East End Farmers Markets Back

T.E. McMorrow
Jay Wesnofske and Mike Fedele were manning the Wesnofske stand at the Springs Farmers Market on May 30.

The Sag Harbor and Springs weekly farmers markets are active now, with social distancing protocols in place. Kate Plumb, the manager of the East Hampton Farmers Market was hoping, as of Monday, to be able to open this week, but at a new location, though approval from the town must be obtained first.

Plumb spoke about it on Saturday while assisting at the Sag Harbor market. “After 14 years of being in Nick & Toni’s parking lot, we are moving to the Calvary Baptist Church on their lawn.” She expressed thanks to the trustees of the church for allowing the market to make that move. The church is located on Spinner Lane.

The church will be charging a nominal rent. Plumb said she is exploring how to raise that money, because it was not budgeted for. That is because Joe Realmuto, executive chef of Nick & Toni’s, had allowed the market to operate in the parking lot free of charge. Because of the social distancing rules caused by COVID-19, the old site was simply too small to allow the farmers market to operate there this year.

Plumb is exploring two options, raising money from the public for the rent by putting a donation bucket at the entrance, or by charging vendors a small fee. 

One of the attractions of the East Hampton market, which is held on Fridays, Plumb said, is the various farmers who travel there from the North Fork, such as Sang Lee Farms, a certified organic farm, or Wickham’s Fruit Farm, to join the South Fork farmers.

Plumb said the various farmers and vendors will be spaced 10 feet apart to allow for social distancing.

Eventually, the goal for the East Hampton market is to set up on the town-owned farm museum property across from Nick & Toni’s. Because the land was purchased using Community Preservation Fund money, any market set up there would have to produce at least 50 percent of the product sold, under current state law. Assemblyman Fred Thiele is working to change that law in Albany, Plumb said.

Plumb still needs to obtain approval for a special event permit from the East Hampton Town Board for the market to open, which she was hoping would be issued this week.

Springs Market, managed by Paul Hamilton, opened May 30 and will be held each Saturday. He had received approval from the town board earlier that week, when it passed a resolution containing language based on the state’s guidelines for farmers markets. The state has ruled farmers markets to be essential businesses, but the guidelines and town code requirements must still be met.

Located on the grounds of Ashawagh Hall, the market has a new layout this year. It has expanded from just a portion of the grounds surrounding the hall to the entire property. That allows Hamilton to space the vendors out, so they can easily create ample social distance between stands.

When he was setting up the market May 30, Hamilton rolled out soft mesh fencing for the perimeter. Customers would enter from one side of the hall, and walk along a one-way path to each stand, which circled the property. Walking in a clockwise direction, shoppers then exited at the opposite side of the hall from the entrance.

There are many different purveyors. Jillian Griffiths runs Hamptons Barkery, creating tasty organic delights for dogs. The Sweet Woodland Farms booth was run by Rachael Bristel. The business is based in Hampton Bays, with farmland in Southold, “We have two acres of an herb farm,” Bristel said. Sweet Woodland Farms sells both fresh and dried herbs, as well as herb products.

Carrie Clark stood at the entrance to the market, tasked with keeping count of the shoppers who were on the property at any one time, to ensure a safe distance could be maintained. There did not appear to be a problem during the first half hour of business May 30.

Kate Hildebrandt, a customer at the Springs Market, was ecstatic. “Yeah, I’m thrilled about this. The fact that they have organized it in a way that we can make it work is just fabulous. It’s great to see all the regulars.”

The same could be said for Sag Harbor’s farmers market on Bay Street. Managed by Brian Halweil, the market was busy, but well-spaced to allow distance between shoppers May 30. Also held on Saturdays, the hours are 9 to 1 PM. A one-way traffic pattern is encouraged, with a separate entrance and exit.

“In 2005, we started down the street over there in front of the Dockside Restaurant,” Halweil said. He worked in the food industry, and purchased from farmers, leading him to open the market. He was asked if he farms land now. “Nope. That is my dream. Some day to become a farmer,” he said.

Susan Dusenderry, a North Haven resident, was excited to be able to shop at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market. “They do a great job every year.” Dusenderry bought a couple of colorful plants. When asked what type of plants they were, she said, “I have no idea. I think they are pretty. There’s a tag in there but I can’t dig in there to find it.”

The Montauk market is expected to open later this month.

The Good Ground Farmers Market in Hampton Bays will be open every Thursday from 3 to 7 PM, starting June 11, running through October 8.

“All market staff, farmers, and producers are dedicated to adhering to health and safety standards, and providing safe and reliable access to nutritious foods necessary to a healthy community,” the market said on its website. “Per New York State Executive Order 202.17, all market participants will be required to wear a mask or cloth face covering when unable to maintain social distancing.”

Tents will be farther apart to leave room for safe movement. The market will have a designated entrance and exit, with arrows pointing in one direction.

The Westhampton Beach Farmers’ Market, located on the Village Green, hosts over 60 vendors, growers, and producers. Starting June 13 the market will pop up every Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM through November.

The Southampton Farmers Market is open currently from 9 to 3 PM each Sunday at Agawam Park.

The Shelter Island Havens Farmers Market will be held every Saturday, starting June 6, from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. The market is held rain or shine on the grounds of the Shelter Island History Center.

Procedures will be in place for social distancing and sanitizing and a full list of guidelines will be posted. Guests must wear a face covering and bring their own shopping bags. There will be no sampling or restroom facilities available.

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Additional reporting by Kyle McKee and Jessica Mackin-Cipro


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