New York Hotel Becomes First in Nation to Participate in Community Farming

Sustainable meetings are about to get easier at the Element New York Times Square West hotel, which has partnered with Holton Farms — an eighth generation Vermont farm — to join its Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program, making it the nation's first hotel to participate in community farming, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced last week.

As an active member of Holton Farms' CSA, Element will purchase a "share" in this season's harvest and become the designated weekly drop-off location for other Holton Farms CSA members in the neighborhood. As a result, guests at the hotel — which has 411 guest rooms and 492 square feet of meeting space, as well as a rooftop terrace — will be able to place orders for seasonal fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses, which they can use to prepare meals using their in-room kitchenettes. The hotel, meanwhile, will use Holton Farms ingredients for its complimentary breakfasts and evening receptions. Presumably, meeting planners could follow suit, placing orders to help them cater their events.

"We like to say that Element draws on nature for inspiration, so it's exciting for us to inspire our guests the same way by connecting them to fresh, organic, locally-sourced produce," said Brian McGuinness, Starwood's senior vice president, Specialty Select Brands. "It's also a privilege for us to be able to participate in a CSA with our neighbors, reduce our own food miles and support a valuable family-owned business like Holton Farms."

According to Starwood, which cites food website Local Harvest, "Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer." Here's how it works: A farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public, typically consisting of a box of vegetables. Interested consumers purchase a share and in return receive a box, bag or basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. Local Harvest says more than 4,000 farms now operate CSA programs nationwide, with tens of thousands of members.

"When businesses like Element Times Square West step up to the plate, CSAs become a lot more viable in a city like New York," said Jurrien Swarts, co-owner and chief operating officer of Holton Farms. "We're looking forward to partnering with the hotel to bring its guests and neighbors a little closer to the land."