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Riverhead Farmers’ Market Adds a Day, Holiday Crafts

The Riverhead Farmers’ Market has been bursting at the seams—despite adding an extra day, there is still a wait list for vendors who want to participate. And now the market is adding a craft fair so shoppers can pick out holiday decorations and gifts by East End artisans while they are picking up local produce, cheese, eggs and meats.

“It’s one-stop shopping if you want to go local,” says Holly Browder, one of the organizers. “It’s always so much fun. Everyone who’s visited has sent me feedback about how much they enjoy it.”

The farmers market originally began in February, operating on Saturdays only, inside the formers Swezey’s building.

There was no heat, but no one complained, because the market was so busy, says Ray Pickersgill, the president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, which helped make the farmers market a reality.

Then the market operated outdoors on the Peconic Riverfront during the warmer months. When it came time to head back indoors, the organizers found a better spot, a 20,000-square-foot space at 221 E. Main Street.

“Now we have more space, but we’re already at capacity again,” Browder says.

The venue was formerly home to the Dinosaur Walk Museum, which featured life-size statues of dinosaurs.

Pickersgill explains that after the Dinosaur Walk Museum went out of business, new tenants planned to open a museum there with animatronic dinosaurs—but then Superstorm Sandy happened. Shallow floodwater was absorbed by the robotic dinosaurs’ foam bodies, ruining the electronics within, before the exhibits could ever be displayed.

Before plans for a new dinosaur museum were sidelined, the building was updated and remodeled. “The bathrooms in this building—you would love to have in your house,” Pickersgill quips. “That’s how beautiful it is.” This building is heated and has a proper fire suppression system, plus other beneficial features as well.

“They cut the middle of the floor out so the dinosaurs’ heads could peek up to the street level floor,” Pickersgill says. Now, patrons of the farmers market can look down over the railing and see the crafts tables.

The first craft fair will be this Saturday, November 22, and continue every weekend through Christmas.

Pickersgill emphasizes that none of the crafts are imported. “You have to make it to be in the market,” he says.

Since November 16, the farmers market has added Sundays to the weekly schedule, with a few of the same vendors returning for the second day. Most of the vendors are different, so patrons who come both days can find new offerings. Each day has about 40 vendors—which does not include all the vendors at the craft fair—and the wait list is still longer than 100 farmers wanting to get in, Pickersgill says.

Many vendors are New York State-certified organic producers, and many come from the Calverton Business Incubator, he notes.

Browder says she and other farmers appreciate the market because it gives them a outlet year-round. While some farmers only harvest part of the year, she co-owns Browder’s Birds in Mattituck with her husband, Chris, and poultry never goes out of season.

The farmers market has even inspired some to grow more.

Maryann and Eugene Krupski, the owners of MarGene Farms Certified Organic Produce in Mattituck, recently put up two high tunnels, or hoop houses, which are a type of greenhouse. Krupski said the farmers market did so well last winter, she and her husband got the high tunnel so their could extended their growing season into the colder months, in anticipation of a successful winter in 2015.

The market will stay indoors through March or early April, then return to the riverfront.

The Riverhead Farmers Market operates Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The craft fair will continue through Christmas.

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