Do you know where your carrots come from? Depending on where you live, access to fresh produce, with a known or reputable origin, can be limited. One Brooklyn entrepreneur wants to change that for New York City dwellers—and has found inspiration for the concept in Saratoga Springs’ own Farmers’ Market. Owner Katerina Bogatireva is set to open a new fresh market she’s calling Precycle this November in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. The concept for the market should sound familiar to Saratogians. She envisions customers bringing their own bags or containers to Precycle and having them fill their receptacle of choice with fresh produce in a plastic-bag-free environment. (Precycle will offer recycled paper bags in the beginning, though “eventually I’d like to educate my customers to get into the habit of bringing their own,” says Bogatireva.) Once customers fill up their containers, they’ll be weighed, and customers will then be charged based on the weight. Basically, it’s like having a year-round, seven-day-a-week farmers’ market available for customers willing only to provide their own bag or container to fill.
The idea for the new market struck Bogatireva while visiting Saratoga Springs’ own popular, locally sourced outdoor market. “I think the Saratoga Farmers’ Market is one of the biggest, most beautiful markets I’ve seen,” she says. Saratoga stores that sell produce in bulk was another inspiration. She considers Precycle to be a hybrid between the two, which are “both old concepts,” she says. In short, Bogatireva’s not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination—and hopefully, offering shoppers an environmentally friendly alternative to grocery stores, such as City Fresh Market and Super Pioneer Supermarket in the area. She’ll certainly find some competition with Bushwick’s own food cooperative, which is a member-run organic market selling locally sourced goods. That, and the confluence of farm shares in the Brooklyn area.
But for Bogatireva, Precycle is personal. The idea that food shouldn’t be wasted was instilled in Bogatireva at a young age. Born in Riga, Latvia, when it was still under Soviet rule, she remembers bringing a container to the market to get food—and the scarcity of plastic bags to tote it all home. After moving to the United States, that concept stayed with her. “When I first arrived in America 18 years ago, [the Precycle concept] wasn’t really an option. I remember just looking at tomatoes in the supermarket and thinking ‘why don’t they smell like tomatoes? Why is the chicken so large?’” She found much of the same after moving to NYC, realizing that farmers’ markets were the best option for pure, locally grown produce, and the concept for Precycle followed soon after. (The idea’s been in the works since April 2015.) Now that it’s just months away from launch, Bogatireva tells me that she’ll be keeping Precycle “local,” only working with distributors within 200 miles of NYC. “One of [the distributors] is focusing on working with local farms, and everything for them is farm-to-table,” says Bogatireva. “Their motto is also about transparency and the stories behind the food, which aligns with what I have in mind for Precycle.”
At the moment, Bogatireva sees Precycle “first and foremost, [as] a community, neighborhood store,” going on to say that the market will start out by “[servicing] a smaller area.” Of course, she’s looking to accommodate a Brooklyn neighborhood whose population of nearly 130,000 is more than four times the size of Saratoga’s. That’s no small feat. And Bogatireva’s hoping that, if the concept catches on in Bushwick, that she’ll be able to expand her Saratoga-inspired concept to other neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond. “Industrial agriculture has ruined people’s understanding of where their food comes from [and] how it’s grown,” she says. “There’s no connection between people and the food they’re eating, so I think this smaller-scale model brings that connection back.”