Local agriculture and fresh food are important to the health and economy of Long Islanders, and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County is committed to making them available to everyone.
CCE Nassau, with its main office in Eisenhower Park and a farm on Merrick Avenue, prioritize the sale of goods produced by locals all over Long Island. A farmers market it runs is open Saturdays through October in Eisenhower Park’s Field 8. It made its debut last Saturday.
The market is a part of CCE Nassau’s food systems and agriculture “pillar,” which is just one aspect of what it does. The big picture is that Cornell has a cooperative extension office in each county in New York and in the five boroughs, totaling more than 50 offices statewide.
It has programs in 4-H youth development, encouraging youth to explore science, technology, engineering and math. It focuses on health, wellness and nutrition, offering education workshops and information about food-related topics. Its natural resources pillar provides knowledge on sustainable energy and horticulture, which includes the East Meadow farm and demonstration gardens that teaches people how to properly grow their own goods. It also has a mobile market where a van of fresh produce services senior and community centers.
Another aspect of CCE Nassau is the Taste NY market, located at the Long Island Welcome Center, between Exits 51 and 52 on the eastbound Long Island Expressway. The market opened in 2016 selling goods from vendors all over Long Island and New York State.
“(CCE Nassau) an extension of Cornell University, so obviously, we’re really proud of that, to take the research and work that’s been done at the university level and put it to work for the residents here in Nassau County,” Greg Sandor, executive director of CCE Nassau.
CCE Nassau was established in 1914, and always had a farm stand. In 2020, the farm stand was moved to Eisenhower Park. “There were a couple of guests vendors and it was small but it was a great way to get in touch with the community,” Jennifer Hochuli, the food systems/agriculture coordinator said. “It was an all hands on deck with staffing.” Hochuli is also the master gardener and volunteer program liaison for CCE Nassau.
Sandor said that one of the needs in Nassau is to build a local sustainable food system. “In Eisenhower Park we’re trying to create more access to fresh grown produce,” he said. “Eisenhower Park has high visibility and you’ve got all different walks of life coming around here on weekends.
“It’s a great mix of community members and you never know why they’re swinging by Eisenhower.”
The farmers market accepts cash, credit/debit, along with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards and coupons from those who are a part of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
“Everybody should have access to fresh food, it’s so good for you and your body,” Hochuli said. “Supporting locally grown food, locally grown produce, as well as local businesses, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for your area and at the end of the day, I like to think that it’ll come back and help you out.”
Dara Myers of West Hempstead is a first-year participant in the farmer market. She sells fresh juices and tea from her store, Jolistic Organics Health Store in Baldwin, which opened five weeks ago. “This has been something I’ve wanted to do since 2017, but I put it on hold because of Covid,” Myers said. “My mom passed away from lung cancer and ever since then I wanted to steer away from Western medicine and more towards natural ingredients.”
Myers said that working with the CCE Nassau farmers market has been a pleasure. “I love the conversation and the people are so interactive,” she said.
According to Sandor, if people want farmers to be a part of the economy, then it’s something that they have to invest in. “We were seeing a trend towards not supporting local agriculture and farmers and it’s really tough for farmers to stay in business,” he said. “But during Covid, we saw an uptick, so we saw people coming out and supporting this.”
It’s okay if to supplement farmers market purchases with grocery store-bought food as well, Hochuli said. But coming to the farmers market helps teach people how to grow their own produce at home too.
“Your garlic is so big, how can I do that? How can I grow lettuce like that in my yard? And just learning about how their food is grown is something that people are interested in,” she said. “Part of the history and the reason and the significance of farmers markets is that people can find that information out.”