By Kristie Snyder,
Andrew Hernandez II, GreenStar's Produce Manager, lives downtown with two cats that he loves — and a five-year-old frog. A Florida tree frog, to be more specific, one that hitched a ride from the Sunshine State up to New York City in a bunch of Lady Moon Farms organic red kale. He was discovered by Andrew, who adopted the stowaway.
Andrew came to the Produce Manager job from Integral Yoga Natural Foods in Manhattan, where he held the same position for eight years, and where he met his amphibious pet. The tiny, busy store does about a quarter of GreenStar's annual business in a much smaller fraction of the space, which is why "the 10 on the 10th sales days don't really faze me," he laughs. If he looks somewhat familiar to some of you long-time shoppers, it's because he worked in the GreenStar Deli kitchen for a few years before moving to NYC.
He came to Ithaca way back then from Greenfield, Massachusetts, with a childhood friend — "just to get out of my small town into a slightly less-small small town," he explains — but musical aspirations soon took him to Brooklyn. "I'd done as much as I could in Ithaca and needed to see what else I could do," he explained. The move paid off, as membership in a series of bands led him to the drummer's spot in Tombs, a critically acclaimed psychedelic black metal band signed on Relapse Records. Andrew now travels to Brooklyn a few days a month to practice with his Tombs bandmates, and he's also a member of the Brooklyn/Ithaca-based metal band Twin Lords and Centopeia, a local "metallic angular noise rock" project.
The move to New York changed more than just his musical career. "I grew as a person," he says, "and as a musician, and I gained invaluable work experience — I went down a different path than if I had stayed in Ithaca."
That path eventually led him back, however. "I love GreenStar," he says unabashedly. "And my career choice was to continue working for what I believe in or go corporate, so it was a great opportunity to be able to come and work at GreenStar again." The move back to small-town life also gave him back hours of commuting time a day.
If you've thought the Produce Department has been looking great lately, it's because Andrew has a keen eye for the aesthetics of presentation — Integral Yoga was recognized two years ago by TimeOut New York for their produce department, and Andrew credits the presentation with catching their eye. "I'm a stickler for super-nice displays," he says. "I'll do things like walk by and tweak the pyramid of kiwis." He considers it a challenge to fit as much produce as possible into as small a space as possible, while still making it look good.
Andrew is also excited about connecting with Ithaca's robust network of local farmers. "I really care about the local produce, and that's something Steve [Demakos, Produce Assistant Manager] is really on top of as well," he says. "There's still so much for me to learn about these farms — I'd love to ride my bike out to all of them!" He's impressed by GreenStar shoppers' commitment to buying local as well. "The farmers and the staff here work hard, and there's a lot of love put into the produce," says Andrew. "Everything is really fresh, and it sells really fast."
So what's his favorite local product? No hesitation — "I love tomatoes! Heirloom tomatoes with salt, cracked pepper, olive oil — boom. I'll eat a mixing bowl full of 'em."
New in Produce
|Lots to Be Thankful For|
The local bounty continues, brought to you by the sweat and toil of farmers -— surely something to be thankful for.
November ... the local bounty is bestowed upon us, plowed under the sweat-browed gaze of toiling farmers, as crouched workers pick and pull on bent knees with earth-covered hands. We stay warm within the confines of our offices and coffee shops, but those of the fields toil hard and tough to provide us with sustenance. Should we not be thankful for this? Not everyone is so lucky as to taste of these local wonders and vegetable splendor: Cider, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, and Golden Russet apples picked atop the ladders of Black Diamond, Indian Creek, and Littletree Orchards; honeynut, butternut, and kabocha squashes, parsnips, rutabagas, and radishes, kale, collards, cabbage, and other hearty greens, all picked or dug from the fields of Blue Heron, Stick and Stone, Remembrance, and Good Life Farms. Give thanks, not for memories of Pilgrims and violence, but for the lush local variety of sustainable agriculture that we are so lucky to enjoy.