Cecilia Depman’s (Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management ’18) capstone project explores the impact of increased federal nutrition program spending in NYC Greenmarkets on sustainable farming practices of food producers.

Federal nutrition programs play a pivotal role in improving food access in urban landscapes. The use of these programs at farmers markets has increased in recent years due to the proliferation of farmers markets across the United States alongside an increase in their capacity to redeem Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). Research on this topic has focused on the efficacy of farmers markets, through their participation in EBT, to provide low-income consumers greater access to locally grown food and simultaneously promote regional food producers. While existing literature establishes the relationship between urban food security and rural farm security, it largely falls short of exploring its contribution to sustainable farming practices.

The capstone project examines the economic and environmental implications of this trend by analyzing the land management practices of the producers who benefit from EBT spending at Greenmarkets in NYC. The results suggest that differences in EBT spending occur between different types and sizes of producers. Through a focus on land-based producers selling fruits and vegetables, the analysis also finds that certain land management practices are not a strong determinant of EBT spending but are critical to increasing sales for small and medium sized farms in the Northeastern United States serving the NYC Greenmarket sector. This has helped develop an understanding of the degree to which federal entitlement dollars promote sustainable land management, by aligning the interests of small and sustainable regional farmers with the interests of low-income consumers and unifying the diverse priorities of the contemporary local food movement.

The current literature on farmers market spending fails to capture the enriching qualities of farmers markets beyond short-term economic and nutritional gains. This is a question imperative to achieving equity and stability in all aspects of the food system from production to consumption. Farmers market operators such as Greenmarket are uniquely positioned to assess the role of direct marketing by farmers in the creation of a sustainable regional market. Not only do they have the resources and both qualitative and quantitative data on market and producer behavior, they have the power and position to organize farmers and consumers around collective goals.

Reposted from The New School’s Collaboratory