Grant Gives Farmers Market New Life

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A generous donation from a local business has given the New Cassel Farmers Market the lifeline it needs to continue its work of offering residents farm fresh produce right in their neighborhood.

A staple in the community for the past five summers, the market was left in the lurch this year due to a lack of financial support.

The market employs several local teens and seeks to teach them valuable job skills.
The market employs several local teens and seeks to teach them valuable job skills.

“Some of the funders, their priorities changed and they were looking to fund other projects,” said market coordinator Traci Caines.

When the farmers market first came to New Cassel in 2010, the community did not have a supermarket (their first, Ideal, opened in 2012). The market remains one of the community’s main sources for fresh produce from local farms and many of the customers pay with WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program funds.

“Those are the people who rely on it, who want to use the checks and need it the most,” Caines said. “At the core, the project was built to provide fresh affordable produce.”

When Charles Vigliotti, owner of Vigliotti’s Great Gardens and president of the Long Island Compost Corporation in Westbury, heard that the market was not opening for the season, he felt compelled to help. For the last five years, Vigliotti has been providing money to support the farmers market’s transportation needs and when Caines told him that the market wouldn’t be able to open again for a sixth season, he offered her a check for $10,000.

Youth workers help customers peruse through produce offerings during opening day of the farmers market.
Youth workers help customers peruse through produce offerings during opening day of the farmers market.

“I thought it was a neighborly thing to do,” said Vigliotti, who said he employs a lot of New Cassel residents. “When I first saw the green market in operation and saw the people of all ages there—the kids working and the elderly coming to buy vegetables—it was a terrific thing. It became an ad hoc community center during those summer months. The notion of it not opening this year bothered me.”

The market officially opened on Saturday, Aug. 20, a month later than usual, but still offering farm fresh fruits and vegetables for the Westbury community through November.

“It’ll be a shorter season, but we’re grateful to open at all,” Caines said. “We couldn’t have run the market for the last five years without his donation for transportation, but he really went above and beyond.”

The majority of the funding the farmers market receives goes towards paying its youth employees (who are paid $9 an hour), many of whom come from Westbury High School. Other costs include transporting the food from eastern Long Island, equipment (such as tables, tents, etc.), marketing, insurance and the produce itself.

Fresh berries, tomatoes, melons, kale, corn and zucchini were among the offerings at the market.
Fresh berries, tomatoes, melons, kale, corn and zucchini were among the offerings at the market.

While the donation will help keep the farmers market afloat this year, Caines said they are still looking for community partners to help not only support them financially but with providing activities (such as cooking demonstrations, music, etc.) and coordinating volunteers.

Though its primary purpose to provide fresh produce, Caines said the market helps provide a “sense of place” in the community.

“It adds value to the community. It gives the undeserved a place where they can get affordable produce and students can walk from their home to a job where they learn valuable skills and basic training they can take with them,” Caines said. “And we’re supporting our farms and eating better. As a whole, it’s elevated the New Cassel community.”

The New Cassel Farmers Market will be open every Saturday through Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 212 Garden St. For more information, call 516-997-9399.

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