Foods of Mexico Live in New York

An interesting article came through in the New York Times today on a Mexican immigrant from Oaxaca who is growing produce on a small plot on Staten Island - much of it native to the southern Mexican state - and selling it at a farmers market in a local urban farmer's market. Although the article does not specifically mention the farmer's ethnicity, this story exemplifies the possibility of indigenous knowledges being transformed and transported to worlds outside of their places of origin.
"Mr. Juárez’s specialty is produce indigenous to Mexico, and the seeds of many of the goods he grows are from that country, though he also plants typical American produce. For generations, immigrants from around the globe have turned little corners of New York into an approximation of the countries they left behind. Since 2001, Mr. Juárez has been following in their footsteps. He is maintaining the traditions of the small farming town in southern Mexico where he grew up, and providing an anchor to home for some of the city’s quarter-million Mexican immigrants."
The unusual nature of immigrants finding land on which to produce food was made possible by the NY city-based non-profit group New Farmer Development Project. The article mentions that the land is slated to be used by another group for different purposes in the near future, leaving the families that grow there in need of new space with which to produce. It is unclear if the non-profit is still functioning (their website appears to be down at the time of this writing), or if another group will be continuing the efforts of the project.
In searching for more information on the NFDP, I came across another non-profit that could end up as a source of funding and support: the National Immigrant Farming Initiative. This group provides funding for farming projects involving immigrants and refugees. Groups like these could end up playing a key role in food production in the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. With more and more U.S. farmers leaving the field, there may be a void to fill as industrial agriculture continues to discover its limitations. The rural farming background of many immigrants to the U.S. could provide a new influx of farmers - if they only had access to the land.
Finally, it is also commonly thought that much of the local/indigenous knowledge (food use and farming practices are examples of such knowledge) that exists in rural areas (like Oaxaca) is lost or left behind when people go through the process of relocation to cities and other developed areas (like the U.S.). Here we see that it is possible to find ways to maintain traditions and traditional knowledge use even in one of the most developed places on the planet - New York City. And perhaps the greatest part of this story is the fact that by providing access to land for people who know how to farm, fresh locally produced food can become available for the residents of the city.
Read the article here.
photo courtesy of NYTimes.
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  1. Anonymous8:29 AM

    great post!
    it's truly inspiring to read about how this knowledge can be preserved (if that's the right word) in a place like nyc. hopefully we see this continue to happen in other places also.

  2. Anonymous8:38 AM

    People love the fresh markets in NYC. There just needs to be a sustained push to keep farmland in the hands of the farmers.


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