Summer arrived six months early on Pine Island. A farmers market—normally regarded as a rite of summer—held its grand opening at the famed Rogowski Farm on January 29. To the surprise of organizers, a thousand winter weary visitors converged on the tiny hamlet. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before along County Route 26.
“We actually had a traffic jam up to the Pine Island traffic light which is about a mile and a half away from here,” farm owner Cheryl Rogowski says. By lunchtime, an employee had to stand in the middle of road to direct traffic away from the farm, because its parking lot was full. Police even turned out to make sure traffic remained under control. “I really didn’t want to say this because it’s been said so much, but if you build it they will come,” laughs market manager Wendy Vandercliff. “It’s really very fitting in this situation.”
The grand opening of the Pine Island Farmers Market was marked with live music and an alpaca shearing demonstration. Fifteen local vendors showcased their products at the market. The event was organized with help from the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce. Organizers say it was held in response to demands from area consumers.
Even though local vegetables won’t be available for several months, Valley residents have been calling for a place to shop for farm products during of winter. “It’s beneficial for both the farmer and the consumer,” Vandercliff says. “Just because produce isn’t available doesn’t mean that people still don’t want honey, syrup or jam.” Since the market turned out to be such a hit, Rogowski and Vandercliff have decided to extend the farmers market at least through April.
Rogowski’s 150 acre farm in the Black Dirt region is already well known for its farm fresh breakfasts. The mouthwatering menu includes fluffy pancakes, organic eggs, and natural bacon. Chef Heather Kurosz prepares your meal right in front of you on a pot belly stove. The Rogowskis also have their own line of prepared foods which are sold under the brand name Black Dirt Gourmet. Among the products being sold under the brand are yogurt, hummus, and cookies.
If you’d like to have dinner down on the farm, the Rogowskis have also begun a supper club. It features five full courses and a 45 minute cocktail hour with live music.
“To me, it seems like a throwback to when you would go to a club and have drinks with friends, then everybody would sit down and have a nice meal,” says Chef Kurosz. So far, six suppers have been held and half of them were sold out. There’s a 48 hour cancellation policy, since the dinners are actually harvested to order, The supper club has a seating capacity which varies with each season. Reservations are recommended. The fixed price is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity.
About 90 percent of the meals here are prepared with food that was picked from the fields that day and are made in a commercial kitchen inside the barn. The farm is not certified organic. That’s because of the expense involved in the certification process, but Rogowski says her farm is managed under organic guidelines. She is a second generation farmer who grows 250 varieties of produce every year. She says she doesn’t use genetically modified seeds or chemical pesticides and her livestock are hormone free.
Rogowski sells her farm products separate from the Pine Island Farmers Market. She says the vendors who turned out for opening day are all high quality vendors from within a 90 mile radius. Now there’s a waiting list of vendors who want to sell there. Soon Rogowski plans to sit down with other organizers to decide the future of the farmers market. If they continued it into the year, they could face considerable competition. There are 11 farmers markets held in Orange County each summer. “We have to make sure we enhance the area’s economic vitality and not impair it,” says Rogowski. “The response we’ve received is gratifying.” For now, the Pine Island Farmers Market will continue to be held on the last Saturday of every month. The next event is planned for March 26. It will include a gardening demonstration, which is sure to please those who’ve been anxious for the arrival of spring.
Sandy Tomcho is a professional writer who lives in Orange County. She has also written for Rhythm and News Magazine and the Times Herald-Record.
Make a day of it around Pine Island
If you’re still looking for more fun things to do after visiting Rogowski Farm in Pine Island, here are some ideas:
- Scenic Farms Golf Course Can’t wait to play golf? The 9-hole executive golf course reopens in the spring as weather permits. There’s also a driving range 525 Glenwood Rd. in Pine Island.
- Warwick Valley Winery Sample some award-winning ciders and enjoy live music at the Warwick Valley Winery. 114 Little York Rd. in Warwick.
- Scheuermann Farms & Greenhouses Ready for spring? This business is closed for the winter and plans to reopen at the end of April, just in time for the planting season. The greenhouse is at 73 Little York Rd. in Warwick.