How You Can Help Upstate NY, NJ, and Vermont Farmers Now
Lots of people have asked me how they can help farmers whose acreage has been damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irene. In the coming months there will doubtlessly be a host of benefits for farms at restaurants, concert halls, and other venues, but there is something you can do more immediately.
In my conversations with farmers (and with Jeanne Hodesh of the NYC Greenmarkets), it appears that many of them -- just before the floods or right after -- hastily harvested an unusual proportion of their crops at the height of the harvest season. That means surpluses -- and potentially lower prices -- on the multitude of products you can buy during this period, the busiest of the farmers' market year.
There are heirloom tomatoes galore, the last of the Tri-Star strawberries and blueberries, oodles of summer squashes in a variety of alarming shapes, greens both wild and cultivated, and long-lasting, storable crops like potatoes, yams, pod beans, cabbages, sunchokes, apples, and winter squashes. Many are being discounted to move quickly, because what the farmers need now is ready cash.
So, first of all, please visit the markets this weekend -- I guarantee there are things that will quickly disappear because many fields are now underwater, and you'll be providing needed income. Stock up on staples like potatoes, apples, and cabbages, and consider preserving tomatoes and squashes by freezing or canning. There are plenty of recipes online, and I can tell you canning is really fun (here's a thumbnail sketch of how it's done). Nothing better than winter soups made with the tomatoes you canned in the late summer, and if you're afraid of canning, tomatoes will last just as well and retain their color, too, by being frozen.
In short, go to the markets this week and spend freely. And plan on storing some foods up for the winter in one way or another.
The NYC Greenmarkets have also set up a donation fund, 100 percent of which will go to cash-strapped farmers. Watch Fork in the Road for news of upcoming benefits.
Here is a list of the city's Greenmarkets, by neighborhood.