On the opening day for the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market last Saturday afternoon, patrons nibbled warm empanadas and homemade organic strawberry rhubarb ice cream, crusty loaves of bread from Blue Duck Bakery and greens from one of five organic farmers at the market. Dave “the mushroom man” Falkowski spoke to one shopper about recipes, while Art Ludlow of Mecox Bay Dairy and Kevin Dunathan of Goodale Farms offered samples of their cheeses. Meanwhile, a crowd gathered around Sag Harbor farmers Dale Haubrich and Bette Lacina’s “Under the Willow Organics” produce stand, appropriately located in a shady spot of the Bay Street market, while one booth over, someone inspected fluke at Colin Mather’s Seafood Shop.
Organized in 2004 as a way to showcase local farmers during HarborFest weekend in September, the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market became a model for other East End communities and has grown by leaps and bounds since its first fall in front of the Dockside Bay & Grill.
Now located on village-owned grassland on Bay Street in front of the Breakwater Yacht Club, the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market runs from the end of May through the end of October. Managed by Ana Nieto and Ivo Tomasini, the market is cooperatively governed by its vendors to ensure that local food and its producers and protected and given priority.
From Montauk to Riverhead and out to Greenport, virtually every community has developed its own farmers’ market in the last five years.
“In many ways, on the East End, the Sag Harbor market was the first, which is why it is very special,” said Nieto. “There is a truly local feeling to this market and outside of the vendors, who are wonderful, it is also a beautiful location and something I think the community looks forward to.”
In addition to longtime vendors like Mecox Bay Dairy, Falkowski’s Open-Minded Organics, the Seafood Shop, Under the Willow Organics, Quail Hill Farm, Blue Duck Bakery and honey producer Bees’ Needs, among others, this year Nieto said the market has added a handful of new vendors meant to compliment what already exists at the market.
Farmer and author Marilee Foster chose to pursue other ventures this season and opted out of the market, said Nieto. One of the markets’ rules is to limit the number of vegetable farmers to five to ensure it is profitable. With Foster gone, North Haven’s own Sunset Beach Farm, a certified organic, community-based farm petitioned to become a part of the market and was accepted.
For farmers Karin Bellemare and Jon Wagner, while they also work other farmers’ markets like many vendors, being in Sag Harbor is home.
“We were finally a part of the community we are growing in,” said Bellemare. “I feel like the vendors are really committed to the community in this market. I think everyone has same values. There is a really nice vibe.”
Sunset Beach Farm has been operating for three years, farming 13-acres between their land in North Haven and land owned by the Peconic Land Trust next to Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.
The farm offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for community members, who can pick up a weekly share of the farm’s organic harvest. At the farmers’ market, Bellemare said she is selling pea shoots, Asian greens, green garlic, bean spouts, lettuces, kale and Swiss chard, but the farm grows a full palate of vegetable offerings throughout the season.
Bellemare said the farm has also expanded into raising organic chickens for sale and for eggs, and soon enough Sunset Beach Farm organic chicken will be on the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market menu.
Perhaps the newest addition to the East End food shed, long awash in seafood and produce, are locally produced meats. While East Hampton’s Iacono Farm and North Sea Farms on Noyac Road have long sold local chicken, Sunset Beach Farm will offer the first certified organic chicken grown locally. Mecox Bay Dairy, which last year expanded to offer local beef, will also offer local pork this season, according to Ludlow.
Also new to the market is Goodale Farms, which sells goat cheese and milk products, Good Water Farms and its microgreens, and True Blue Coffee fair trade Jamaican coffee from Montauk.
The Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market will also feature two food producers who seek to make their goods out of local ingredients. A former chef from East Hampton, Luchi Masliah has opened Gula-Gula Empanadas at the market and hopes to use local products as often as she can.
From Uruguay, Masliah used to own the Amagansett Fish Company, but just recently has returned to the culinary arts. She makes her empanada dough from scratch and for her vegetable empanadas, sources greens from Haubrich and Lacina. She would also like to work with Ludlow to develop a pork empanada using Mecox Bay Dairy products and is keeping her eyes open for other local options.
“It’s more expensive for me, but they are quality ingredients and we manage to put our product out there at a price that people seem happy with,” said Masliah.
Joe and Liza Tremblay, owners of Bay Burger and Joe & Liza’s Ice Cream, spent the last year evolving their ice cream from a traditional formula with emulsifiers to a completely all-nature recipe using dairy from a small cooperative in the Hudson Valley.
At the farmers’ market, Joe Tremblay says they would like to craft locally inspired recipes — like Quail Hill Farm rhubarb and strawberry ice cream or Fat Ass Fudge, another vendor, and local mint ice cream.
“Just being in an agricultural area and having friends in this business, we want to support our farms and use their produce as it becomes available,” said Tremblay. “We have such a strong food community and we are happy to be a part of that.”
The Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday through October 27 on Bay Street at the intersection of Burke Street in Sag Harbor from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Image: Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano and Sag Harbor Village Trustee Bruce Stafford help Ana Nieto, Ivo Tomasini and market vendors open the season with a vine cutting. Photo by Bryan Boyhan)