White Resentment on the Night Shift at Walmart

New York Times Sunday Review • Dec. 18, 2016

Seven years ago, I joined the night shift at a Walmart in rural Michigan. For $8.10 an hour, I spent four or five nights a week filling shelves with the flour and sugar and marshmallow fluff that residents of the local county, which in 2008 voted for Barack Obama, needed to get through the holidays. Four years ago, the county went with President Obama a second time, though by a thinner margin. But this past November, the county, like the state, turned red.

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Before the Food Arrives on Your Plate, So Much Goes on Behind the Scenes

The New York Times • Feb. 20, 2012

One of the first things to like about Tracie McMillan, the author of “The American Way of Eating,” is her forthrightness. She’s a blue-collar girl who grew up eating a lot of Tuna Helper and Ortega Taco Dinners because her mother was gravely ill for a decade, and her father, who sold lawn equipment, had little time to cook. About these box meals, she says, “I liked them.”

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An Urban Farming Pioneer Sows His Own Legacy

New York Times • May 18, 2010

John Ameroso didn’t hoe the rows of vegetables that help feed the Bronx at the Padre Plaza Success Garden in the borough’s Mott Haven section. He didn’t pick any tomatoes from the vines at the Brooklyn Rescue Mission’s farm. And he didn’t turn the composting bins that kept East New York Farms! fertile ground for collards, cilantro and chard.

But he’s responsible for all of it, along with the rest of more than 18 tons of produce grown in city lots for market last year. Continue reading “An Urban Farming Pioneer Sows His Own Legacy”

Urban Farmers’ Crops Go From Vacant Lot to Market

New York Times • May 7, 2008

In the shadows of the elevated tracks toward the end of the No. 3 line in East New York, Brooklyn, with an April chill still in the air, Denniston and Marlene Wilks gently pulled clusters of slender green shoots from the earth, revealing a blush of tiny red shallots at the base.

“Dennis used to keep them big, and people didn’t buy them,” Mrs. Wilks said. “They love to buy scallions.”

Growing up in rural Jamaica, the Wilkses helped their families raise crops like sugar cane, coffee and yams, and take them to market. Now, in Brooklyn, they are farmers once again, catering to their neighbors’ tastes: for scallions, for bitter melons like those from the West Indies and East Asia and for cilantro for Latin-American dinner tables. Continue reading “Urban Farmers’ Crops Go From Vacant Lot to Market”

Restaurateurs-to-Be Look Before Leaping

The New York Times • Aug. 8, 2007

PASQUALE VIGGIANO and his wife, Geraldine, thought they knew the restaurant business. Ms. Viggiano had helped her mother run a cafe in Honduras and Mr. Viggiano had grown up hearing his parents’ fond tales of the luncheonette they opened when they came to Brooklyn from Italy.

“They described how they put the restaurant together and it kind of excited me,” Mr. Viggiano said. Continue reading “Restaurateurs-to-Be Look Before Leaping”

At Campaign Headquarters, Glitter and a Salsa Beat

New York Times • Sept. 4, 2005

Nothing about Ruben Gonzalez’s block of East 108th Street near Third Avenue suggests a run for City Hall. The street, which is peppered with vacant lots and abandoned buildings, and punctuated by a fire hydrant spouting graceful arcs of water, ends, eloquently, at Poor Richard’s Playground.

But as August drifted to a close, it was City Hall — or, more precisely, the work of a candidate angling for a job there — that had drawn the attention of Mr. Gonzalez and his friends. Passing the afternoon in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, he and a bunch of fellow retirees casually eyed a building that once housed La Palma, a nightclub, but which is now the bustling headquarters for a City Council campaign. Continue reading “At Campaign Headquarters, Glitter and a Salsa Beat”

For a Scrappy Neighborhood, a Scent of Farm Fresh

The New York Times • July 10, 2005

After 17 years, Joanne Grant knows Bushwick. So when she looked out her kitchen window and saw a farmer unloading his bounty onto her Brooklyn street Wednesday morning, she knew something was up.

Still clad in slippers and an aqua housedress, her hair tucked under a nightcap, Ms. Grant headed over to the farmer and waited in line to buy the three bunches of broccoli she clutched in her hand. But she also watched her front door anxiously. Continue reading “For a Scrappy Neighborhood, a Scent of Farm Fresh”