Young people in Astoria will play a large part in providing fresh produce to their neighbors this summer.
With the help of nonprofit GrowNYC, children ages 16 to 20 will operate an urban farm stand in Ditmars Park filled with fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Participating youth will essentially operate a small business and also provide nutritional information and cooking demonstrations to customers.
The stand will include sweet corn, various peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, kale, collard greens, apples, onions, melons and more, according to Laura McDonald, spokesperson for GrowNYC.
Councilman Costa Constanitinides will allocate $10,000 from his discretionary budget for the “Youthmarket,” which will run every Saturday from July 9 through Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. He said he supports the program because it encourages healthy eating habits and helps to reduce pollution.
“Buying local produce also reduces pollution that would be created through transporting food long distances,” Constantinides said. “As we move closer toward our goal of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, we must ensure that our children are learning how to continue to combat climate change.”
He worked with Friends of Ditmars Park, a volunteer organization that works to improve the park through cleanups and advocacy, to bring the market to Astoria.
GrowNYC will partner with Global Kids, a nonprofit geared toward youth development, to teach the volunteers about economics, business, eating seasonally and supporting local farms. Participating farms include Wilklow Orchards, Reeves Farm, Tremblay Apiaries and more. More than 25 suppliers will participate, according to the Friends of Ditmars Park website.
“This will be a huge improvement in our local and organic food options here in Astoria,” said Mike Moreno, member of Friends of Ditmars Park in a Facebook post.
This will be the first Youthmarket in Astoria. In 2015, the 14 Youthmarkets started by GrowNYC sold more than 300,000 pounds of affordable, local food throughout the five boroughs.
GrowNYC also operates a Green Market at Astoria Health Playground, which is open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting July 1 and ending Nov. 16. The market offers vegetables, in-season orchard fruit, and a variety of Mexican hot peppers, specialty greens and tomatillos.
“We are thrilled to bring a GrowNYC Youthmarket to Ditmars Park and the residents of Astoria,” said GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen. “Our Youthmarket program is a unique model that teaches neighborhood youth to run a farm stand, supplied by GrowNYC’s own wholesale distribution arm, Greenmarket Co., while also helping them to be ambassadors for healthy, seasonal eating to their families and neighbors.
Ditmars Park is located on Steinway Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue. For more information, click here.