Behind the Scenes at Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market
By Kazuki Sakamoto, NYCEDC Guest Blogger and Assistant Vice President in Management Information Systems
New Yorkers have palates as diverse as the city's population, but how exactly does fresh produce end up in our grocery stores and dining tables?
The answer can be found at Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market in the Bronx, which supplies approximately half of the produce you find in NYC produce aisles.
On June 30, NYCEDC hosted the third of its Behind the Scenes NYC tours, taking Untapped Cities readers behind the scenes of the produce market at Hunts Point, one of the largest wholesale food markets in the world.
Our tour started at 9 in the morning as workers were ending their day. A typical day at the market starts before 3 am, in order to get food on New Yorkers' tables for breakfast.
It’s hard to fathom how big the facility is until you see it. Spanning 113 acres (in comparison, Battery Park City is about 92 acres), the market generates an astonishing $2.4 billion in sales a year while handling a mind-boggling number of fruits and vegetables.
There are four long buildings, comprising of 36 family-owned wholesalers, many of which have been there for generations. Aside from the produce market, there are two more complexes for the fish market and meat market, which we did not visit on the tour. In total, all three markets in the food distribution center employ more than 8,000 people.
The market has evolved with technology. Refrigerated rail cars and trucks allow the transport of produce to go much farther. Today, computers help maintain inventory and automatically sort certain types of produce by color and weight for employees to box.
While anyone can come to the market to buy produce, be prepared to buy in bulk as everything is sold wholesale. There is also an entry gate fee of $25.
NYC has always been home to diverse people that bring their unique cultures and foods to the city. As such, the Market has been a regional distributor of even specialty items that have become common to New Yorkers.
For instance, New Yorkers have been enjoying vegetables like endives, scotch bonnets, yucca, and aloe for decades thanks to Hunts Point - but you'd be hard-pressed to find many of these foods outside of NYC.
Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market is important not only for its size but the crucial role it plays in the flow of goods. Farmers across the country depend on this market to be able to quickly distribute their products to the most populated region in the nation.
So, next time you pick up some fresh produce at your neighborhood green grocery, remember that there is an interconnected network of farmers, distributors, retailers and middle men that bring you this world-class variety to your table.
Background Info: NYCEDC is the lease administrator on behalf of the City of New York for the entire Food Distribution Center, including its three public markets. NYCEDC also performs long-term strategic planning for the food cluster as a whole, and we work with business and community stakeholders on a number of topics, including resiliency for the peninsula. Read more about Hunts Point's Vision Plan here.
Interested in attending our next Behind the Scenes NYC tour? On July 25, preview upcoming developments on Staten Island's North Shore as we walk through the neighborhoods of St. George and Stapleton. Purchase tickets through the Untapped Cities website here.