Riverhead’s Indoor Farmer’s Market, and more, is coming to the former site of Homeside Florist

The covered Riverhead Farmer’s Market, which has moved among a few different vacant stores on East Main Street since its inception in 2014, may be moving for the final time.

The East End Food Institute, which took over operation of the popular Winter Market in November 2019, moves the market to an iconic space deeply rooted in local agriculture. The Farmers’ Market will open on November 27 – Small Business Saturday – at the former Homeside Florist and Greenhouses site on Main Road in Riverhead, which closed on December 31, 2018.

The sprawling greenhouse operation on the four-acre property, owned and operated by Ernie Olsen and his family since 1954, dated back to before the Great Depression.

“It’s so exciting to be able to repurpose this fabulous space in a way that’s consistent with its history,” Kate Fullam, executive director of the East End Food Institute, told the site Friday afternoon.

The 5,000-square-foot building, which Fullam called “a beautiful blank slate,” will provide space for 45 vendors in the retail market, the same number as in the past, Fullam said, although stalls for vendors are arranged in aisles, rather than around the perimeter. The space will also provide market vendors with storage space as well as the option for permanent set-up during the winter season, so growers and other vendors don’t have to “drag their stuff everywhere,” Fullam said. . There is also excellent access for vendor vehicles and plenty of parking for them and their customers, she said.

The interior of the old Homeside Florist and Greenhouses building, cleaned and painted, is a “blank slate” for the plans of the East End Food Institute. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The focus will be more on vendors selling local farm produce and seafood than in the past, Fullam said.

The East End Food Institute took on the downtown farmers’ market in 2019, which barely opened this fall, she said. “We signed the lease, took out the insurance. My board was really excited about it,” she said.

“When the pandemic hit, we turned to a virtual market so we could do door-to-door delivery and helped a lot of local sellers that way,” she said. “But I think the best way we’ve accomplished our mission during this time has been to engage the network and help people solve problems and work together when needed and that’s where I saw resilience within the local food system really come into play,” Fullam mentioned.

The food institute collaborated with local pantries. “We also heard from fishermen and farmers saying that because restaurants were closed, they were having trouble selling their produce,” Fullam said. “So we are going to get temporary grants to produce meals that would supplement the pantry with local seafood, with ingredients from local farms. We kept our staff employed and employed unemployed local restaurant workers and kept the economic engine running in the local food system,” she said.

The Retail Farmers Market, which will run out of season, is just one part of the East End Food Institute’s work to fulfill its mission to support the promotion and advocacy of farmers, winemakers, fishers and consumers. other eastern food producers and suppliers. To finish.

Fullam is overflowing with enthusiasm and ideas. Among them, she plans to test a mid-week wholesale market during the summer season, “where restaurant chefs can come to see, taste and chat.

The non-profit organisation, based on the Stony Brook University campus in Southampton, has a number of functions aimed at supporting food systems in the East End, from processing local produce to creating products locally sourced food, supplying several East End school districts, including Riverhead, with providing incubator space that allows local chefs to create products from local produce.

The population boom in the East End during the pandemic has created new needs. “Our food production program has grown exponentially over the past few years,” Fullam said. “It all started with me in the kitchen making tomato jam and pickles for our first two customers. Now we have a team of eight to 10 people in the kitchen every day,” she said.

And the organization’s long-term plans include a 7,500 square foot processing and production facility and an incubator to be built perpendicular to the existing building. It will be similar to what the food institute currently has in Southampton, but “designed with a better flow to help more local producers”, Fullam said.

The organization signed a three-year lease with owners who bought the site from Homeside Florist and Greenhouses, builders Mattituck Paul Pawlowski and Kenneth Ballato.

Pawlowski said in a phone interview Wednesday that the East End Food Institute’s plan is “really a perfect use for the site.” He said he was excited about it. Fullam, he said, “has great energy.”

Fullam said she has spoken with city officials about the group’s short-term and long-term plans for the site. They’ve been very supportive, she said. She has also worked with Assemblyman Fred Thiele and the LI Farm Bureau.

The East End Food Institute considers the site a “growing food hub”, Fullam said.

“I hope this location will connect local businesses in the East End to points to the west,” she said.

The functions performed by the institute will still need to be carried out by a nonprofit organization with public support, Fullam said. It just doesn’t work in a for-profit context because it can’t generate the revenue needed to be profitable, she said. “What we’re doing really doesn’t make business sense,” she said. “It must be subsidized by grants and donations. Hopefully the community sees the need and then supports it,” she said.

“If people want to see a vibrant local food system, they need to support organizations like ours to move projects like this forward,” Fullam said. “Then it creates a good foundation for agriculture and food businesses to thrive, because if the infrastructure doesn’t exist, they can’t,” she said.

“This can be an important next step for food systems resilience,” Fullam said.

The Farmers Market will be open on Saturdays from November 27 to April 30, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and is working with the Field and Fork Network to offer SNAP-eligible shoppers a $1-to-$1 through its Double Up Food Bucks program to encourage purchase. healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Interested sellers can apply here.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the start date for the Farmers’ Market, which will launch on Saturday, November 27, not November 30, as originally stated. It has also been edited to reflect that Assemblyman Fred Thiele worked to help the East End Food Institute.

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