Starting tomorrow, LES residents will have a new option to buy farm-fresh produce without leaving the neighborhood. A new partnership between Grow NYC and the Henry Street Settlement will bring fruits and vegetables to a farmers’ market in front of the Abrons Arts Center on Grand Street every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., through October.
The program accomplishes two goals: providing a greenmarket to replace the former Hester Street one that closed last year (as well as a new retail outlet for farmers), and providing entry-level paying jobs for teenagers and young adults who have graduated from an employment-prep internship.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Grow NYC’s Olivia Blanchflower. “We’ve tried a Greenmarket in several different places on the Lower East Side, and there just hasn’t been enough demand to make it profitable for the farmers, but there’s still a need.”
Grow NYC’s 13 Youthmarkets bring farm food to underserved communities and “food deserts” in all five boroughs in a program modeled after the popular Greenmarkets program, Blanchflower said. But rather than the farmers doing the marketing, the tents are staffed with 18-24-year-olds trained by partner community organizations, who sell produce purchased wholesale from farmers by Grow NYC. The Grand Street market will sell a variety of fruits, vegetables and other farm-fresh goods produced within a 250-mile radius of the city, while employing about a half-dozen local graduates of a 14-week internship program run by the Henry Street Settlement, which runs an employment program for young adults.
“Overall, it’s a win-win situation,” said Kristina Sepulveda of Henry Street. “It’s particularly good for a young person who needs to start out small, it’s only one day a week, and it’s close to home.”
The new market staff has been taught retail sales skills such as stocking and inventory, running a cash register and processing EBT payments, which are accepted at the Greenmarket.
“We’ll move kids through this program, and they’ll get the skills they need and develop the confidence they need to land that next job that’s more days a week,” said Greg Rideout of Henry Street.