By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilman Vincent Gentile picked out a few peaches and some fresh blueberries. Assemblyman Peter Abbate purchased vegetables and a jar of honey. There was something for every taste at the Bensonhurst Greenmarket, which opened for the season on July 7.
Located in Milestone Park on 18th Avenue and 81st Street, the Greenmarket is sponsored by GrowNYC, the program which operates farmer’s markets in all five boroughs. This is the second year Bensonhurst is hosting a Greenmarket. The Bensonhurst Greenmarket will be open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from now until Nov. 24. Food stamps, credit cards, and debit cards are accepted.
The Bensonhurst Greenmarket is smaller than many of the other Greenmarkets around the city, with only four vendors, but Gentile said other farmers may come aboard as the season moves along.
The vendors currently serving at the local market are: Apple State Hill Top Family Farm from Sullivan County, New York; J. Glebocki Farm from Orange County, New York; Kernan Farms from Cumberland County, New Jersey; and Francesca’s Bakery from Middlesex County, New Jersey.
The offerings included fresh blueberries, peaches, potatoes, tomatoes, honey, breads, pies, and vegetables. The market was crowded on opening day with residents who shopped there last year and came back, as well as those making their first ever visit to a farmer’s market.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), who worked with Community Board 11 and GrowNYC to help smooth the way for the Greenmarket to make a return visit to Bensonhurst, hosted the opening ceremony on Saturday. “We come back for our second year here in Bensonhurst,” he said.
The park was filled with the sound of music. Musician George Papas played the keyboard and sang "All of Me" and other standards.
Gentile kept his remarks brief, probably because he knew people preferred shopping to listening to speeches. When he asked if Abbate (D-Bensonhurst-Sunset Park) wanted to say a few words, the assemblyman demurred. “I want to shop,” Abbate said.
Assemblyman Bill Colton, whose district borders Abbate’s in Bensonhurst, said he hoped the farmer’s market would draw a lot of customers. “This is a very important farmer’s market. We wish it much success. Let’s get the word out to everyone in the neighborhood,” Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) said.
“Let’s just eat healthy,” said Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge) who came to have a look at the Greenmarket.
Gentile said he envisions the Greenmarket as a type of town square where local residents can not only shop, but share recipes with neighbors and catch up with friends.
Ally Campbell, the manager of the Bensonhurst Greenmarket, said she is planning cooking demonstrations and other fun events to make the shopper’s experience more lively. “We’re having one today at 12:30,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Campbell also manages the greenmarkets in Bay Ridge and Borough Park.
The greenmarkets are important educational tools, according to Mark Treyger, a teacher at New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst. “There is a huge demand for a program like this,” he said. When New Utrecht High announced that it was forming a cooking club more than 70 students signed up to join. “We need to partner with our local schools,” Treyger said.
Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, who is a native of Bensonhurst, came to the ceremony to wish the farmers luck. The presence of the farmers market is proof that Bensonhurst is a vital community, he said.
GrowNYC was created in 1970. Its original name was Council on the Environment of New York City. The Greenmarket was founded in 1976 to promote regional agriculture by providing small family farms the opportunity to sell their locally grown products directly to consumers, and to ensure that New Yorkers have access to the freshest, most nutritious locally grown food the region has to offer, according to the GrowNYC website.
The first Greenmarket consisted of 12 farmers selling their produce in a parking lot of Second Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan. There are currently 54 markets in the city, including 19 in Brooklyn.