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Veggies, communal growth at The Y’s Sunday Market

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In an urban area such as the Bronx, farms are few and far between. But thanks to The Riverdale Y Sunday Market, that’s all changing — one kosher pickle at a time.

Every Sunday through Nov. 18, The Y organizes a farmers market at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy that hosts more than 17 local food and craft vendors. The food is locally grown and produced, and includes a wide selection of various fares like quiches, organic breads, kosher cheeses, and, of course, a variety of fresh produce.

The market started nearly seven years ago when a group of residents decided they wanted something a little more fresh, a little more local. They partnered not only with The Riverdale Y but also Jessica Haller, who serves on the Riverdale Nature Preservancy Board, and Beth Linskey of Beth Farms Kitchen, an artisan jam company.

“All of the people who were on the planning piece were already connected with green markets or small farms or other sustainability initiatives in the area,” said Kelly McLane, the Sunday Market’s manager. “So it was a nice group of people who were able to draw from different resources.”

Many of the vendors have been working with the Sunday Market since it began, such as Dr. Pickle, a third generation family owned kosher pickle company located in Paterson, New Jersey.

“Farmers markets are great,” said Josh Nadel, one of Dr. Pickle’s owners. “You’re outdoors, interacting with new people, talking to people. We form a relationship with our customers because we see repeat customers week in and week out. It’s an overall great environment. It forces people to support the smaller companies and buy local.”

Some of Dr. Pickle’s most popular products include its old-fashioned full garlic sour pickle and horseradish pickle chip. However, one of the company’s newer recipes, which Nadel calls “Mmmelish,” is a close runner up. Mmmelish combines Dr. Pickle’s signature sweet relish with horseradish brined sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard.

“We call it ‘Mmmelish’ because it makes everybody go ‘mmm’ when they taste it,” Nadel said.

The Sunday Market is unique in that it not only brings vendors who sell food, but also vendors who sell crafts. Zaida Matos-Nieves of Minnie’s Artisan Jewelry has sold her jewelry there for the past three years.

“People come back and tell me, ‘I wore your earrings for an occasion, and everyone loved them,’” Matos-Nieves said. “It’s nice to hear things like that. You always have a little hesitation if people are really going to like it or not.” 

Matos-Nieves’ table was so busy recently, she said she wished she had an assistant.

“I named my company after my godmother Minnie, who was a great businesswoman,” Matos-Nieves said. “I thought it would give me some luck.” 

So far, it seems to be working. Over the past few years the Sunday Market has opened, many people expressed happiness to having a community place to hang out, bring their families, and meet new people — all while enjoying fresh food, McLane said. Every week, the market ensures there’s activity for children and families.

Nadel agrees, noting that at their booth, they can see the gathering of both younger and older generations coming together.

“We have old-fashioned wooden oak barrels, and when customers come up, it reminds the older generations of when they were young, reaching into the pickle basket, like Delancey Street in Manhattan,” Nadel said. “For the younger generation, we’re able to teach them about fermentation and probiotics. We’re seeing a huge influx in the younger generation loving the probiotic products, and the health benefits, the freshness of the products.”

But besides the elements of farm fresh foods and the fun the Sunday Market brings, it’s also important the market strives for inclusivity.

“I do my best to recruit and maintain kosher venders as well as people of color and businesses of color,” McLane said. “Those are things to me that I find extremely important — people who are doing things for the kosher community, who have less locally produced options. Small businesses run by people of color is really important in this day and age. We really look to see if we’re supporting businesses, good businesses.”

As the number of vendors increase every year, along with the selection of farm fresh produce and craft vendors, the Sunday Market is growing into a community staple. 

“It’s important to have a farmer’s market in every community, because eating food that has grown as close to your home as possible creates a smaller footprint,” McLane said. “There’s less miles to travel, and you get to meet the farmers and bakers and chefs. It’s a place of people gathering.”

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