Local Roots NYC has made a few appearances on Untapped for the launch of their summer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and last month’s supper club, and here they are again as they go into their Fall CSA Season, with membership applications due on Friday, August 19th. We asked Wen-Jay Ying, the founder and program director of Local Roots, to share an insider’s view of what it’s been like starting their organization.
Wen-Jay: Local Roots NYC is a new model of CSA which connects New York City to their local farmers and food by focusing on offering flexibility and variety to its members. The past five months since we launched have involved a lot of learning. While coordinating five CSA locations and working out how to make the CSA, a relatively new agriculture model, the best fit for New York City residents, I have also been discovering what exactly I want Local Roots NYC to be.
I recently read David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook cover to cover. Well, at least the introduction. It was everything I always hoped someone would tell me. He uses a quote from Steve Martin: “Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” Chang’s journey opening his first restaurant and single-handedly busing, serving, and cooking for the first months of being open blew me away. It is refreshing when we see the inner layers of someone’s dream–the part that is hard and shitty.
When I decided to start my own organization, I thought only of the dream: I want to bring local, fresh produce to New York City. I want to make it easier and more attractive to those that aren’t already in the know of “local.” What I didn’t think about was how I would be up til 2 a.m. every day trying to figure out how to build a website, learn accounting, communicate with farmers whose cellphones don’t work in the fields, and other behind the scenes complications. I’m grateful for what I didn’t know, just as Chang and Steve Martin thank their naivete for their success. These past five months have been a journey and learning process. Every time I have to do the hard and the shitty, I think of the CSA drop offs, when I am able to bring beautiful seasonal produce from hard working farmers to our CSA members or introduce someone to a type of vegetable they have never tried before. I am beyond thankful that I am dreaming a reality.
I’m happy to say we had a successful summer season filled with blueberries, strawberries, duck, short ribs, lettuce, beets, spinach, and now tomatoes. The fall season is just around the corner (the last week of August), and we hope you can join us in the fall bounties of some great New York State farms. We will continue to offer customizable shares of vegetable, fruit, beef, duck, grain/beans, bread, and eggs and will be distributing in Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg, and Tribeca. Thanks to Untapped and everyone who has been supporting this dream. And if you happen to know David Chang personally, tell him I say “hi.”
All photos by Wen Jay Ying.