It’s the coldest Saturday of the season yet, but the parking lot is full and people are streaming into Sweet Hollow Hall at the West Hills County Park in Huntington. The surrounding area is blanketed with fresh snow. Inside the hall, a musician plays guitar, pasture-raised meat is sizzling on a barbecue grill and visitors sample from vats of pungent homemade pickles. There are seniors tasting artisan cheese and kids having fun with crafts. It’s a community event.
Summer farmers markets are now so ubiquitous that one rarely considers how they come together. There are two-dozen summer markets on Long Island. Many communities offer winter markets, but it took Jaime and Lona to notice that none existed on Long Island. From the moment the idea took root last summer, they set to work planning and spreading the word. The “back-of-the market” logistics were all-consuming. They needed to confirm locations, and secure approvals, licenses and insurance. Once the details were in place, they also needed to recruit farmers and food artisans to participate.
Long Island’s first winter farmers market.
“We went to all the outdoor markets over the summer and approached different vendors,” says Jaime. “It was all word-of-mouth.”
“People were hugging me and kissing me” says Lona. She points out that after November, the opportunities for small farmers and food artisans on Long Island are quite limited. “They have no place to go in the winter and no outlet to sell here,” says Lona. “We wanted to create a nice environment, fun for the whole family, where you could bring the kids and the grandparents.”
“It’s important that we house the farmers during the winter, so they can continue to support themselves and their families, and to have a sort of community,” Jaime explains.
G&G Long Island Winter Farmers Market opened January 8th at Sweet Hollow Hall. Attendance far exceeded expectations with residents traveling from all parts of Long Island to visit. They’ve already seen repeat visitors, and some linger for hours.
“The phone’s been ringing off the hook,” says Lona who became a true market advocate during a summer stint in upstate New York working with her brother who organizes farmers markets in the region. “I would wake up each Saturday with a big smile on my face.”
A walk through the market is like a taste of Long Island, but there are also food artisans from the Hudson Valley and beyond. The team from Horman’s Best Pickles in Glen Cove sample delectably hair raising horseradish pickles and bright “Red Flannel” pickle chips garnished with sweet red peppers.
Lee’s Bees of Huntington offers a tasting of pure, raw unfiltered honey harvested by season, from the lively flavors of spring flowers, to the mellow, toasty caramel flavors of fall.
Migliorelli Farms of Dutchess County offers bins of blushingly-beautiful apple varieties as well as a selection of ruddy winter squash and root vegetables.
Old Chatham Sheepherding from the Hudson Valley serves up a smooth and peppery blue cheese that makes you wince with pleasure.
Jaime says the winter market is a win-win for the farmers and for food lovers on Long Island. “It’s fresh and it’s yummy stuff,” she says, beaming.
G&G Long Island Winter Farmers market runs every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. from January through April, and alternates weekends at two locations. Check website for specific dates or the market's Facebook page:
Sweet Hollow Hall, West Hills County Park, Gwynne Road, Huntington.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 270 Main Street, Northport.