By Julie Shapiro
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — City dwellers who want to look their next meal in the eyes are in luck.
The New Amsterdam Market is auctioning off a slew of back-to-the-farm experiences, including the opportunity to participate in a lamb birthing in upstate New York, a hog butchering in New Jersey and a honey-making workshop in Connecticut.
The online auction, which is open now and runs through April 15, will support New Amsterdam Market's first full season in the South Street Seaport. The weekly market launches May 1 with dozens of local vendors selling seasonal produce, regional beers, artisanal candy and wild seaweed.
"There's a growing concern and appreciation and interest in food and how food is produced," said Robert LaValva, the market's founder, explaining his choice of auction items.
"If you're growing up in the countryside, maybe you see this all the time and don't think twice about it. But people who live in the city are more enthusiastic."
Other items up for bid include a bread-making workshop at Sullivan Street Bakery, a summer kayaking clambake on Long Island and a private barrel tasting at Red Hook Winery. Perhaps the most intriguing offer is a free beer every day for a year from Jimmy's No. 43 in the East Village, a pub and restaurant that often participates in New Amsterdam Market.
LaValva started New Amsterdam Market several years ago as a way to enliven the shuttered Fulton Fish Market stalls and bring quality, local food to downtown's growing population. The market has exploded from a once-per-season novelty to a bustling weekly destination, infusing the dark plaza under the FDR Drive with a new vitality.
LaValva hopes the market will continue to grow until it becomes a permanent part of the district, but he is worried as he watches the struggles of another neighborhood institution: the Seaport Museum New York. The museum's difficulty seems to show that people have forgotten the neighborhood's origins, LaValva said.
"The Seaport was such an important part of the city's development, and as a city, we've lost track of that," LaValva said. "The Seaport has always been a market district."