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Sondheim Theatre Hopes to Bring Fresh Veggies to Broadway

By Jill Colvin | November 22, 2011 7:08am
Theater electrician Jessica Morton is hoping to bring fresh veggies to Broadway.
Theater electrician Jessica Morton is hoping to bring fresh veggies to Broadway.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — Staff at the Sondheim Theatre are hoping to bring the farm to the Crossroads of the World.

Jessica Morton, a lighting engineer for "Anything Goes" at the West 43rd Street theater, is working to launch a new CSA, or community supported agriculture program, which would bring boxes of seasonal, local produce straight from farm fields to Broadway.

“It would be really nice if this community were able to participate in this together,” said Morton, 35, who said the push was inspired by her own participation in a local CSA run by a health food store in West Harlem, near her home.

As the program shut down for the winter, she began brainstorming new locations that might be willing to continue hosting deliveries, but couldn’t find a suitable space.

“It’s a shame we can’t do it here,” she remembers telling her co-workers one day at the theater as she was losing hope. Then she thought, “What if we could do it here?”

To her surprise, she said her production company's manager was enthusiastic about the idea and immediately offered to host deliveries in the theater’s basement, in an open space, between shows.

The new CSA, would be supplied by the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, a fully organic, non-profit farm in eastern Pennsylvania, which would deliver once a week.

In addition to staff at the theater, Morton said she'd love to sign up people who work at the nearby Bank of America Tower, which already has a reputation for being green.

She's also hoping to appeal to others working on Broadway, who often have “bizarre hours” rehearsing and preparing for shows during the day and performing at night, or working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“You don’t really have a whole lot of personal time, so delivery would be amazing,” she said, adding that the service would be especially useful in Midtown, where there are few grocery stores and even fewer places to buy fresh, local fare.

“I can’t imagine doing my regular grocery shopping at a Duane Reade,” she said.

According to the local food organization JustFood.org, which has helped start dozens of CSAs across the city, there are more than 40 community supported agriculture clubs serving locals in neighborhoods from Inwood to the Financial District. But, according to their website, there are none east of Eighth Avenue and west of Third Avenue in Midtown.

“From what I hear, there’s basically nothing in Midtown,” said Evan Miller, the CSA manager at the Lancaster cooperative who said that, while many of the first generation of CSAs began in residential neighborhoods, business and office-based programs are increasingly getting on board.

“I think it’s a really awesome change to see,” she said.

Morton said she first got interested in local farming after reading the book 'The Dirty Life,' and was drawn to the idea of supporting the agricultural model. But she quickly learned she also loved the food.

For one, she said shopping with a CSA is “way cheaper” than shopping at a local farmer’s market or a specialty fresh-food store.

She’s also been able to explore a world of new produce, from celery root and Kohlrabi (“a gnarly looking root bulb,”) to Tatsoi, the Asian green, and watermelon radishes, which she learned to cook with apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and butter.

“It was absolutely delicious. And I didn’t know you could cook a radish,” she said.

She's also been able to enjoy the freshest varieties of more familiar crops, including butternut squash, spinach, carrots and tomatoes.

"The tomatoes this year blew my mind,” she said.

The new Sondheim CSA is still looking for participants to launch its CSA.

Those who sign up will receive seven to 12 varieties of freshly harvested veggies every week for four weeks for $112.50 (about $28 a week). Half shares are also available, with four to nine varieties for $70 (or about $17.50 a week.)

The share will last four weeks, with deliveries on Wednesdays, from Nov. 30 through Dec. 21. Veggie boxes will be available to pick up at the theater between shows, from 5 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m.

Anyone interested can sign up online or by emailing sondheimcsa@gmail.com.

The deadline for sign-ups is this Wed., Nov. 23, at noon.