Friday, September 24, 2010

Sustainability: From Marketplace to Main Street

Where Fresh Fruits and Veggies Go Hand in Hand with Fighting Blight in Suburbia

There aren't too many farms in Nassau County, New York. Indeed, aside from the old Grossman's Farm in Malverne, today but a barren patch of land and a lofty dream of tomorrow's harvest, there aren't any farms at all.

Indeed, county residents had to trek out to a farm stand in Suffolk, or take a ride upstate, to be where the good earth yield apples, strawberries, broccoli and vine ripened tomatoes. Until now, that is.

Over the last few years, farmers' markets, bearing the fresh and the healthful, untainted by chemical additives and raised with care, mostly locally, have popped up in Nassau. [The county itself hosts two farmers' markets, one in Garden City, the other in Roslyn.]

Today, the noteriety -- and significance -- of the local farmers' market is on the rise, and has been made more prevelent, not to mention relevant, by an organization better known for raising downtown than raising asparagus (asparagi?).

Sustainable Long Island, long a catalyst for sustainable development in the communities we call home, has reintroduced the farmers' market, and in particular, the youth-run farmers' market, across our island, raising hope, esteem, nutrition smarts, the idea and ideal of a sustainable economy and a green environment -- together, of course, with the carrots, beets and the occasional green squash.

These farmers' markets, in Roosevelt and North Bellport, support not only the local economy, but a return, if not to farming and tilling the land as vocation on Long Island, to a more natural, sustainable way of life.

"The launch of these two markets brings hope to these communities, along with countless others on Long Island, that fresh, healthy, affordable food alternatives are available," said Sarah Lansdale, Executive Director, Sustainable Long Island. "No more will they have to settle for high fat, sugar filled, greasy snacks and meals; they will now have what every community and every person deserves: an option."

Of course, the farmers' markets also make for exceptional photo ops for the politicos, so, apparently, there's no cutting the "high fat" and "greasy snacks" entirely. ;-)

Yes, we chide, with more than a bit of sarcastic causticity, our friends at Sustainable Long Island for what appears, on the surface, to be a move away from curing the ills on Main Street to a throwback to the agrarian past of Long Island's yesteryears.

"You say apples and broccoli. We see apathy and blight," has been our common cry on Twitter posts at  Our downtowns are crumbling, rarely inviting and barely sustainable (economically and otherwise), and here is the very group whose energies and fortitude stood at the forefront of Main Street's revival, hawking fruits and vegetables.

Ahhh. Sustainability is not brick and mortar alone. Sometimes, it takes a banana and a handful of bean sprouts to raise a village.

There is clearly no retreat on the part of Sustainable Long Island from the work -- that which has been accomplished and, to be sure, that which lies ahead - of downtown renewal. The rebirth of Main Street, through innovative, smart growth initiatives, is vital to a new beginning for America's first and oldest suburb.

Man does not live by bread alone, the old saying goes. Nor do the men, women and children of Long Island emerge from economic starvation, ergonomic deviation, and developmental stagnation by merely placing planters at the curb alongside art-carved benches and Victorian-style streetlamps, calling it "Streetscape Improvement."

Food for the body is as necessary as food for the soul (and the ever-popular food for thought) in reshaping our island into a truly sustainable environment, from the nutritional value of the fresh fruits and legumes we purchase at the local farmers' markets, to the inherent value of walkable, livable, viable "downtowns."

Kudos to Sustainable Long Island, and please, pass the cherries.
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