Fresh from the farm to your table!
To begin to address the problems of Food Equity with tangible solutions, in 2010 Sustainable Long Island partnered with the local community partners and the Long Island Farm Bureau to establish youth-staffed farmers’ markets in North Bellport and Roosevelt, which brought fresh, nutritious foods to these communities, historically underserved by food retailers and markets. This market model has now expanded to include projects in Flanders, New Cassel, Freeport, Wyandanch, and Great Neck.
Sustainable Long Island’s partner farmers’ markets are unlike any traditional farmers’ market you may have visited. They are unique at every level, from the staff to the farmers to the customers from the community!
Each market is run by local high school students, under the supervision of a market manager (also from the community), who learn valuable skills, tools, and basics of business, along with customer service, nutrition, and farming. The income, experience, and training in agriculture, marketing, and community building go a long way for those who come from often underserved neighborhoods, with dreams of one day attending college, as well as securing full-time jobs and long-term careers.
Simultaneously these markets make it easier for farmers to maintain a viable agricultural business, while making farmland preservation on Long Island possible – helping make farming profitable. The model allows farmers to devote more time to tend to their farms, rather than traveling back and forth to each delivery site, as each week’s order is picked up by market staff and delivered straight from the farm to customers’ tables later that same day.
Sustainable Long Island’s partner markets are also predominantly located in food deserts (a 1 mile radius with no access to fresh food). For many who frequent these markets, the available produce is some of the only access they have to affordable, healthy alternatives close by.
On July 7, 2010, just before the markets first opening weekend, Senator Gillibrand held a press conference in North Bellport to formally announce the launch of the project. On hand were the Senator, Congressman Tim Bishop, Senator Brian Foley, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko, Ex. Director of the Long Island Farm Bureau Joe Gergela, and numerous representatives for participating local community groups including the Greater Bellport Coalition, Suffolk County United Veterans, Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area, Roosevelt Community Revitalization Group, and the Health and Welfare Council.
Throughout the summer and fall months of 2010 numerous elected officials joined us at the markets including Legislator Kevan Abrahams, Legislator Kate Browning, Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher, and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano – who also held a press conference to highlight the Roosevelt Markets’ success. Unique activities and demonstrations occurred throughout the season at both markets from cooking demonstrations, to steel drum bands, to informational tables on nutrition, agriculture, and health services available in both North Bellport and Roosevelt.
On October 31, 2010 the markets officially came to a close for their first season, resulting in over $28,000 in sales and supplying over five thousand community residents with fresh, affordable produce .
Throughout the season (July 11 – October 31) residents had the option of purchasing affordable fruit and vegetables from high school students of each community who ran the markets, which were stocked with produce from six Long Island Farms including Anderson Farms, Deer Run Farms, Milk Pail Farms, Natural Earth Farms, Philip Schmitt & Sons Farms, and W&K Farms. Over 90 boxes of cabbage, 240 bags of corn, 748 bags of spinach, 870 bunches of beets, 3200 pounds of tomatoes, 3860 pounds of apples, and 5120 pounds of melon made their way fresh from the farm to North Bellport and Roosevelt resident’s kitchen tables. More amazingly, 65% of total transactions came from EBT sales and WIC and Senior Checks, cementing the fact that access to this fresh, affordable food alternatives is needed now more than ever in many low-income communities.
In 2011, customers in Roosevelt, Bellport, Flanders, and New Cassel were offered to take a survey to describe some of their shopping, eating, and food habits in relation to the markets. We found some interesting trends:
- 61% of respondents said the markets had increased how often they eat fruit and vegetables
- 78% of respondents feel the markets had increased their connection to the community
- 45% of respondents indicated youth involvement is among their favorite aspects of the markets
- 42.6% of respondents indicate that quality and freshness of produce is among their favorite aspects of the markets
- 24% of respondents indicate that acceptance of SNAP and Senior/WIC FMNP is among their favorite aspects of the markets
Through 2016, Sustainable Long Island continues to work with our local community partners; providing technical assistance on this project in Roosevelt, Bellport, Flanders, New Cassel, Freeport, Wyandanch, and Great Neck.