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Winter Farmers Market Blooms in Commack

Local, fresh produce is a hit with customers at the Suffolk Y JCC.

There is no hibernation this winter for local growers as business blossoms at the newly opened farmers market at the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack.

“Commack has been very welcoming to us. There are so many patrons here,” Bernadette Martin, director of Friends and Farmers Inc. said. “People are so surprised to hear about how much is available in the winter.”

Martin said that the farmers market circuit is growing in order to meet the need for farm fresh food on Long Island dinner tables. The organization already has a farmers market in Long Beach, Hicksville, Kings Park, Elmont and Nesconset. The winter market opened in Commack last Sunday and is already a hit with customers and vendors alike.

“I came last week and I’m back again,” Sandy Schwartzman said enthusiastically, as she picked up broccoli bread from seller Joseph Marchisello of Monty Breads, the market’s regular baker.

Offering everything from fresh vegetable and desert breads to warm, fresh pretzels, made that morning, Marchisello said his favorite part of the farmers market is interacting with the customers one-on-one. “I like talking to people. I like to engage them,” he said.

While the key to the farmers market is to sell fresh, local food, there is another mission, possibly the more important one – health. While pesticides, genetically modified produce, hydrogenated oils and other health concerns fill the grocery store isles, the farmers market is looking to put nutrition back into the local diet.

“The people of Commack need fresh produce that comes from the dirt,” James Carucci of Carucci Farm in Manatuck said while pointing to a barrel of carrots still wearing a light coat of farm soil from being picked that morning. 

“It’s brining the farm directly to the people. You go to Walbaum’s and you don’t know where that food comes from. You’re eating something from Chile that has been traveling for 10 days. Here, you know where it comes from and you know it was picked that day,” he said.

The health mission is not only catching on with health-conscious residents, but with their taste buds too, even for the kids.

Lauren Berg, 9, happily scooped a spoonful of Kalpso Greek Yogurt into her mouth during Sunday’s farmers market.

“It’s so good. I love the vanilla,” she said, after licking a dollop off of her spoon. 

“By the time grocery store yogurt actually reaches your fridge, it’s two or three weeks later. Here, the yogurt is authentically strained and the milk is made at midnight,” vendor Nick Trastelis, said.

Trastelis also packages the yogurt into Terracotta containers so that no plastics leak into the products. The extra time and care put into the preparation pays off.

“My kids won’t even eat Chobani anymore,” Lauren’s mother Ellice, said. “They say this is their favorite.”

Calling the market an “incubator for small business,” Martin said that the market provides vendors the opportunity to help one another with their ventures. 

At the Kalypso Greek Yogurt stand is a sampling of Laurie’s Granola Creations, homemade granola made with coconut oil.

“It’s a community network. We all try to support each other,” Amanda Hawthorne of Laurie’s Granola Creations said, who was there selling her mother’s recipe with her father Jimmy.

Those with a sweet tooth can head over to the BearBerry bakery stand, where the bakers create their cakes, cookies and other goods using eggs, milk and jams from local farms.

Another favorite is Horman’s Best Pickles. With more than 13 varieties to choose from, a pickle-lover can’t go wrong.

Selling at farmers markets around Long Island, the pickle makers have taken up ideas from their own customers to add new items to their menu.

“A lot of feedback comes from the customers. That’s how we came up with the Jalapeño pickle,” said seller John Till, who explained that many of the flavors are made through a process of trial and error. “It’s its own artform,” he said.

There’s also treats for the furry, four legged family members in the house at Hot Dogs! “They’re made with love, not preservatives,” chef Maureen Norris said about her doggie treats, which are made with real meat and are gluten-free.

Other items at the market include specialty coffee, wheatgrass shots, Thera Farms letuce, dressings, homemade cookies, soups, pasta, fruits and more.

The Famers Market takes place every Sunday until March 31 at the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

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