To the Editor,
As the executive director of the Farmers' Market Federation of New York, I thank the Boulder community and, especially, your natural products and sustainable-living industry members for the funds raised to help our beleaguered farmers following the World Trade Center attacks and the destruction and closure of five farmers' markets in lower Manhattan. The Sixth Annual Natural Products Party, I am told, was held in early November in Boulder.
This year, we were the grateful recipients of the funds raised that evening. In addition to New Hope Natural Media for their major sponsorship, we also thank large and small companies, as well as many Boulder-area organic farmers, who were involved with the event. Many of us are very familiar with the organic and natural brands—and a financial group, too—represented by sponsors such as Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Horizon Organic Dairy and Merrill Lynch. We sincerely thank all of the other contributors as well. We received many personal checks that were written directly to us at the event. We were very touched by the fact that hundreds of strangers who live and work in the Rockies reached out to help our farmers here in the East.
Your readers might be interested to hear what has been happening since that fateful day.
On Sept. 11, the Greenmarket farmers set up at the base of the World Trade Center were doing business as usual at 8:45 a.m. They were making sales, greeting customers and sharing their lives with friends and neighbors. Then the world changed forever. The first plane hit and customers and farmers scrambled. Some of the farmers began to pack their belongings to leave. When the second plane hit, sending debris raining down on them, they were told to leave everything and run.
We are grateful that all of the World Trade Center farmers escaped without injury. But they lost everything necessary to being a farmers' market seller. Their trucks, tables, canopies, scales, display materials, as well as the day's product were gone, buried beneath the towers. Gone too was the market. Additional lower Manhattan markets were closed indefinitely because of their close proximity to ground zero or because of security risks involved in operating near or on federal property. Forty-three farmers and market vendors were left with nowhere to sell their product. These closed markets represented up to 80 percent of sales for these farmers, creating a serious loss of income, with the potential of putting several of them permanently out of business.
Greenmarket Director Tony Mannetta worked feverishly to secure new locations for markets to get everyone back in business as quickly as possible. He managed to open one new market and added an additional day to an existing market. Greenmarket also coordinated efforts to bring farmers' produce to food service centers that were feeding the rescue and recovery teams, the New York City command center and the volunteers working at the World Trade Center site.
The Farmers' Market Federation of New York set up the Fund for the World Trade Center Greenmarket Farmers to raise money to benefit the farmers that were harmed by the Sept. 11 attacks. These farmers will need an infusion of money, as well as the prayers and good wishes of all of us to help them to recover from this disaster. Insurance coverage, at best, has been minimal, and other disaster programs have not been successful in addressing the needs of the farmers that were affected by this national tragedy. Therefore, it is the goal of the fund to distribute 100 percent of the donations received to the impacted farmers to help make them whole again.
We are blessed to be in a nation of caring and generous people. We have collected donations from all across the country, Canada, England and France. We've heard from fellow farmers, farmers' market associations, agricultural organizations, agri-businesses and consumers who appreciate the farmers and the farmers' markets in their own community. New York City consumers sent donations and suggestions of alternative sites for markets because they want the farmers to come back to their neighborhoods. It was heartwarming to read the letters and notes that often accompanied donations.
Since Sept. 11, generous donors have contributed $100,000 to help the World Trade Center Greenmarket farmers to rebuild and go on with their lives and livelihoods. "Going on," however, will be different for all of us. We will never forget that day, nor, more importantly, the outpouring of support we have received since then. Again, we thank your readers, your farmers and your businesses headquartered in Boulder for caring about our farmers here in New York.
With sincere gratitude,
Diane Eggert, executive director
Farmers' Market Federation of N.Y.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 2/p. 11