With Concern About Health and the Environment, Community Supported Agriculture is on the Rise

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A CSA registration ad outside the 14th Street YMCA, NYC. © Sarah Ungerleider

by Sarah Delap Ungerleider

All around the country, people are discovering a new way to get their fruits and veggies.

“I’m always asking, ‘What the heck is this thing, and how do I cook it?’” says Jennifer Fahy, communications director of Farm Aid, a non-profit organization started by singer Willie Nelson that holds concerts every year in support of local farms. She is speaking of the exciting and sometimes unfamiliar produce she receives every week in a new kind of food program.

Fahy, like a growing number of Americans concerned with their health and the environment, has joined Community Supported Agriculture. CSA is a contract between an urban resident and a local farm for an allotted amount of produce each week. The food is usually organic, and the customers’ share in the crop help family farms to stay in business.

Perhaps most appealing to consumers today is the cost, which ends up being about the same as grocery store prices without the excess pesticides or packaging. Plus, like Fahy says, the customer is introduced to different fruits and vegetables, ones they may never have discovered on their own.

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In the World of Farming, Stewart Borowsky has Found a New Way to Grow

Borowsky (background) and his wheatgrass stand, Greener Pastures.  Courtesy of Flickr

Borowsky (background) and his wheatgrass stand, Greener Pastures. Courtesy of Flickr

By Sarah Delap Ungerleider

Wheatgrass grower and farmer’s market mainstay Stewart Borowsky has a typical day for his trade. He wakes up at 5 a.m. to plant and tend his crops, makes sure the grass and farm are in good shape, and then drives out to the Union Square Greenmarket.

Borowsky’s grass stand Greener Pastures has been a member of this local fresh market for 15 years. When he isn’t planting or spending time with his wife and baby, Borowsky is selling shots of wheatgrass juice to New Yorkers, and plants for their pets to nibble on. He stays at the market until 6 or 7 p.m., then goes back to the farm to end the day as he started it: planting, tending, and cleaning.

But when Borowsky leaves the house each morning to care for his crops, he’s going to a warehouse. And it’s not located in upstate New York or rural Connecticut, but Gowanus, an industrial sprawl that remains one of the last manufacturing neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Borowsky epitomizes a relatively new phrase in the food and agriculture world: urban farmer.  His “grow room”, equipped with irrigation and electric lights, defies the traditional components of a successful harvest: sun and rain.

But Borowsky sees no big difference between city and country growing; to him the “greening” of cities is not just an increasing trend, but also a necessity. A consistently high demand for nutrient-rich shots of the sprout has only reinforced his ideals of versatile farming.

Borowsky looks like he belongs among crops and soil; his wiry but strong frame and grass-stained jeans allude to years of using his hands to plant and harvest.  Continue reading

A Morning with the Country Living Style Department

May issue of Country Living

May issue of Country Living

Normally, I am an intern in the copy department of Country Living Magazine. My duties include answering reader mail, researching potential article topics, and recently, calling over 80 potato chip companies for samples for a story on America’s favorite tuber snacks.

But on Friday, April 17th, I arrived at headquarters a half-hour early to attend a Country Living breakfast with Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines. She is at the top of the magazine chain, ambitious and hugely successful, so my heart was racing when I arrived at the building with just minutes to spare. I took my seat in the conference room on the 44th floor that has unbelievable views of the entirety of Central Park, and waited. She came into the room without ceremony, shook hands with a few of the top editors of CL and made her way to a small podium facing the tables.

“What kind of year have we been having in magazines?” Black read from a list of questions given to her by the CL staff. Continue reading

NYC Homeless Shelters See Unprecedented Numbers During 2008

The Bowery Mission of New York City

The Bowery Mission of New York City © Sarah Ungerleider

By Sarah Delap Ungerleider

Several weeks ago, a man approached Tom Basile, the director of the Bowery Mission, during the shelter’s daily breakfast. He had an unfamiliar face, quite unlike the rough, unkempt people who perpetually stand outside the Mission’s doors.

The man handed Basile a resume and said, “I’ve never been in this situation before where I’ve been homeless and without a job.”

“You could tell that he was just bathed in shame. And that these were literally his first days of homelessness,” Basile says in a solemn voice.

As lost jobs, evictions, and higher prices become everyday tales in a gloomy economy, more people have found themselves in a place they never imagined they’d be: the streets. According to figures released by New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, there were 1,074 new family applicants seeking shelter in November 2008, a 50 percent increase from the same month in 2007. Overall numbers are the highest they have ever been since the agency started keeping records nearly 30 years ago. Such a rush occurs at a time when the city government plans to reorganize the shelter system, which includes cutting centers and services.

On March 11 the total shelter census in New York hit 35,135 and shows no sign of decreasing in the near future. “[We expect] numbers to grow…given layoffs and the lack of affordable housing,” says Lindsey Davis, community organizer for the Coalition for the Homeless, a local advocacy group.

Job losses and futile job searches are a main source of the problem, says 31-year-old Jose Peña, a new resident at the Bowery Mission, who says it’s difficult finding a construction job because “there were too many people for the work.” Continue reading

Journalistic Inquiry

I will be using this blog to publish several stories as required by my Journalistic Inquiry class at NYU.

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