Dear Beloved Fans of GFM,
We hope you are staying cool and tanned in this ridiculously heated weather!
We’d like send a huge THANK YOU to everyone who attended THINK TANK POTLUCK on June 26th. It was a house full of curious and inquisitive supporters from unlicensed vendors to GFM enthusiasts, food businesses to economic development organizations. Many topics were covered, including going over existing regulations and the possibilities of making amendments as well as the most pressing issue of opening an incubator kitchen for vendors to produce their goods. The fact alone that we were able to bring the NYC Dept of Health, NYS Agriculture & Markets, Council Member Steve Levin and other panelists together in one room alongside the mass of vendors was groundbreaking and we couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to initiate conversation. There were no clear solutions to challenges that all small batch food producers face and it’s only the beginning of a long bumpy ride towards amending policies, opening an incubator kitchen, and doing all we can to provide necessary resources for small food businesses to start and flourish.
The most pressing issue discussed at the conference was the requirement that all food produced and sold be made in a certified commercial kitchen. This creates a major challenge as majority of the vendors at GFM are first time sellers and the market functions as a testing ground, sharing products with the community and receiving feedback in order to determine whether or not the vendors have a viable product that they can potentially consider starting a small batch food business with. Considering the majority are neither established nor licensed it is very difficult to find a certified kitchen to rent when insurance, dba, and licenses must be acquired before using the facility. Profit margins in participating at the market come no where near overhead costs, especially considering it is upwards of $200 for a single shift in a rental kitchen.
There are multiple temporary solutions that vendors and the market can go about in order to participate and share their products. Vendors can give away samples and not sell, find others to share a day working in a rental kitchen and split costs, find a local church whose kitchen is up to code and donate funds to produce in there, and collaborate with a restaurant to use their facilities during off hours. One thing vendors are learning is that it certainly isn’t FREE to participate and grow as a business. The most difficult part about GFM itself opening its doors is that a majority of the vendors are not ready to legitimize their product and requiring them to do so kills the market’s mission of supporting locally made, HOMEMADE food products that are shared with the community.
This then comes down to one sad and sobering fact. Although we’ve set a tentative date to open the market July 24th where vendors must follow requirements in order to participate, there is little chance that we’ll have more than a dozen vendors who are willing and able to put up with the overhead costs of producing in a kitchen. We will know better in the next couple days if we can accumulate enough vendors to set up shop this month, if not, GFM will most likely close its doors until further notice.
This goes on to the next fact, which is more promising and not as sad. At the conference we discussed the possibilities of opening a non-profit/for-profit cooperative incubator kitchen here in Greenpoint, a facility that will allow any number of vendors to produce their goods in and pay a low membership fee in exchange for teaching classes and workshops and helping maintain the front of the house daily market. The market will be stocked up with shelf upon shelf, table upon table of goodies produced in house by these vendors who are also more than welcome to produce to sell at other sites. Consumers would also be able pay membership fees to receive discounts on items and classes. This model is a complicated business venture but something that is greatly supported by the city and is very much in need by all the small batch food start ups running rampant throughout Brooklyn alone. With the help of some local funding, federal and foundation grants, and EVERYONE’s unconditional love and support we will be able to open this cooperative kitchen and thrive as a small and cozy community of self-sustaining small businesses.
From here on, there will be much contact behind the scenes and we will provide as much updates as it comes along. As of now, the next GFM is very tentative and we can only pray that vendors get their paperwork together to sell at GFM. If NOT, then we will let the market rest in peace and hibernate until it transmutates into a beautiful new community-supporting medium.
Below are the resource documents we had for vendors which we quickly ran out of.
Below is audio recording of the conference in 3 parts for those who missed the potluck. Courtesy Goddamn Cobras.
Also check out our flickr page for more photos, also courtesy Goddamn Cobras.