farmers mkts.

    however, if certain communities are experiencing lack of affordable produce despite there being a demand (not organic, not local), they need more of those cart vendors that chinatown has.

  • denton

    Susan etc., y’all should know that very few of the farmers claim to be organic.

    And they’re ain’t no oranges grown around here.

  • bedstuyhoya: there is also a market on Saturdays in the summer on Lewis between Decatur and Macdonough (across from Bread Stuy). It’s city-sponsored (like all the other green markets), but has a youth component.

    And I actually think this is part of the problem. Can the neighborhood suddenly support *two* fledgling markets on the same day? Why didn’t they team up to do it together? I’ve been a huge supporter of the other market, which has been slowly improving over the years. Am I supposed to walk there to buy something, and then walk to the other market to support it too? Someone really didn’t think this one through.

  • chickenoid23

    most farmers markets ive seen anywhere tend to be kinda yuppie-ish so i can’t imagine they do that great in non yuppified neighborhoods. were the prices really high as well? it might just take time for something like this to catch on tho. you always hear that there’s a lack of fresh produce in bed stuy, but is there really any truth to that?

    *rob*
    Posted by: PitbullNYC at July 28, 2009 4:05 PM

    I really do try to like you rob, but your general lack of smarts and soul makes it really really difficult.

  • The solution is simple: replace organic, locally-grown produce with dipsy doodles, pork rinds, and kool aide and this market would turn a profit in a few hours.

  • quote:
    i dont really give a crap about the whole organic thing.

    <3 <3 <3
    glad to know im not the only one in brooklyn!

    *Rob*

  • id grew up on dipsy doodles and koolaid!! and your joke wasnt funny or appreciated.

    *rob*

  • You can lead a horse to fresh, good, non-chemical food, but you can’t make him/her eat (or if he’s obese, probably even get him/her out of the stable).

  • And by the way (to follow up), I never shop at the Farmer’s Market anyway, which is a COMPLETE RIPOFF. I get off my butt, get on my bike and go to any number of other places not too far away from Bed Stuy where good food can be found. And you can even jump in your SUV and get there (probably, by my observation, blocking the bike lane in process).

  • Hope it doesn’t close. Everybody should get all their produce from farmer’s markets they are a good deal & they help local growers & the food is much better than the cloned stuff at the market.

  • if the same Migliorelli from Rhinebeck – then is probably a pricier and more precious kinda farmers market.
    And Dibs, there are different variety of corn and yes some from upstate are harvesting now. I have a place upstate and there are plenty of real farmer’s markets cheaper than Migliorelli. But – would be probably be nice to continue the option if that neighborhood if not a lot else to choose from.
    Also – if want cheap vegetables – go to chinatown.

  • I grew up in Pa. Dutch country and farmers markets there are cheap cheap cheap. There’s none of that “locavore” crap…veggies in season are local, otherwise come from the usual sources (california, chile, mexico etc.) Decent poultry and beef, not necessarily free range or grass fed or whatever, but generaally from a Pa. producer.

    The Greenmarket nazis in NYC like to think they’re doing us a favor by insisting that everything be single source etc. but what they’re really doing is lining the pockets of a few gentleman organic farmers. And providing fodder for foodie blogs.

    I’m pretty sure B/S probably needs better and fresher produce, but I’m certain they don’t need ramps and $14 a gallon organic milk.

  • As someone who volunteers at the market and has been there every week since its opened, I’d like to offer up some more information and some clarification. I didn’t expect this to get 40+ comments deep but I should have expected it from Brownstoner :).

    1. The market will go on if Migliorelli decides not to return. The Brooklyn Rescue Mission’s main focus is food equity and justice and things will not stop if Migliorelli bails. The BRM wants a quality vendor and Migliorelli was one of the very few willing to come to the market. Other vendors will be put in their place the the BRM also runs a farm that produces food that can be sold (which is actually how the market started last year) but its an issue of maintaining an sustaining what’s there . Its a blow to momentum but they will keep going. Naturally, there is a fear of losing those who have been frequenting the market and who have been pleased with the farmer/vendor. Migliorelli was actually introducing a larger selection with each week that passed and had a lot more items than they had the first week. We also added a bread vendor this past week as well.

    2. Migliorelli actually lowered a lot of their prices for the Malcolm X market. Prices in their outpost at Union Square are actually higher in some cases (particularly for the fruit). I can’t really say anything to those who found it overpriced because their prices were pretty competitive with the other BK Farmer’s Markets and lower than what price in Union Square.

    3.I live in the area and while there are supermarkets, most are pretty awful. I actually saw an employee of the Fine Fare near me GLUE back a box of pasta to go back on the shelf so that’s all I’ll say about that. I schelp my stuff from Manhattan and when I’m lucky to have access to a car I go to Fairway in Red Hook. Not that I’ve found the prices at the Malcolm X Market to be higher than Fairway (with the exception of the fruit), but I’d gladly pay the extra 50 cents or dollar to shop for quality food in my area.

    4. The Brooklyn Rescue Mission is very well aware of the income bands in the area. The market accepts many forms of payment-FMNP, WIC, EBT, Health Bucks and Senior Bucks. Unless yuppies are copping food stamps, this isn’t something being looked at by the larger community as ‘not for them’. If anything, they are one of our biggest supporters. The same folks who come to the BRM pantry come and spend money at the market every week. That’s not easy for them, as many of them are seniors. Please check out the BRM’s website so you can get a better idea of what they’re about http://www.brooklynrescuemission.org

    5.As one of the first commentors said, changing one’s food habits (and shopping habits) doesn’t come easy. The Malcolm X Market knows it can’t replace the supermarket but it can certainly give another option so these crap markets can take notice and step their game up as far as providing fresher produce.

    With all this conjecture flying around, I really do hope some of you come down this Saturday. Hopefully Migliorelli does make good on their word and show up so they can see people can and will come and support the market. Its pretty easy to sit back and snark and think ‘I told you so’ if the market fails but never even lifted a finger to help support it. I know its hard to get the courage up to attempt something constructive when there’s the possibility of failure. No market, not even Union Square Market just pops up instantly and is just right. We’re only 4 weeks into this season. We really are building momentum and garnering more community support every week. If you live the area and wish to see something change with the quality and options of food in the area, come by. If you hate the market, come by and say so and tell us why. We actually do surveys of customers to see what they think-what needs improving, what products they’d like to see, etc. If I saw half the comments about Associated or C-Town or Foodtown or Met that I see about this market, we’d have great supermarkets in Bed Stuy and wouldn’t even “need” a farmer’s market.

    Thanks for helping us get the word out, Brownstoner! We’ve talked to some of our customers and they heard about the market through the blog links you’ve posted up. We really appreciate it.

  • denton

    “3.I live in the area and while there are supermarkets, most are pretty awful. I actually saw an employee of the Fine Fare near me GLUE back a box of pasta to go back on the shelf so that’s all I’ll say about that.”

    I must be dense, or you are not explaining properly…

    So, there was a box of pasta, one of the flaps came unglued. Someone re-glued the flap and put it back on the shelf. Am I reading this right? If not, I apologize.

    If I am, you would have the employee throw the pasta in the garbage, cuz the box came unglued? This is green, right? This is locavore, organic, whatever phrase of the week. This really seems like a bad joke–someone throws a box of pasta in the garbage cuz the flap came unglued and it’s a horrible thing. And that’s he way you like it.

    But obviously I am missing something.

  • Denton,

    I honestly could give two shits about organic or “green”. My main concern is food equity. I want to be able to get the same quality food in Bed Stuy that I can find on the Upper East Side. Farmer’s markets may be de rigeur to you but for many,farmer’s markets are just how you bought your food where you lived-whether that be the south or a country in Africa or the Caribbean or how many other places in the world. Do I think its a bit skewed that the idea of knowing where your food is grown and who produced it is ‘trendy’? Yes. Do I think being “green” is so cool that I should be willing to compromise my health just to be chic? Um, no. I just want to be able to walk outside in my own community and buy quality food. If the Fine Fare was importing produce from 5,000 miles away and it was fresh, lasted longer than 2 days, and was in good condition, I’d be their biggest supporter.

    I like my packaged food to remain packaged by the inspected factory facility that produced it. If and when I choose to buy something unpackaged, I’m fine with it. Otherwise if I’m buying something sealed, I expect that it was done so in a controlled inspected environment with products that are safe for food to be near. Not random hardware store glue by an employee of a store trying to cut corners. If the package was faulty, they can return it to the distributor.

    Obviously you’re missing the idea that people would expect their supermarkets to have a level of quality control that would have them think twice about potentially poisoning customers to make a small profit off a 1 dollar box of pasta instead of returning faulty product to their distributor.

  • bryanx

    My girlfriend and I were very excited about it, so last weekend went we walked over to Malcolm X to be greeted by the single tent “Farmer” Market we were mildly amused.

    We stocked up on fruits and veggies including a 2 or 3 dollar bunch of mixed greens that still had some dirt on the stalks so it was definitely locally grown.

    If the one Farmer leaves, there is no market.

    They maybe should just relocate to the Youth Market / Flea Market thing on Lewis/Decatur across from Peaches and Bread Stuy. There’s where your upscale “farmers market demographic” foot traffic is.

  • Whether or not farmers’ markets accept food stamps isn’t as important as the perceived payout you get. If it costs, say, $2 for a pint of blueberries at most places and it costs $3 at a B/S farmer’s market, it doesn’t matter that it usually costs $4 at Union Square. Some people are getting only around $100 a month in EIC. Why would you ‘waste’ even $2 of that purchasing power for regular blueberries when the same $2 buys you a big box of Crunchie-os? This calculus carries with many people well into salaries approaching 2500/month.

    I grew up in a money-poor household (didn’t realize it at the time!) and while my parents made an effort to keep fruit in the house, they never would have gone to a farmer’s market. Going to Chinatown for a box of mangoes was a luxury that happened twice a year.

    To this day, it bewilders them that people regularly spend more for such ephemeral things as ‘locally-grown’ and ‘organic’. For them, at best, these are ‘would be nice’. No way you trade precious purchasing power for ‘would be nice’.

    No one should have kidded themselves that a farmers market would be automatically embraced by the people who most need to eat more healthily. Maybe if fruit/veggie prices for EIC users were 60% off it would better accomplish stated goals.