CROWN HEIGHTS - Rodrick Brown's calaloo is about the freshest you can find in Brooklyn, but while the leafy Caribbean staple practically sells itself to Park Slope parents at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market, it hardly moves in the heart of Brooklyn's Islander community.
By all rights, Farmer Brown should be a hit in on the corner of Lefferts Boulevard and Albany Avenue where he sells his wares every Thursday at the Crown Heights Farmers Market. But for a man who's signature product is a beloved island green, that market brings precious little business.
"I do Grand Army, Cortelyou — there's a lot of other markets I could do, but it's about the people you sell to," Brown said. "We find a lot of people who already know the products. That's why I'm attracted to this market."
Still, with business slowed to a crawl, the only greenmarket serving the eastern section of the neighborhood could soon close down.
"They're beautiful people, they didn’t have to come here," market founder Nancie Katz said of the farmers. "The need for a farmers market was very high — we got it opened on September 15 and it was packed," last year, she said.
For eight weeks last fall, business boomed, just as it has for farmers markets and CSAs elsewhere in the neighborhood. In addition to the established Grand Army market, the weeks-old Walt L. Shamel Community Garden market, held Saturdays on Dean Street between Franklin and Bedford avenues, has seen stellar turn-out. Unlike those, the Crown Heights Farmers Market accepts EBT, or food stamps, in addition to cash, a boon to an area with relatively high poverty.
Yet by the time the farmers returned for the summer season, shoppers were scarce.
"We thought we'd get that same return in the spring and we haven't," Katz said.
Without more business, Katz and the farmers fear they won't be able to keep the market going much longer. Which would be a shame for mom Bella Schapiro, 30, whose kids clamor for fresh fruits and veggies from the market since she started coming.
"It's much fresher — I find my kids eat more of this fruit," Schapiro said. "Once a year I would go to the one at Borough Hall, but I live just around the corner here, so it's really convenient."
Pastor Jeremiah Duncan, who stopped at the market after seeing signs from his car, said he hoped the farmers could weather the slow summer.
"I think seeing it open like this every Thursday is what's going to get people to come," Duncan said. "People go looking for farmers markets and don't find them."