In a city of 8 million people, a lot of food makes its way into the five boroughs. We are talking tens of billions of pounds to tens of thousands of point-of-sale locations, like grocery stores, restaurants and bodegas. How does it all work?

In some cases, a dish prepared at a food establishment may be made from ingredients harvested only hours before at a farm in the region.

What You Need To Know

  • New Yorkers and chefs from restaurants shop at the Union Square Greenmarket for produce and other food items

  • Farmers from farms like Norwich Meadows Farm in Norwich, New York will harvest their produce and drive overnight to the market so it is fresh for shoppers

  • Food establishments like Breads Bakery regularly check in with farmers at the market to ask for advice on their items when shopping for vegetables and fruits

  • There are 45 greenmarkets around the five boroughs run by the nonprofit GrowNYC

One of those is Norwich Meadows Farm, located about 200 miles northwest of New York City in Chenango County. It’s owned by Zaid Kurdieh and his family. There are 250 acres, 21 featuring high tunnels, which are structures that give more protection for crops from the elements.

Among the numerous certified organic crops grown at Norwich Meadows are Brussels sprouts. The Brussels sprouts are loaded onto a truck at night after being harvested. That truck arrives at Union Square around 6 a.m. the next morning after a four-hour journey to be sold at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Produce is driven overnight to the market so it is fresh for shoppers. (NY1/Roger Clark)

“It’s about as fresh as you can get. Something might have been even harvested by tractor light at 8 p.m. last night and made it into the truck last minute,” said Kurdieh, who has been bringing his produce to the market for more than two decades.

Selling at the Greenmarket is an integral part of Kurdieh’s business.

“We work with chefs, we work with people. We can tell them how to cook, what to cook, so we are into the culinary scene in addition to selling produce,” Kurdieh said.

Among the food businesses, Kurdieh has made a connection with his Breads Bakery in Union Square. Owner Gadi Peleg and staff regularly stop by and shop at the Norwich Meadows Farm stand. On this day, they picked up some Brussels sprouts. Kurdieh had advised Peleg that they were particularly tasty this season.

Breads isn’t the only culinary destination that takes advantage of the greenmarket, one of 45 in the five boroughs run by the nonprofit GrowNYC.

“We have just the best and most talented chefs in the city come here because they know they can find the best produce, the most variety, and also have those direct connections, relationships with the people growing it,” Amelia Tarpey, publicity manager for Union Square Greenmarket, said.

There are 45 greenmarkets around the five boroughs run by the non-profit GrowNYC. (NY1/Roger Clark)

The Union Square Greenmarket has been around since 1976.

Back at Breads Bakery, those Brussels sprouts are being put to good use in a salad, and a tarte tanin, a pastry usually made with caramelized apples, but this time, with caramelized Brussels sprouts. All a result of Peleg getting to know Kurdieh over the years. 

“It gives us great access to local ingredients, fresh, organic and wonderful. It gives us a connection with the farmers who grow,” Peleg said.