The Farmer’s Market is a community conduit. It creates relationships and promotes a healthy way of life. Long Beach has really adopted this routine of market culture. People come out after their walks or bike rides on the boardwalk to get that certain item that they’ve woven into their lives. — Georgia LoPresti Meckes
One of my favorite things about summer in Long Beach is the Farmer’s Market at Kennedy Plaza. On a sunny Saturday, I’ll bike the boardwalk and detour north to pick up some fresh vegetables, seafood, or one of the many artisanal foods available from our local vendors—then happily pedal home with them tucked inside my wicker bicycle basket.
This summer, many familiar food artisans are back with their breads, pickles, hot sauces, and vinegars—and there’s some new vendors too, including the Long Island based Subtle Tea Company, Riverhead based Garden of Eve, and Mecox Bay Dairy out of Bridgehampton. Some old favorites—like Butterscotch—were sadly unable to participate this season but hope to return soon. Seafood is being provided by Oceanside’s Captain Mike’s Seafood and Lobster Company—where I happily purchased my first piece of summer seafood for the grill— a delicious cut of swordfish!
The Long Beach market—which runs from May to Thanksgiving—falls under the umbrella of The Long Island Greenmarket. Curious to know who helps keep our market thriving, I happened upon Georgia LoPresti Meckes who’s been active in its management for the past several years. We spent a lovely hour chatting at Gentle Brew, where I learned all about the journey that brought her to our barrier island.
Georgia arrived in Long Beach five years ago with her husband David and two sons. They moved from Vermont, where they worked in the snow sports industry and managed a farm-stay called Cold Moon Farms. They had ducks, chickens—and guest rooms—and worked the land as “hobby farmers.” A term where you run a farm not to make a living, but because you love it as a hobby.
One of their visitors was David Schieren, the CEO of Sunpower by EmPower Solar in Island Park. Like-minded environmentalists, they hit it off right away. It wasn’t long before David (wink wink) “insisted” they move to Long Island and come work for him. Georgia’s husband David had just gotten certified in Solar Energy, so the timing was perfect. Today, Georgia also works for the company as a sales professional.
“We figured if we had to be away from the farm, at least we’d have nature by the ocean!”
They discovered that living by the sea is vastly different from the farmlands of Vermont. “Yard space comes at a pricey premium in Long Beach!” says Georgia. So they’ve learned to make do with the space they have. Georgia says with a smile, “My husband won’t plant anything we can’t eat, it’s the farmer in him.”
Once they settled in, Georgia quickly connected with other “green-minded” locals—particularly Bernadette Martin, the founder and face of the Long Island Greenmarket—and decided to put her energy into helping the market grow and thrive. She helped usher in a food-demo initiative and put up flyers with QR Codes that shoppers could scan with their phones to download healthy recipes. They branded the mid-week market day “Wellness Wednesdays” and regularly host field trips for MLK preschoolers, providing them with an early education on the value of a healthy diet—and to their delight—a pickle on a stick from market vendor, Horman’s Best Pickles.
“A farmer’s market is an ever-evolving, living and breathing marketplace. It’s seasonal, weather dependent, and a place where fledgling food artisans have an opportunity to introduce a product and see how the public responds. Our job is to facilitate that, offer support, and provide a learning platform to help them develop their brand,” says Georgia.
She is keenly aware of what it takes for the vendors to be here week after week. “Market life can be tiring, it’s a schlep for the fishermen and bakers and farmers who prepare their goods, then stand at the market for hours. Some drive two to three hours in the morning to get here— from Saratoga, Goshen, and the east end of Long Island.”
“I know farming, and I have the utmost respect for it,” said Georgia. “It needs to be respected and protected. This market allows local growers to flourish, make a living, and keep a tradition going. Every town wants a farmer’s market now, but there just aren’t enough vendors to support them. We encourage people to drive to their neighboring town’s market and shop there.”
Lucky for us, we don’t have to drive. Our market is only a short walk or bike ride away. Foot traffic has been steadily increasing on Saturday’s, with an estimated 1,500 to 1,800 shoppers, but we need to keep it up to make sure this tradition continues. They did give a winter market a try for a while but had limited success due to the lack of variety of products during colder months.
You’ll find the market open every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year the market has a new on-site manager named Charlotte—you can find her at the management table if you have any questions.
“A lot of farmers need help and we’re always looking to solicit volunteers,” Georgia mentioned as our conversation drew to a close. “It’s a great local way for students to put in their community hours. It usually involves helping set up the tents, assisting the farmers, or manning the manager tent. It’s great when we get dietician students to volunteer too.”
If you or someone you know is looking for community hours, or you have free time you would like to donate to help out the market, email Georgia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time… see you at the market!
Happy Summer Long Beach!