Only a month in, the new Nesconset farmers market has already picked up a major following from locals looking to buy local ingredients for their home kitchens and pantries.
The market opened July 7 and includes vendors from all over the Long Island each Saturday in the Nesconset Plaza, off Smithtown Boulevard. The idea to launch the market came shopping mall owner Al Hornberger and Jeremy Pitcoff, owner of Sundried Tomato, the local Italian restaurant in the same shopping center.
The market materialized after Hornberger and Pitcoff sought out Friends & Farmers, a company that sets up farmers markets. Under the guidance of Bernadette Martin, director of Friends & Farmers, the market was established.
“[Nesconset] is kind of tailor-made for a farmers market,” Pitcoff said, reflecting on his neighborhood, “It’s one of the last vestiges of that type of commonality of values,” he added.
Unrelenting rain this past Saturday did, however, slow down busines for a day.
“People are very happy for us to be here, last week it was rockin’,” Colleen Laffman-Fusch, the manager for Nesconset’s market, said. For the first hour, many of the vendors fiddled around with their products, waiting for people to show. “We usually sell-out of produce,” Ted Bolkas, owner of Thera Farms, said, looking out at the rain and then back to his neatly displayed tomatoes and eggplants.
One tent down at Papa Pasquale’s Ravioli Company, vendor Steve Price stood behind his packaged pastas, “There where hundreds of people when the weather was good,” he said. A tub fresh vodka sauce and 10 varieties of ravioli sat untouched, waiting to be bought.
The rain couldn’t stop Doris Sweeney, though, “This is the best thing Nesconset could have done,” she said as she picked cantaloupe from Fink’s Country Farm tent. “This one’s ready, you can smell it,” John Calliendo, an employee said as he explained to her the technique of stem sniffing. Sweeney, a Nesconset resident, has come to the market each weekend.
The personal connection between seller and buyer is what influenced Martin’s initial desire to promote in regional agriculture, she said. Martin got involved with her community by starting a farmers market in her hometown of Long Beach, in Nassau county. She eventually branched out to other community-based towns like Kings Park.
According to her, organizing the venue was easier than she thought. In March of 2008, she took her cause to the town and by July the market was operational. “At first, there were only three producers [in Long Beach] now they are about 15,” Martin said.
Now Martin helps interested towns sponsor their own markets, this being her sixth. In the case of Nesconset, once she secured licenses and registrations for the parking lot and with Hornberger’s permission, she invited select vendors from Friends and Farmers to participate.
“Everything here is farmed or raised by the people that sell it. The vendors are really important, to have variety like this,” Pitcoff said.
Nesconset’s market is expected to run until Nov. 17, according to Martin.