I have been under the assumption that farmers markets are a way to bring fresh produce to neighborhoods that are located in urban food deserts. Questioning our assumptions is critical to understanding what is actually going on. The best way (in my opinion) of gaining insight into an assumption is to look at actual data: thus was born this map of farmers markets in Manhattan. An NYU Food Studies graduate student, Laura Mirsch, created this map for a paper we are writing. The map shows the location of farmers markets in Manhattan, and accounts for the length of time a market is open (year round vs seasonal) and the number of days a week the market is open. Information on the farmers markets was collected from the following sources: USDA’s database (http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/), Greenmarket’s list of its markets, and the Harvest Home list of markets. We hope we have included all markets, but we realize we might have missed a few.
The big rectangle in the middle of the map is Central Park; most of the food deserts in Manhattan are located above (or north of) Central Park. The very large red dot, south of the park, is the famous Union Square Market. Casual observation yields the following: the year round markets, with the exception of one in the northernmost portion of Manhattan, are not located in food deserts. Further, most farmers markets are located in relatively affluent, food rich neighborhoods: the Upper East Side (to the right the park), the Upper West Side (to the left of the park), and in the downtown areas.
Maybe farmers markets provide access to fresh produce in under served communities in the other boroughs, but in Manhattan, that does not appear to be the case.