Grow It, Catch It and Eat It at the Montauk Farmer’s Market

Shopping for fresh produce at the Montauk Farmers Market on August 23, 2018. Michael Heller photo

Now celebrating its tenth season, the Montauk Farmer’s Market, which convenes on the hamlet’s green every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from June through September, is the brainchild of Montauk Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laraine Creegan. Among the East End’s largest and most popular markets, the Montauk Farmer’s Market began with only six vendors. These days, the wait list for vendors is long; only one or two slots are available per year, and the green now hosts an impressive 39 vendors every Thursday morning during the season.

“There was a meeting in Southampton with the Department of Agriculture, and they run the New York State farmer’s markets,” Creegan said. “So I attended the meeting … I then visited different farmer’s markets on the East End and found that there was an interest on the part of the vendors that were at those markets, to I brought it back to the Chamber board.” During its inaugural season, the market operated from the St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Montauk, but, after a year, the Church and the market parted ways; in the intervening years, the Church has opened its own vegetable garden, selling its produce to the community.

Creegan and the Chamber petitioned the town for provisional use of Montauk’s green, and the town agreed. Since then, the market has been an economic mainstay and an expected Thursday afternoon go-to event. The committee’s tag line — “grow it, catch it, bake it” — exemplifies the market’s ethos. Vendors come almost entirely from the East End and represent the bounty that Eastern Long Island has to offer, from breads and granolas to fresh seafood to local wine to produce. “We try to look for people on the East End first,” Creegan said. “We wanted to give them a shot first.” Vendors like Wölffer Estate Vineyards, Amber Waves Farm, Balsam Farms, and Horman’s Best Pickles have been long-time participants.

In exchange for $882, the participating vendors are offered 17 weeks in which to sell their wares, as well as a bonus week, the Columbus Day Weekend-specific Fall Festival, which marks the official end to market season. About half of the money raised from vendors is donated, at year’s end, to the Montauk Food Pantry organized by St. Therese of Lisieux.

Vendors are not permitted to sell non-food items, so as not to compete with other nearby Montauk businesses. Creegan also didn’t want to compete with other local farmer’s markets, like East Hampton (Fridays), East Hampton Springs (Saturdays), or Sag Harbor (Saturdays), which was why she opted for Thursday mornings. Prior to the market’s inception, Thursdays were relatively sleepy in Montauk. But no more. “It’s a very, very successful market,” Creegan said. In fact, the market has been so successful that, after a few seasons, the hours were expanded; the original time frame was 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ultimately, the market’s breadth draws a sincere, dedicated following. “It’s such a wide variety that you’re not going to find, necessarily, in a store,” Creegan added. “At least, not in Montauk.”