Forget Williamsburg, Go To Smorgasburg

In a city like our beloved NYC, we rarely have the opportunity to interact with the people who are directly involved in making our food. This has changed. The mouth-watering food market people are flocking to in Williamsburg is called Smorgasburg and it is bringing together food entrepreneurs and purveyors from the New York City area – changing both how we spend our Saturdays and how we eat our food. Eric Demby, from Smorgasburg, gives us some insight into the genius behind the market and how it lends to a different way New Yorkers can chow.

Q: Part of the beauty of markets like Smorgasburg is that consumers build a new relationship with vendors where they meet them first hand and are able to ask things about the food they are buying – was that the intent when you started this food market?

A: We very much view Smorgasburg as a platform for vendors and like-minded shoppers to connect in the “real” world (ie, not online), and this was part of our motivation for launching the market, and the “regular” Flea as well. The old-fashioned town square never goes out of style. But we’re a business and we definitely saw the potential of really “owning” this new artisanal food space on the market level.

Q: Would you expand the Smorgasburg to contain more Farmers Market items instead of cooked food?

Eric Demby

A: We have tried this with mixed results. We had a Greenmarket inside Smorgasburg last year that did OK, but not well enough to return this year. Several of those farmers will now be part of the regular Smorgasburg this year though. We’ve had plenty of folks who make cheese and syrup and honey and the like who aren’t technically “farmers market” farmers, and we always work to expand that aspect of the offerings.

Q:  What are some of the things you personally enjoy eating at the market?

A: I like it all. I love Mighty Quinn’s brisket, Brooklyn Soda Works, Blue Marble Ice Cream, Landhaus BLTs, Salud smoothies, Kumquat Cupcakes, Mile End, Butter Plus Love, and on and on. Pizza Moto is probably my go-to in general. The wife likes Asia Dog (veggie Sydney) and the kid likes People’s Pops.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of Smorgasburg?

A: I love the intra-vendor community that emerged so quickly. All those folks are basically in the same boat in terms of starting and/or growing their businesses, and the camaraderie of feeling like you’re part of something—a movement, a moment, whatever—can be enough to keep you motivated when your sales or business plan aren’t quite where you want them to be. And people have just become friends, which is the nicest feeling when you’ve helped facilitate that.

Food For Thought…The Humane Society Speaks Out

Kristie Middleton works for the Farm Animal Protection division of The Humane Society.  Working to reduce the suffering of animals raised for milk, eggs and meat – the Human Society’s Farm Animal Protection Project seeks to educate the public about the cruelty of animals who are directly and indirectly involved in our food chain.

Middleton shares her thoughts…
Q: How can people who live in a highly populated city, like New York City, ensure that our food is from animals raised in the proper environment?

A: For those who choose to consume meat, eggs, and milk products, there is an inherent responsibility to use our consumer dollars to support only those farming practices we feel provide animals the level of welfare they deserve. It’s all about doing your homework. Though it may be easier to simply go for the lowest-priced item, what do we know about how that animal was raised? You don’t have to spend hours and hours online doing research or visit every single farm or ranch.

Photo courtesy of Kristie Middleton.

Q: The Humane Society believes everyone should Reduce, Refine and Replace – how can people implement this into their lives, especially in a city?

A: These tenants are easy steps for people everywhere to make. About 10 billion animals are raised and killed in the U.S. every year for our consumption and the vast majority are raised on factory farms where they live lives devoid of things that are natural and important to them. We can help improve their lives by:

  • Reducing our consumption of animals and animal products by participating in programs like Meatless Monday. If every American went meat-free just one day a week, it would mean 1.4 billion fewer animals raised and slaughtered each year.
  • Refining the products we eat by switching to higher welfare products such as cage-free eggs and pork from breeding pigs not confined in cages.
  • Replacing animal products in our diet with plant-based ones, like egg replacers instead of eggs for baking; soy, almond, or rice milk instead of dairy; and meat alternatives like Gardein and Tofurky. Those products are found in grocery stores and in many New York City corner stores.

Become An Urban Farmer Today: DIY Kits!

Don’t have a balcony? Don’t like soil? Don’t have the floor space? Your excuses are up! Windowfarms has invented a new way to farm for New Yorkers…vertically. A hydroponic growing system, Windowfarms is a year-round growing system perfect for any window that combines the light and temperate climate of your apartment along with “liquid soil” in order to make a perfect little garden for green thumbs and all other kind of thumbs alike.

Getting Real with Real Time Farms

You might be wondering while going through this blog, just how we found some of our most amazing urban farmers. With the help of Real Time Farms of course – a new website founded by married couple, Karl and Cara Rosaen that is a crowd-sourced online food guide. It provides visitors of the website with information about restaurants and local farms in order to learn more about where their food is coming from. We might be staying “in the know” through Real Time Farms but Cara spoke with us and shared just how her and her husband – a former Google Android senior engineer, came up with the idea for their website and how it takes literally an army of “Food Warriors” to document our food system.

Q: So Cara, how did you and your husband, Karl, come up with Real Time Farms? 

A: We had read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and seen Food, Inc. but one of the biggest problems, once you find a problem, is finding an alternative. The first problem was food distribution and one solution to that was the ability for people to find food in their area that they feel good about eating but also being able to trace back to finding the source of the food. A kind of food transparency. We knew with technology we could do that. It was important that we were a resource but also a neutral territory. Our goal was how to get my Mom and Dad interested.

Q: How to get Mom and Dad interested and still be able to use the website right!  What kind of relationship does this website create with people and the food they eat? 

Karl and Cara Rosaen.

A: Real Time Farms aggregates all the data. It is trying to connect consumers to their goods.

Q: Because consumers cannot always physically do so when you live in New York City? 

A: Right. People are adding farms everyday, both big and small. We want to be a Wikipedia of Farms.

Q: So today people are more educated about food? 

A: The food system isn’t what people thought it was; they can’t take that for granted that there are chemicals involved they might not be happy about or animals are not treated right. Why are there eggs that are $1.99 and others that are $6.99? People see images of animals at farms that are shocking but people need to be encouraged. We are really good at connecting you to the human behind the farms and their growing practices so people can find food based on that. We want to make it simpler without dumbing it down.


If you have time…watch Cara’s Ted Talk!

The Cool Chicken Coop

Thanks to the folks at the Chicken Co-Op, who have designed what they call “luxury chicken residences,” chickens can can this stylish and compact coop their home that fits easily in even the smallest of New York City apartments.
(To Purchase: Click on Photo)

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