A new farmstand in Crown Heights aims to fill some of the gaps left by the temporary closure of the Nostrand Avenue Associated Supermarket.
Operating Friday mornings and afternoons, the stand offers fresh seasonal vegetables in front of the now shuttered supermarket near Sullivan Place, which is expected to be closed for a number of years while its lot is redeveloped into a residential building.
The farmstand came together for the first time on Oct. 22 following months of discussion between local stakeholders, including Community Board 9, Brooklyn Borough Hall, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, Assemblymember Diana Richardson, and Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, with Grow NYC, the nonprofit running the stand.
“As a board we knew that we had to do something,” said Community Board 9 Chair Fred Baptiste.
Baptiste acknowledged that the once-a-week farmstand won’t replace the level of service offered by the supermarket, but hopes that it can help alleviate some of the loss of access to fresh foods in the neighborhood.
“We went into it understanding that this is not replacing the supermarket,” he said. “But what we wanted to do was try to mitigate some of that so people aren’t travelling 17 blocks out of their way to find fresh produce.”
The farmstand, which will also serve as a compost drop-off site, is the first of its kind in Crown Heights, where the nearest farmers market is over a mile away at Grand Army Plaza. Jessica Douglas, senior manager of food access initiatives at Grow NYC said the organization has long intended to set up a stand in the neighborhood and help fill the need for fresh produce.
“We haven’t had a farm stand in this neighborhood but we have been very interested in setting something like that up here,” Douglas said. “There is definitely a need for fresh fruits and vegetables in this neighborhood.”
Douglas says the site has already received a healthy amount of foot traffic during its first day of operation, thanks in part to its location in an area where locals already went food shopping.
“People were already coming here as a shopping destination so it has good foot traffic,” she said.
Dante Arnwine, district manager of Community Board 9, says he hopes the farmstand is the first of many initiatives to boost healthy food access in the neighborhood in the wake of the market’s closure.
“It’s one small way to mitigate the loss of the supermarket, but we can’t just stop with the farmstand,” he said. “We have to make sure that we work together as partners in this community to promote healthy food education.”
The closure of the Associated Supermarket stirred controversy and fears of a food desert in the neighborhood. The development firm handling the project eventually committed to bringing the Associated back under the same ownership in the ground floor of the new development once it is completed.
Shoppers at the greenmarket have the choice to pay with cash or card, as well as benefits like SNAP and EBT, which will give users an additional $2 for every $2 spent at the stand with a limit of $10.
A mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination truck will also be stationed at the farmstand. Crown Heights is one of the lowest vaccinated communities in New York, with under 50 percent of residents vaccinated according to the most recent city data.
Borough President Eric Adams, a supporter of healthy eating who abides by a plant-based diet, hailed the farmstand as a step forward for food justice.
“My personal health journey of overcoming Type 2 Diabetes with a whole-food, plant-based diet taught me the value of leading a healthy lifestyle. Since then, I have made it my mission to expand access to healthy produce in communities throughout Brooklyn, particularly those that have historically been denied healthier options,” the Beep said. “The opening of this new farmstand in Crown Heights sends a powerful message that we are turning the page on that history, and taking concrete steps to build a healthier borough and city.”
The Crown Heights Farmstand is open 9 am to 3 pm every Friday on Nostrand Avenue near Sullivan Place in Crown Heights.