Heading east on Long Island renders three sights consistent: beautiful beach views, a plethora of bagel stores, and quaint farm stands. Each supplies a myriad of summer jobs to local kids, whether excitedly applying for their first position after graduating eighth grade or coming home from college to scrounge up future weekend funds. This summer, I continue to perpetuate the norm, transitioning from my beach club work to a spot at a farm stand.
Sitting along Montauk Highway, a two-lane road that surely does not live up to its title, is what resembles a disheveled shack. Nevertheless, this shack serves thousands of customers, supplying literal tons of local produce to the bustling summer crowds. Farmers Market Farm Stand, my place of employment, is the pinnacle of a small business committed to serving the local community. The farm stand acknowledges its strategic positioning by employing year-round residents and squaring up to the inflated summer economy. I grew up coming to these farm stands and learned the names of seemingly exotic fruits and vegetables along the way: heirloom tomatoes, wax beans, donut peaches, and countless more farmstand staples. I was astounded by the rainbow of produce and the sheer number of dishes that could be prepared with solely local ingredients. Long Island becomes a dreary winter destination, but bolsters itself through a summer bounty.
Before beginning my current farmstand job, I viewed the stands as charming grocery store alternatives. However, I have begun to recognize the integral role of farm stands in supporting countless other small businesses. We source upwards of 80% of our produce in peak growing seasons from small family farmers within a ten mile radius and gladly accept backyard-grown flowers to sell by the bunch or home-kitchen baked sweets for distribution. As I unload our truck bed each day, I scan through each farm name and town, beginning to associate each area with a different piece of produce. I take note of which produce sells best, with local items typically reaping the highest sales, alongside the greatest community gains.
The farm stand has the capacity to connect local people with local products that they love, with potential to form a connection with the individual producing them. As opposed to purchasing bagged produce from the grocery store, the act of choosing goods from the farm stand is a representation of each customer’s support of the respective farmer. They are utilizing their dollars to reinforce home-grown products. Through this, every customer develops a relationship with both the employees and our vendors— especially our famed Aki and her soups. Her spicy heirloom tomato is always sure to amass a crowd, with its sweet taste that still bolsters a kick. Patrons know Aki loves their home just as much as they do.
For Long Island, farm stands are the cornerstone of sustainability and community. Our low-waste efforts and food donation partnerships with wildlife refuges encourage my, and so many others’, dedication to environmental consciousness. We boost our community by supporting our own producers and vendors, while ensuring that our products limit transportation and treatment to produce. Food is a love language, and knowing ours is grown with such love is unequivocally inspiring and heartening.
Cover photo courtesy of northforker