FARMLAND: Part 2(b) – ‘Somewhere’ Farms exist in NYC’s Concrete Canyons

FARMLAND, the film, was about to come to New York City in the evening, but in fact ‘farmland’ already had.

Even in those tall concrete canyons collectively called the Big Apple, Farmland is everywhere. It is found on every street corner, in every high rise, on every fashion runway, in every sidewalk food stand, on every morning show. How so, one might ask?

All a person has to do is look beyond the visible, to the invisible farms that are found in every cop’s doughnut to the most elegant gourmet dinner to the cotton in designer dresses to see the foundation of the hustle and bustle of city life. Much as blood courses through the veins to keep a human body alive, farmland courses through urban byways everywhere to provide their lifeblood.

The sad part is – most city-dwellers seem to never comprehend that fact. The two previous blog posts, Part 1 here, and Part 2 here have begun to connect those dots; read on to connect a few more.

Compelled to visit the World Trade Center site (to be featured in a later post), after breakfast I headed down the street towards the Financial District. I didn’t have to walk far before seeing Farmland on (west) Broadway, in the form of a bucolic pasture scene on a FreshDirect truck. That company’s 2,500+ food-delivery jobs are dependent on farmland – somewhere.

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Around the corner and down a few blocks, to America’s commerce center.

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43 companies – ADM, Dean Foods, Tyson, and Pilgrim’s Pride among them – are directly categorized as ‘food’ companies which are traded on the NYSE. In addition, there is an unknown amount of other companies, such as Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Walmart, and Kroger, who include food sales or food methodology in their portfolios, that are valued or devalued daily in the nation’s most prestigious exchange.

And then, the BULL!

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While some think this global icon is merely a signatory for an active, expanding market, there is real reason for the symbolism: The food companies traded on Wall Street account for TRILLION$ of BIG DOLLAR$, and those Dollar$ are dependent on Farmland – somewhere. The farmland may be in Brazil, or Europe, or New Zealand, or coffee plantations in the tropics ($tarbuck$, anyone?). Best thing about this Bull? In the eyes of a farmer, he’s a low maintenance kind of livestock, since he requires no actual feed!

Onto the subway for a first time, and a few minutes later I arrive at Grand Central Station. Yep, Farmland here, too, and quite colorful!

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Why not a Farmer’s Market in one of the nation’s busiest rail hubs? Workers from the city grabbing something fresh for supper as they catch a train on their evening ride really makes a lot of sense when you think about it. But what about the food sold in the Market? Could the tomatoes be some of those grown by one of my Tennessee neighbors? (We know they go to NYC through a broker).

At any given time of year, the lovely produce could come from any part of the globe, all starting on Farmland. Some will be traceable to the point of origin, some will not. Some will be grown in the States using plant protection agents that are monitored and approved by the FDA and the EPA, while some will be grown in countries with food safety standards not nearly as stringent as ours. Some will be organic, and some local (NY, CT, PA, or NE). All will require the fertile soil that is Farmland.

The Grand Central Dairy Case featured some wonderful regional milks:

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One brand, Ronnybrook’s “Beyond Organic,” is processed on the farm where the cows live – a farmstead milk! This is about as local and fresh as you’ll find in New York City. I ‘sort of’ already knew the farm through registered Holstein circles. Hudson Valley Fresh is processed by a small family farm cooperative. One of the ten member-farms of the co-op, Dutch-Hollow, has just been announced to be the 2014 Dairy of Distinction by National Dairy Shrine!

On for a special lunch – I was meeting a treasured ‘long-lost’ Tennessee cousin, who works in New York City, at Fonda Del Sol, on Vanderbilt Avenue. Beef – from a farm and ranch somewhere – was on the menu, at a ‘Mad-Men’ kind of restaurant (Charles’ description, not mine!).

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Hanger steak was plated, and what a treat! This cut has been promoted by farmer’s organizations such as National Cattlemen’s and Beef Industry Councils across the country. And since Tennessee is one of the nation’s leading cow-calf operations, this delicious bit of protein could have started on a farm in my neighborhood! Farmland – close to home – contributing to the New York Food economy. With beef quality and food safety measures all along the way, this delicious morsel could be eaten with no fear!

Time to head back to Tribeca to get ready for the purpose of the trip: Farmland, the Film. And for the umpteenth time, another coincidence. On top of the Tribeca Film building where the film was to be screened – well, see the sign:

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Several years ago, I had the privilege to help launch a farmstead cheese operation. I had to wonder what launching would occur from this trip. No doubt, the previous 24 hours had set the stage for the screening.

New York City is not the only metropolis that has Farmland – somewhere – that runs through concrete canyons. They all do, but do their residents know how close they are, or how dependent they are – on Farmland?

Next up: a post about the screening event itself, and my impressions of Farmland, the Film.

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