Two bad winters in a row impact Union Square’s farmers market
Bad weather for the second year in a row is hurting farmers — who travel for hours to get to the Union Square Greenmarket, only to face fewer customers and sometimes, fewer hours.
Alouette and Joe Anderson help their friend David Holscher, owner of Roxbury Mountain Maple, and have seen a drop in sales this winter; bad weather forced them to cancel two markets in a single week. It’s also had a negative impact on production, since the ideal weather for maple syrup is to have “cold nights and warm days to keep the sap flow” in maple trees, according to Alouette. When enough sap is collected, it will be boiled until it is thick, and primarily made up of sugar, but Roxbury Mountain Maple is currently a month behind its usual schedule. The boiling should start in March, but the company has enough product for now. “We store enough to make products and our products doesn’t spoil. We’re busy year-round. When the weather turns nice, our product moves faster,” said Alouette. But even good weather can’t change the 40-day drop in sales during Lent.
“Some people give up sweets during Lent,” said Alouette. “They choose to give up indulgences.”
The weather has also delayed the start of Norwich Meadows Farm’s spring growing season, which normally starts in March.
“We’re not preparing for the spring,” a Norwich worker said. “There is still high snow, so we have to wait until the snow runs down. We might start prepping for spring mid-May.”
For now, Norwich is limited to root vegetables, including rutabagas, cabbage, artichoke, radish, sweet potatoes, and onions. All of the food is grown in heated underground tunnels that protect it from winter weather.
On one cold Monday, the market had approximately 20 vendors on the north and west sides of Union Square Park. In peak season, there are 140 vendors. The Greenmarket, which is a program of GrowNYC, a privately-funded nonprofit organization, began in 1976 with 12 farmers, and now there are 54 markets throughout the city. Union Square’s farmers market is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and shoppers can find a variety of bread, cheese, wine, jams, flowers, meat, fruit and vegetables.