Written by Mary Ellen Porrazzo Friday, 25 November 2011 00:00
Season two of Hicksville’s Farmer’s Market became history at Kennedy Memorial Park last Sunday as well wishers, “thank you’s” and “see you next year” filled the chilly air. People who meandered from stand to stand headed back to their cars with bags full of locally grown produce and home cooked goods along with something not so tangible – a community experience that combines nature, nutrition, education and camaraderie.
“The open air market is a real tradition,” said Bernadette Martin, director of Friends & Farmer’s, Inc; which operates farmer’s markets in Glen Cove, Long Beach, Elmont and Kings Park in addition to Hicksville. She praised the Hicksville market for “holding its own” during a year marked by a struggling economy and tempestuous weather. “I want to express gratitude to the people of Hicksville,” she said in a telephone interview.
Manager of the Hicksville market, Joey Naham, asked to describe year two, smiled and settled on one word: exciting.
“The people in Hicksville are so welcoming,” Joey said. “I show my gratitude by cooking.” Fried pickles, strawberry shortcake and butternut squash soup – all featuring local products – were among his specialties. One Sunday he said he held a Kombucha demonstration, explaining this is a fermented tea that is healthier than yogurt. Last Sunday morning he set up a toaster oven on the sidewalk where he heated three artfully roasted and stuffed acorn squash.
Oyster Bay Town Councilwoman Rebecca M. Alesia, who was instrumental in bringing the market to Hicksville last year, said she first discussed her idea with the Hicksville Community Council soon after she was appointed and found a “perfect partnership.” Long a proponent of fresh food and healthy eating, she said the market not only showcases local farmers and merchants and their products, but also serves as a “community gathering place that brings attention to the downtown area.” In a telephone interview, she said she has received “only positive” feedback and said she looks forward to the market’s growth in coming years.
Three farmers, a coffee vendor, a gluten free baker, a pickle vendor and a bread baker were among the regulars at this year’s market, each specializing in natural and local ingredients. In addition to providing fresh and healthy produce and baked goods, the farmers, expert vendors and bakers educated customers throughout the summer and fall about ways to become more health conscious. Bernadette Martin noted farmers markets “provide people the opportunity to talk to the person who grew your dinner.” This is especially important she said, “As people start to value the food they put in their bodies.”
Gabrielle Giacomazzo, whose business, “Peace Love And No Nuts” offers cakes, cookies and vegan foods – all peanut, egg and dairy-free – explained great care is taken in creating all her products and said she works with her customers and their dietary needs. On the windy, chilly Sunday morning that closed the season, Gabrielle said this was her first year in Hicksville and recalled, “It was a good year.” Standing behind her table covered with a colorful cloth she tie-dyed herself, she displayed her luscious cupcakes in individual plastic containers. She is currently accepting holiday orders (her website is PeaceLoveAndNoNuts.com).
Also saying he “had a good year” was Namgyal Tsering of the Bread Alone Bakery and Café (breadalone.com) from upstate Boiceville, N.Y. Early Sunday as the market opened he had many beautifully brown crusty long and short loaves of bread – all handmade and organic – and a selection of pies. When the market closed, he was sold out. He said, with a gentle smile, he would be back next year.
Across the way, James Carucci generously offered customers cheese samples and free eggnog at the Cascade Mountain Vineyards stand. This Dutchess County business, he said, sells more than 60 products. He stood behind a table displaying some of their wines including Harvest Red, Summertide and Private Reserve Red as well as various cheeses.
Fall produce, including cauliflower – both white and purple – cabbage, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and peppers were abundant at the various farming stands.
Beagan Gooth of John Young Farm in Old Brookville said, “It was a good year,” despite the weather. “It could have been worse,” he said. Customers selected among large leeks, carrots, celery, spinach, snap peas and jars of homemade jams and jellies, among other products. He said he is looking forward to “a busy winter” repairing tractors and other farm equipment and “getting things ready for next year.” Come January he will begin the process all over again – this time, indoors – where he will seed flats of tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli and other crops that he will later transplant to the fields to harvest. As we talked, he sent a customer on her way with a full bag. “See you next year,” she said as she left.
Richard Harkin of Stan Pat Farms in Manorville also expressed similar sentiments as Gooth. Among the customers selecting from his onions, gourds, beets, apples, dill and parsley was a mother and her young son and their small dog – a “multi poodle” they said – dressed in a pink parka. Of his produce, Harkin said people “love it.”
Rob Carucci of Carucci Greenhouses and Farms in Mattituck greeted customers with a smile and friendly word as he lamented the weather this year. He estimated his farm lost some $100,000.
“The hurricane really wiped us out. We lost whole fields of tomato and zucchini,” he said, and with a smile, noted he’ll be back next year.
One addition planned for next year will be Long Island oysters. Hicksville Farmer’s Market manager Joe Naham, also an oyster farmer, spoke with great enthusiasm about his plans to bring oysters to the market. Joe was one of the hearty ones who braved the weather, even the Sunday preceding Irene when our area was drenched with some 10 inches of rain. The day was “surreal” he remembered. “We wanted to weather the storm,” he said and that he did.
A family atmosphere settled over Kennedy Memorial Park as the market drew to a close and amid the good wishes there were plenty of hugs and handshakes.
Spring training will be here before you know it. Hicksville Farmer’s Market won’t be far behind.