This year 28 community gardens in the Bronx produced and sold 1,500 lbs of serrano peppers to Small Axe Peppers for use in this year’s production of The Bronx Hot Sauce.
The 2016 total encompasses six months of growing, starting in early May, when The Bronx Hot Sauce distributed serrano pepper seedlings free of charge to more than 40 Bronx community gardens through the GrowNYC program. The proceeds from the purchase of the peppers go directly to the community gardens and helps support their ongoing efforts.
The serrano pepper purchase program has grown considerably since its start in 2014. The first year less than ten community gardens participated, growing under 100lbs of peppers. In 2015, 19 gardens produced and sold 750 pounds of serrano peppers.
“The Bronx Hot Sauce is a tremendous product, and I am proud to support its continued growth. Not only does it represent our borough well, it puts much needed funding into our community gardens. I look forward to an even bigger pepper haul next year,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
The Bronx Hot Sauce began production two years ago as a way to provide alternate funding sources for gardens in various Bronx communities. Its economic model pays gardens and gardeners premium prices in order to source their locally-grown serrano peppers. These funds allow participating gardens to help fund their maintenance and daily operation.
“The community gardens are such vibrant and overlooked treasures in the City” said John A. Crotty, Senior VP at The Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce. “We are really satisfied that a model that helps create a dedicated funding stream for these treasures is working. The Hot Sauce’s award winning taste comes from the tender care each of the gardens and gardeners put into growing each plant.”
“There are so many great things happening in the Bronx to support local agriculture and the collaboration behind the production of The Bronx Hot Sauce is a key part of that ongoing success,” said Commissioner Richard Ball of the New York State Agriculture. “It’s a great example of the benefits that come from working together. We are proud to offer The Bronx Hot Sauce in several Taste NY stores across the state and in Puerto Rico to promote this terrific project and further connect the Upstate and Downstate regions through agriculture. We join the community gardens and The Bronx Hot Sauce in celebrating in this tremendous milestone and look forward to seeing even more peppers planted next season.”
“The Bronx Hot Sauce puts the spirit of the Bronx in a bottle. Bronx peppers, grown by Bronx farmers, benefitting Bronx community gardens” said Marcel Van Ooyen, President and CEO at GrowNYC. “We are so thrilled to be part of something great for our community.”
“We are happy that our community gardens, year after year, have been a vital part of this Bronx community cooperative with The Bronx Hot Sauce growing peppers for a great local product,” said First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, NYC Parks. “Entrepreneurial opportunities like this further demonstrate how important locally grown produce is to New York City’s vitality.”
In addition to buying 100 percent of the peppers the community gardeners will sell to the firm, The Bronx Hot Sauce partners with a variety of local not-for-profits. Five percent of total sales go back to benefit GrowNYC an environmental nonprofit – most well-known for operating Greenmarket. GrowNYC distributes pepper seedlings to participating community gardens among other functions. Bronx Green-Up, the community gardening outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden, provides technical growing assistance and coordinates the collection of serrano peppers throughout the course of the growing season.
“It has been wonderful to be part of a collaboration that provides an avenue of financial support to these primarily volunteer-run community gardens,” said Ursula Chanse, Director of the Bronx Green-Up program of The New York Botanical Garden. “The enthusiasm of Bronx gardeners, which include high school students and youth, has been a joy to see as the pepper plants are planted, watered, weeded and harvested throughout the season.”
Each bottle purchased allows Bronx Hot Sauce to purchase even more local peppers from community gardens. This fall, Bronx Hot Sauce signed on for distribution with Rainforest Distribution, which services over 800 stores in the tristate area. This allows for wider exposure and the chance for more consumers to try this delicious sauce.
Bronx has a long agricultural history, dating back to Jonas Bronck, who built a farm named “Emmanus” close to the corner of Willis Avenue and 132nd Street in Mott Haven. While a return to that is not reality, celebrating the borough’s heritage never goes out of style.
List of participating community gardens and urban farms