From the court to the farmstand: Amar’e Stoudemire comes, rib-eyes in stow, to the Union Square Greenmarket

dean story
Photos by Dean Jamieson

After playing forward for the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks, buying an Israeli team and coaching for the Nets, NBA all-star Amar’e Stoudemaire has set his sights on a new, unlikely project: farming.

His two-hundred-acre Stoudemire Farms, based in Hyde Park, New York, first started in 2015. Now its products are coming to the City’s very own Union Square Greenmarket, every Friday.

“For me, the idea was to have a self-sustainable lifestyle,” said Stoudemire yesterday morning, in between talking to customers and taking the occasional selfie. “And to create something that my children can inherit as they get older.”

For Stoudemire, farming runs blood deep. His mother worked in agriculture, picking oranges in Florida and then, come autumn, apples in upstate New York; in the same lush country where Stoudemaire now raises cattle and sheep. His grandfather, too, was a farmer. “He didn’t have his own land but he had his own house with fruit trees, with fishing,” said Stoudemaire. “He had grapevines. I always kind of around self-sustainable living.”

Stoudemire made it clear that he hopes to accomplish something greater with his farming than just the lamb-chops and rib-eyes lying in coolers, at his feet. Currently, only about 2% of American farmers are African-American. Stoudemire spoke about the lack of healthy, grass-fed food in impoverished communities, about the excess of fast-food and GMOs.

In some small way, Stoudemire, with his organic, black-owned, sustainably-raised beef, hopes to amend that.

“The goal of having a self-sustainable farm that’s grass-fed, that’s pasture-raised, is to allow people to consume fresh products, without GMOs. And I think that’s the importance of it all.”

And to be accepted into GrowNYC – one of the most “transparent and traceable farmer’s markets in the world” – is no light task. From application to acceptance, it’s taken a year for Stoudemire Farms to qualify for a stand in Union Square. “They had to verify. This is really a very strict producers-only market,” said Michael Hurwitz, director of Greenmarket, the non-profit which runs the Union Square market and many more across the City. “We waited for them to have real product to show – now we’re super-excited.”

Coming from the court, Stoudemire knew picking up agriculture would be a challenge. He first purchased the three-hundred-acre property in late 2014; it would be months before the farm was operational. “Going from NBA playing to driving the tractor, cutting the grass, building the fence-post – there’s been a learning curve,” he said.

It seems, for Stoudemire, to have been worth it, in ways that go much deeper than the money or the literal product.

“It’s peaceful. Out in the wilderness, you find a sense of tranquility,” he said, and paused. A customer in a Phoenix Suns jersey had approached, asking for an autograph. Stoudemire greeted him with a fist bump and a smile.