By Dawn Watson
Thanks to a growing involvement in farming and local food sourcing, the East End has truly become the land of milk and honey. And bread and wine, fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs, even coffee and potato chips.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Amagansett Farmers Market, where the shelves are stocked with area food products. And if market manager Kim Donohue has her way, that selection will continue to grow until it’s the East End’s one-stop shop for locally sourced items.
After being operated since 2008 as the Hamptons’ outpost of Eli Zabar’s, the market reopened on August 1 under the operation of the Amagansett Food Institute, which was granted a three-year lease on the property by the non-profit Peconic Land Trust. AFI, made up of more than three dozen local member organizations, includes a number of farmers, fisherman, and food and wine producers and purveyors. Many of them have added the Amagansett Farmers Market to their lists of approved retail shopping destinations.
Fresh fruits and veggies from Amber Waves Farm, Balsam Farms, Quail Hill Farm, Pike’s Farm, the Milk Pail and Bhumi Farms are currently being sold there. As are products from Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream, Carissa’s Breads, Tate’s Bake Shop, Hampton Coffee Company, Sweet’tauk, South Fork Kitchens and Lucy’s Whey, to name a few.
Amagansett resident and Lucy’s Whey owner Lucy Kazickas, who mans her own select retail space within the market, says that she’s been a strong supporter of the farm stand concept since even before the AFI took over.
“I’ve always wanted to see that space became a permanent indoor farmers market,” she says. “It’s a work in progress but one that is headed in the right direction and applauded by the community. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Even with a late start this year, support has been strong, says AFI Executive Director Kathleen Masters. Customers are learning about the new direction of the site and stopping in more and more frequently to pick up their fresh supplies.
“The summer went well, and we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from the community,” she says.
And now that the first summer in the 3,000-square-foot space is completed, Ms. Donohue and Ms. Masters are on the lookout for even more area vendors. Everything from small-batch specialty food suppliers and local sourcing businesses to a few select larger producers will be considered, as long as they are New York-based and it makes sense to include them.
“I want to continue to explore and represent every avenue of our local food culture,” Ms. Donohue said during a post-Labor Day tour of the building, which is owned by Margaret de Cuevas. “We’re really excited about what we’re doing here and the sky’s the limit with what we can do in the future.”
The model is quite ambitious, but that it closely follows AFI’s mission: to support, promote and advocate for the farmers, vintners, fishermen and other food producers and providers on the East End of Long Island. Being an area hub that is supported by an engaged and involved community is one of her main goals, she says.
“I want this to be a place not only where people come and buy what they need for dinner, but also where they can learn about food and just hang out,” she says.
To that end, a number of interesting ideas have been implemented already. A few local suppliers stopped by this summer to give talks and conduct tastings, which proved quite popular. There will definitely be more of those in the future, Ms. Donohue reports.
Coming up, there will be a Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 24, with prepared food, games for kids and a costume contest, according to Ms. Masters. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there will be an ongoing holiday boutique with “giftable items,” she adds.
The farmers market is also a place for education, she says. There are several areas in the shop where it’s possible to learn about food, including on posted flyers such as “Where is the Basil?” which explains how the most recent crop has been affected by downy mildew, as well as a Food News chalkboard with the Podcast of the Week — a New York Times piece on wasted food — and an Article of the Week —NPR’s “Nobody Wants to Buy Ugly Fruits and Veggies?” There’s even an onsite lending library with an ample selection of books on local food and wine, as well as those for purchase, such as Eileen Duffy’s “Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island.”
Looking forward, Ms. Donohue says that she’s working to implement even more options, including offering a wider variety of packaged foods, such as “grab-and-go” sandwiches and fare; better utilizing the seating space; and planting herb beds and edible flowers.
The big thing she’s hoping for is that next year the Amagansett Farmers Market will once again be able to serve prepared foods, as have been offered in the past.
“We’re not asking to reinvent the wheel, just to do something that’s already been done on this property for the past 50 years or so,” she says. “But in the meantime, we’re a work in progress and we hope to do the community justice.”
The Amagansett Farmers Market, located at 367 Main Street in Amagansett, is open through mid-December and will reopen in April. Current hours are Thursday through Monday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more at www.amagansettfoodinstitute.org.