News | Morningside Heights

Students buy fresh, organics with credit cards

Vendors at the Columbia Greenmarket hope that going plastic will encourage more students to go green.

The farmers’ market—which comes every Thursday and Sunday to Broadway—now accepts credit and debit cards. Margaret Hoffman, regional coordinator of farmers’ markets across Upper Manhattan, said she hopes this will draw more students.

“I think college students are much more aware of where their food comes from, and they want to learn,” said vendor Rebecca Quinn, who has sold produce and meat goods from the Stannard Farm for 10 years.

She said she believes students are coming out to the market in greater numbers than ever before.

Shipped from the silo to the sidewalk, the availability of fresh and local produce is hardly a secret among the health-conscious, like Hannah Henn, a first-year School of International and Public Affairs student, who was browsing the Stannard Farm booth with an armful of squash and Fuji apples.

“I think it’s great that it’s in such a visible location,” she said. “I’m sure that’s the secret to their success.”

Hoffman said that last year, the market grew from eight or nine farmers to 15 after the University sent a letter of support to the City requesting an additional block.

Greenmarkets across the city have purchased card swipe machines and began accepting debit and credit card transactions six weeks ago.

“A lot of students have come out and said, ‘This is great—I never carry cash on me,’” Hoffman said. “I think this will make the market a lot more accessible to people.”

Every week, a variety of vendors ranging from traditional apple stands and dairy vendors to the recent addition of the Roaming Acres Ostrich Farm—which peddles ostrich steaks and globe-sized eggs—stake their claim to the sidewalk between 113th and 115th streets.

A newcomer to the Greenmarket, ostrich vendor Lou George said recently that business is booming in Morningside Heights. He explained that the Columbia Greenmarket has been “one of the better markets” in New York for selling his nontraditional products.

Eric Draffen, who has sold muffins, cookies, and bread on behalf of a Kingston, N.Y.-based bakery for the last seven years, said these days, over half of his customers are students.
“Without the students, this would be a lousy market,” he said, adding that a perennial student favorite is the pumpkin cookies.

A frequent shopper at the Greenmarket, Rachel Abady, BC ’12, said she’s drawn to the quality of the produce. “The food is fresher, and you know where it came from. I like knowing exactly where my food comes from. There are no surprises. What you see is what you get.”

Vendors say they like making alternative food choices available to students.

“It’s a good option for people to come eat healthy. Especially in the U.S., where we have so many overweight people,” said Blake Monforte who works at the DiPaolo Turkey stand.

Columbia students are not confined to only the Greenmarket when looking for fresh produce.

The Morningside Heights Community Supported Agriculture runs a weekly Farm Share Program. Anyone interested can pay $160 for a weekly share of produce that is intended to be split among three to four people for eight weeks. This comes out to roughly $5 to $7 per person, per week.

The produce, from La Baraja Farm in Orange County, is delivered on Sundays to JJ’s Place, where shareholders have a four-hour window to pick up their food items.

Terren Wing, BC ’13, said the CSA has actually been pretty cheap. “We’ve calculated and we’re spending a lot less than when we’d shop at a grocery store or when we were on a meal plan,” she said.

The numbers suggest that there is indeed large interest—this semester, a total of 70 shares for over 200 people were purchased by students and Morningside Heights residents.

Coordinator of the Morningside Heights CSA, Alexandra Ryan-Gutentag, CC ’12, said she’s pleased with the success of the program. “I think the response has been pretty positive,” she said. “Everyone loves vegetables.”


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