The Ecological Cultural Initiative will be holding their annual Holiday Maker’s Market starting Saturday December 10th. The market will be held for two weekends in a row, December 10-11 and December 17-18 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at St. Joseph Villa in Hampton Bays.
The Maker’s Market is a great opportunity to shop from and support local craftspeople and entrepreneurs in the community. It’s also a way for the community to learn more about ECI’s mission while partaking in holiday fun and shopping!
Rachel Stephens, president and agro-ecology director of ECI, spoke more about the mission, how the community can get involved, and what makes the Maker’s Market special.
Eci’s mission statement is: The Ecological Culture Initiative fosters a resilient, ecology-based coastal community through advocacy and education in sustainable food production, wellness, and environmental stewardship.
Rachel says, “We have many initiatives and volunteer opportunities for community members to get involved in. We currently have a crew of over 20 volunteers who work tirelessly in our teaching garden, stocking and managing the seed library, collecting food waste to add to our composting program, creating and serving farm to table dinners, managing a farmers’ market and other events and working with the staff members who organize and oversee this great not-for-profit organization.”
Aside from volunteering, ECI also has sponsorship and membership opportunities. Membership is $5 a month or $50 a year, and members receive invitations to farm-to-table dinners and other onsite events, participate in tours of the gardens and workshops, and participate in the community composting program.
The Holiday Maker’s Market is just one of the great events that ECI holds throughout the year, and one of the aspects that makes it so special is the location. Rachel spoke about ECI’s location and what went into the Good Ground Heritage Garden. She says, “The Good Ground Heritage Garden is located on the grounds of the St Joseph Villa in Hampton Bays thanks to the generosity of Sister Kerry Handal, the manager of the Villa and ECI’s secretary, and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The garden was created and is currently run by a large crew of volunteers and ECI’s garden manager Maribeth Fuchs.” Rachel went on to say, “The goal of the garden is to teach community members how to grow vegetables using organic, earth friendly practices. All of the produce, which includes an abundance of heirloom variety tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, garlic, lettuces and other greens, cabbages, sweet potatoes and more, grown in the garden is donated to the St. Rosalie’s food pantry and used in our farm-to-table dinners. The garden also provides seeds which are saved and added to the free seed library which is housed inside the Hampton Bays Public Library. We hope that we can provide all of the tools needed for community members to feel confident in the ability to grow their own healthy food and to also provide it to those who are experiencing tough times. Thanks to a generous donation by the Michael and Annie Falk Foundation we’ve recently purchased and erected a beautiful glass greenhouse which has impacted our teaching ability tremendously. The greenhouse now allows us to get a jump start on the season, starting all of the plants from seed.”
Among other programs and initiatives that ECI fosters throughout the year is their composting program as part of a zero-waste initiative. Rachel explained how the program works, saying, “Community members bring (or arrange pick up) their kitchen scraps to a composting area near the garden that is, by the help of ECI’s ‘Compost King’ and resource director Tony Romano, turned into a rich ‘black gold’ compost. This program diverts thousands of pounds of food waste from the landfills and into home gardens as nutrient compost. Members can choose to pick up a bucket of the finished product to be used in their own home gardens or they may donate it back to the Good Ground Heritage Garden. Besides, community members, ECI has partnered with the East End Food Institute whose kitchen provides thousands of pounds of scraps through their productions.”
Some of ECI’s most popular events are their farm-to-table dinners, which are held four times a year and feature plant-based meals created by area chefs such as the very talented Chef Robyn Hendersen, using locally grown produce. Rachel says, “We celebrate together often on the grounds of the St. Joseph Villa overlooking the Shinnecock Bay. The dinners are held on the solstices and equinoxes under the moon; the perfect time and setting to celebrate good, local, clean food while accompanied by live entertainment and guest speakers. Our upcoming Winter Solstice Dinner with be held at a different venue this year. Manna, formerly the Lobster Inn, will host the dinner, focusing on locally grown produce with a new option of locally caught seafood.”
The Hamptons community has helped ECI with their mission since they began and has contributed to all the success and positive environmental impact. The upcoming Maker’s Market is another fun event to do just that and provide the opportunity to shop local and support small businesses. Rachel says, “The idea to shop local values the hard work and hand craftmanship over spending on lower quality items found in big box stores. We hope to encourage community members to support their neighbors by purchasing beautifully crafted items.”
The market this year will feature handknitted items, baked goods, jams and jellies, honey, reusable bags, wreaths and table arrangements, cutting boards, soaps and scrubs, jewelry, dog treats, health and beauty products, silk and wool felted scarves, indigenous handcrafts, herbal teas and tonics, and so much more. Santa will also be making a visit and waiting in the greenhouse for professional photos provided by Kristen Asher Photography on Sunday, December 11th and Sunday, December 18th during the hours of 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. On Saturday the 17th at 11:00 am the Sweet Adelines will be singing and spreading some holiday cheer! Hot cocoa and a petting zoo will also be among some of this year’s enjoyment.
For more information about the upcoming Maker’s Market and vendors participating, ECI’s other events and programs, and how to get involved, visit https://eciny.org.