Community Farmers Markets, a Growing Trend

community markets

So many fall apples overflowing at the green markets. Honey Crisp, Winesap, Russet, Gala and Orins, enough apples to make apple butter, hard apple cider, apple pie, even parsnip and apple soup. Ginger Gold, Fortune and Winesap are considered heirloom varieties, while Northern Spy and Jonathan are New York natives, discovered in the 1800‘s. They are good for eating and baking. Mutsu, originally from Japan, are now thriving in upstate New York. The wide selection of apples have inspired me to think outside of the box. Tired of using the same old Golden Delicious in a pie? Try Jonagold instead, you’ll taste the difference in sweetness and texture.

Going to the green market on the weekend has never been easier. This year, Community Farmers Markets, has opened two new green markets in the nabe, one on the south side of picturesque McGolrick Park (Russell St.) in Greenpoint and another at the spunky Cooper Park (Maspeth Ave.) in East Williamsburg. There, you’ll find an array of farm produce along with enough artisanal food to make your weekend just that much more yummy.

At McGolrick Park, I was surprised to find Ben Flanner, president of Brooklyn Grange, manning the booth himself. Brooklyn Grange is the celebrated rooftop farm located on top of a giant warehouse in Long Island City. Short of growing the kale yourself, you can’t get fruit and vegetables more local than that. Ben was cheerfully dripping drops of Propolis tincture on the backs of our hands so we could taste the potency of this cocktail mixer. He was also selling ground cherries and Tulsi Tea alongside all the beautiful vegetables he grows.
community markets

Another interesting vendor is Brooklyn Cured, a two-year-old sausage company from Brooklyn native Scott Bridi. He ran the Gramercy Tavern’s charcuterie program for two years and worked for Marlow and Daughter’s Butcher Shop for a year before striking out on his own. He grew up in Bensonhurst and worked at hipster joints around town; the perfect guy to bridge the divide between the Natives and the Hipsters. Brooklyn Cured carries andouille sausage, merguez (lamb), chicken chorizo, wild boar with porcini mushroom sausage among other exotic seasoned meats.

After strong cocktails and fatty sausages, you’ll need dessert, right? Get a pie from Pie Lady & Son. On the day I was there, the Pie Lady’s son was hawking his mom’s pies. How sweet is that? The company is from Rockland County and has been in business since 1996. The pies are delicious, not too sweet and light on the cinnamon — the apple really holds its shape. You can choose from a variety of pies, apple crumb, apple cranberry, apple pear walnut… They’re $15 for a 7“ pie and $22 for a 10“ pie.

Another pie company is Pie Corps, which sells pot pies, empanadas, and quiches. Soon, they will open a savory and sweet pie shop at 77 Driggs Ave, so watch for their grand opening .

An unexpected vendor was Orwasher Bakery, a bread baker founded in Manhattan in 1916. They have a bread shop on the Upper East Side where they are famous for their sour dough, challah and whole grain breads. They also do a wine bread — Pain de Champagne, oh la la. I used to make the trek up to 78th St. (near 2nd Ave.) just to get a loaf of sour dough. Now, one of my favorite breads is just a hop and a skip away.

At another table, I ran into Nicole Reed, Community Farmers Markets’ Communication Director. She was talking up Mortgage Apple Cakes from New Jersey. The company was started by Angela Logan, who was trying to save her house from foreclosure by baking and selling lots of cake. (It worked!) Nicole spent the next fifteen minutes introducing me to all the vendors.

community gardens green apples

At Cooper Park, the atmosphere was bright and festive. There was this great little 3-piece band, called the Slide Blues (after the slide trombone guy). There is nothing like live music to make you hungry and open your wallet. Here, I found Horman’s Best Pickles, from Glen Cove, Long Island. If you like things pickled, this is the place; they have kosher dill, brown mustard, honey mustard, spicy sour, bread & butter and red flannel pickles and peppers. The owner, Nick Horman, was a philosophy major in college, but his family has been in the pickling business for three generations. So he too started his own pickling company eight years ago, because philosophy don’t pay the rent (unless you are Chopra Deepak). Anyway, I, for one, feel very privileged to have my pickles cured by a Long Island philosopher. After consuming a quart of bread and butter pickles, you’ll need coffee. Pick up some certified organic beans from Tierra Farm which hails from Columbia County. Then visit Garden of Eve Farm from River Head Long Island for your organic fruits and vegetables. You can also pick up concord grapes and buckwheat honey from Migliorelli Farm, Tivoli, New York.

The McCarren Park Market, operated by GrowNY, is where I kept running into old friends I had not seen for a while, so that is the added bonus of shopping there. You’ll find cheese, bread, fresh fish, wine, apple cider and sunflowers as big as a dinner plate. Vegetables come in a riot of colors, golden beets, white eggplants and purple potatoes. You’re just in awe of what comes out of the earth. At Salento Farm (Connecticut), I found a professional jet pilot turned farmer who grows only garlic and eggplants and then turns the German red rocambole garlic into aromatic spices that are perfect for seasoning his pickled eggplant products.

Across from him is Osczepnski Farm, where you can pick up tri-color heirloom tomatoes and purslane and all kinds of fresh herbs and greens. If you have a sunny window, it’s never too late to grow a mini-herb farm in your kitchen.

If you have a EBT card, you can swipe it at the EBT station and exchange it for tokens so you can shop for fresh produce. Good to know that so many food stamp dollars are going back to support our local farmers.

GrowNY started the green market movement back in 1976 as a way to get fresh produce to city folk and help struggling upstate farmers stay on their land. Today, it is the best thing about living in New York. They have expanded to include farmers in the tri-state area, which is good for the consumers because we get more choices. This green market is more than just about the food, it is teaching us a way of life, you’ll also learn about composting, recycling, wind power and local sourcing.

Community Farmers Markets, which operates the McGolrick Park and Cooper Park markets started in Ossing, New York in 1991 by Miriam Haas; who wanted to bring fresh produce from environmentally-conscious farmers to her community. Today it runs 18 markets in the tri-state area. There are three in Brooklyn. We’re lucky to have two of them in our neighborhood. These markets will help local food artisans test out the market. So bring your kids, bring your dogs, taste some pie and let these vendors tell you their stories. Support your local green markets, so they will be around for a long time. This year, the Community Farmers Markets will stay open until November 18th, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Send us your photos of street scenes at the farmers markets at McCarren, McGolrick, and Cooper Park,  at