Monday, January 24, 2011

Fresh and Local, Even in Winter

Long Island sisters Jaime Greci and Lona Graepel may have a touch of the farmer in their DNA. While most would be inclined to hibernate during these months of cold and darkness, they have sown the seeds and sprouted Long Island’s first winter farmers market.

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.

Sisters Jaime Greci (l) and Lona Graepel (r) have created
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.

©2011 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

A winter farmers market is such a wonderful gift to the community, and this market looks like it has a little bit of everything. Those horseradish pickles are calling to me!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a fabulous market. I can certainly understand why their phone is wringing off the hook. I would love to be able to go to that market whatever the season.

Julia said...

Winter markets are a great reminder that it is still possible to eat local!! How lucky for you to have two! We have one that just opened a few weeks ago.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm back. I emailed my brother-in-law who lives in nearby Mineola about this market and this is what he wrote:
"We were there on Sat. Great pickles, mushrooms, breads, duck breasts, sausage.. Fun, Stu"

Funny T.W. - you might have run into each other.

veron said...

That is really great to have a winter farmer's market. We have one here in Richmond too. It's good to see that even in winter, great food is available.

Pascale said...

I was there this past Saturday, It was wonderful! Lots to choose from.
The cheese and bread were delicious. The pickles were yummy.There was fresh meat, produce, soaps, honey and even treats for dogs. The vendors were sweet and helpful. There was live entertainment, crafts for kids and even local authors. Everything was great! What a great idea! Kudos Jamie & Lona! Looking forward to going back next week.

Deana Sidney said...

I think that is so impressive that farmers go from upstate NY to LI to distribute their bounty. I hope they do well be it... you guys are lucky to have such a devoted pair of sisters that set this up... bravo to them.

Anonymous said...

I braved the cold and the drive (I`m from oakdale). The pickles are delicious and the smoke trout is to die for!! A must do on a colds winters day!!! It`s worth the trip!!!

~~louise~~ said...

Sure, I move to PA and Long Island gets its first winter farmer's market! Very cool...

It sounds like a winter wonderland of goodness, T.W. Perhaps, a hint of more to come. I'm sure east enders would welcome a "sister" site.

Has anyone informed Newsday? Sounds like a GREAT story to get Long Islanders through the next couple of months.

Thanks for sharing...

Mary Bergfeld said...

The sisters are to be congratulated for bringing the winter market to the area. It's a great idea.The thought of freshly crocked pickles and duck breasts has my taste buds tingling. Our local markets will not open until mid-April so I'm a tad envious. Have a great day T.W. Blessings...Mary

Maris (In Good Taste) said...

Love this idea - I really miss the farmer's market!

Barbara said...

Good for the sisters, T. W.! A super idea and their market looks marvelous. We are so spoiled in Florida. But I'm not complaining. :)

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

A farmers market in the snow..I love it! All the food looks so good!

Velva said...

What a great idea! Living in Florida where typically a market can flourish all year, I forget that other places are cold, not just cold but, wicked cold.

I love the idea of organizing local artisans and farmers to continue to sell and provide their bounties- they will continue to grow and prosper.


P.S. btw, the homemade horseradish pickles-wow!!!

Gloria Baker said...

Nice market and nice post!! gloria

Fresh Local and Best said...

I think those varieties of honey would go so well with the blue cheeses. This winter farmer's market is a great idea.

tasteofbeirut said...

How wonderful to have these caring ladies entrepreneurs in your area; I love what they did and would be there every week supporting their efforts (by buying everything!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this useful info with us! Cool pictures too!

Too bad that I don't live closer to these fab winter Farmer's markets!

Aaaah! Good for you though!