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NEARBY: Farmers Market May Return in 2014

Credit: Carisa Giardino
Credit: Carisa Giardino
Story by Carisa Giardino. 

A farmers market may be returning to East Meadow Farms next season.

Laura Hunsberger, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County, which operates the farm at 832 Merrick Avenue, said CCE has looked into cooperating with local farmers that could sell produce on a limited basis ever since the former market closed last year.

Hunsberger is hoping to have something in place for the 2014 growing season.

"We loved having the farmers market at the East Meadow Farm last year and were very disappointed when Ethel told us they would not be returning," she said.

Hunsberger is referring to Ethel Terry, who coordinates the Long Island Growers Market (LIGM), which now operates farmers markets on 33 sites across Long Island. The first market started in Islip 21 years ago and is still open.

Terry said LIGM tried for years to have a farmers market in East Meadow but lack of support closed them down. A market existed at Nassau University Medical Center for three years. When that one closed the market moved to East Meadow Farms but Terry said not enough people came out to support that one either.

"We had 17 vendors at the hospital and every one started to leave due to no support then," Terry said. "We moved to the Cornell Cooperative Extension last year and the same thing happened - not enough people came out to support us so we closed that site as well."

Terry, a vegetable farmer herself, said support has been down at all the sites this year so opening a new one in East Meadow is unlikely for LIGM. "I think it will be hard to keep it going," she said. "We already tried two different sites."

At the start of this year's growing season local families via a lottery system were chosen to grow their own fresh produce in 5' x 20' cedar raised beds built and filled by CCE master gardeners and volunteers at East Meadow Farms.

Residents were provided basic vegetable gardening instruction with follow-up question and answer sessions with CCE. The community gardens are for home consumption and any excess produce is donated to the Hempstead INN.

According to Hunsberger, 58 plots were available and demand for the 2013 growing season vastly exceeded available space.

Plans to bring back a farmers market to this location would fall by the wayside if CCE does not receive a county funding commitment before October. Hunsberger recently spoke out against the "continued absence of Nassau County annual budget line item funding" at a legislative meeting held earlier this month.

Extension officials said a continued lack of funding will lead to immediate employee layoffs and facilities closures. East Meadow Farms would be the first facility to close.

In the meantime, an interactive map of the closest farmers markets to East Meadow and when they're open can be foundhere. The market located at 101 County Seat Drive in Garden City has been there for eight years and is open Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. There's also Crossroads Farm at Grossmann's located in Malverne, which harvests and sells its own organic produce, in addition to items grown or prepared at other Long Island farms.

Further, a federally-funded program makes farm fresh food options available to income-eligible seniors in East Meadow who can receive a one-time coupon book worth $20 to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at local markets, according to Nassau County officials. The coupons, courtesy of the state Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, are available at no cost. Call the Nassau County Office for the Aging at 227-8919 for more information.

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