Fresh green vegetables and colorful fruits, a variety of spices and homemade goods — those are some of the best parts of a farmers market. The benefits for the body and community are pretty plentiful, too.
Spring will eventually bud and when it does will come a number of barrels and baskets with seasonal treats. Not only do the products from farmers markets taste better, but they’re locally grown and healthier, promoters say.
“There’s no better-tasting product than what’s sold at a farmers market,” Michael Hurwitz, director of the Greenmarkets program at GrowNYC, said.
And Queens’ cultural mix stretches far into the depths of the varieties of the borough’s delicious fresh foods.
“We’re celebrating the diversity Queens has to offer,” Hurwitz said. “We’re celebrating the many cultures that live next to one another in the neighborhood.”
The nonprofit GrowNYC has seven farmers markets in Queens, located in Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and Forest Hills. Jackson Heights and Forest Hills are open =year-round, while the others have varying schedules, with the earliest opening, May 10, at the one in Sunnyside.
“The markets we operate in Queens — we’re transforming cement into vibrant centers of community activity, bringing neighbors together that may not interact on a daily basis,” Hurwitz said.
GrowNYC Greenmarkets boast a substantial inventory, including 100 types of apples, sustainably raised meats from beef to goat, tea, fish, honey, maple products, jam, baked goods and cheese.
One of the benefits of buying locally grown and raised food is the fact that it takes less time to be distributed after harvesting, meaning the products are fresher and longer lasting — that’s good for your wallet and your stomach. Nutrients diminish in food that takes longer to travel from farm to store to kitchen.
“It’s healthier, it’s better tasting, it ripens the way it’s supposed to ripen,” Hurwitz said. “Food that is shipped is harvested long before it’s nutritionally matured. It also means the most value for your money.”
There are areas all around Queens that embrace the importance of having farmers markets. Another one, separate from GrowNYC, is held outside the Queens Botanical Garden on Dahlia Avenue in Flushing. It will be open from June 20 until the end of November. The QBG is open all year.
Darcy Hector, the garden’s director of marketing and development, echoed Hurwitz’s statements on the benefit of getting produce at a farmers market.
“The local-grown product is the most natural because it doesn’t have to travel,” Hector said. “Everything is always better when it’s fresh.”
Besides the produce and other seasonal goods sold outside the botanical garden, the QBG offers cooking demonstrations.
Farmers markets don’t have to be open only be during the warmer months, though. The city Health Department has made fresh fruits and vegetables easily available with mobile food carts known as Green Carts. The program was implemented in 2009 and has shown significant positive effects.
“Eating more fruits and vegetables prevents diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and many other illnesses,” the Health Department said.
According to the department, those who eat fruits and vegetables three times or more a day are 42 percent less likely to die of a stroke and 24 percent less likely to die of heart disease than those who eat fruits or vegetables less than once a day.
The Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York collected data from the first year of the Green Carts program and found that the fruit carts were frequently relied upon and that once consumers purchased from a vendor, they were likely to do so again.
It’s through a farmers market that the connection between farm and city can truly be seen, including here in Queens.
“Rural and urban are intrinsically connected,” Hurwitz said. “The market provides New Yorkers with a sense of place and vibrant center of community activity that is focused around wellness, health and social engagement and I think many opportunities for New Yorkers to engage in this way is a huge benefit.”
Queens farmers markets
Queens Botanical Garden 43-50 Main St.
Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., June 20-Nov. 23
Long Island City
Socrates Sculpture Park
Vernon Boulevard and Broadway
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., June 7-Nov. 22
14th Street at 31st Avenue and 31st Road
Wednesdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., July 9–Nov. 26
Skillman Avenue and 42nd and 43rd streets
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., May 10–Dec. 20
34th Avenue and 78th Street
Sundays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., year-round
103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue
Fridays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., July 11–Nov. 21
41st Avenue at 80th and 81st streets
Tuesdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., June 3–Dec. 23
70th Avenue and Queens Boulevard
8 a.m.-3 p.m., year-round