Specialty Food Magazine

JUL-AUG 2013

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 104 of 217

natural selections Another boon for the co-op is that memberships have gone up 25 percent in the past year, due to the media attention generated by Heritage Point. Retailers and Restaurants Master City Farming PHOTO: EVA MESZAROS Taking the urban farm idea a few steps up— literally—specialty food store Eli's Vinegar Factory has six rooftop greenhouses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Eli Zabar is a true pioneer, breaking ground on the commercial project back in 1998. Today the greenhouses are maintained by Monica Dandridge, also the head bookkeeper at the store. This means she's good at keeping an eye on the bottom line. "It more than pays for itself," Dandridge says of the project. In addition to earning a degree in accounting, she went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She's worked at the Vinegar Factory for 20 years and was put in charge of the greenhouses three years ago when Zabar noticed her keen interest. Baby greens are grown in soil, but almost everything else—zucchini blossoms, strawberries, basil—is hydroponic. Summer Fancy Food Show Booth 843 88 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com Dandridge pushed for the hydroponic method to be implemented, allowing her to triple the crop output. Plants are pollinated by bees; spraying chemicals is unnecessary since there are few threats from insects and weeds are less likely to propagate. Harvests are sold in the Vinegar Factory, an upscale market where patrons are willing to pay $10 a pound for a rooftop-grown heirloom tomato and up to $21 a pound for mache, which Dandridge describes as "green gold." The rest goes to Eli Zabar's two cafes and three restaurants. Dandridge also caters to private chefs who need specialty herbs and vegetables for events at New York's historic Gracie Mansion. "Eli is a businessman," says Dandridge. "One hundred percent of his yield from upstairs gets used up." She believes rooftop gardens are New York's future. "Not only is it good produce, but you can grow it in the middle of winter," she explains. Indeed, a recent study by the Urban Design Lab at the Earth Institute at Columbia University called the city's rooftops a "vast, underused resource." Mapping the city's flat rooftops showed more than At Eli's Vinegar Factory, baby greens are grown in soil, but almost everything else—zucchini blossoms, strawberries, basil—is hydroponic.

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