Back in March of 2008, I had this crazy idea to get a Farmer's Market going in the City of Long Beach. My motivation was mostly personal. Since moving back home, I noticed that there was no access to farm-fresh, local food in my community, which I had become accustomed to eating. Well, the market turned out to be more successful than I could have imagined, so I started another project in Long Beach. I began working at the NIKE Alternative High School teaching at-risk kids about growing food, healthy eating, and business management by selling products at the Kennedy Plaza Farmer's Market. And at the end of that year I thought, "we should really make this a non-for-profit." People seemed to like what we were doing and thought it was a just cause. But word in the industry was that Farmers Market organizations do not receive exempt status on their own from the IRS. It was "simply unheard of, and you shouldn't really waste your time applying."
In the meantime, I kept myself busy. We branched out to Western Suffolk County, adding Kings Park and Nesconset Markets, and began partnering with many Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, and Civic Organizations across Nassau County. I've worked many projects: alongside the Northwell Health System, farming the roof of Stonybrook University Medical Center, installing community gardens in several communities with Sustainable LI. I've received Smart Growth Awards from Vision LI and helped to produce three public conferences on small farm initiatives. My latest project is working for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County managing the Taste NY Marketplace, a brand conceived and managed by the Executive Chamber of NY State. Heck, I even got to meet the Governor! Crazy, right?
Finally, in the late spring of 2016, with the clock ticking and time running out for LI Greenmarket to apply for the coveted 501(c)3 status, I thought, "Well, now it's do or die. I've put this thing off long enough." We sent in the required documents and answered every inquiry - providing all the forms, contracts and letters of support we could muster, and we were told that, "you sure are providing a great deal of educational programming, but the marketing piece is just not something the IRS will validate and grant exemption for. Your application will not be approved." They asked if I had anything else to submit, so we submitted the contract for the Farmers Market at the newly built LI Welcome Center. And then we heard- nothing. Needless to say, I was feeling very defeated.
Earlier this month I noticed a letter from the IRS and I thought, "This is it. The LI Greenmarket's official denial letter." So I reluctantly opened it. Low and behold, through some divine miracle or grace, we were granted official 501 (c)3 status on February 28, 2017! I don't know for sure, but we may even be the first market organization to receive this award on our own, without a sponsoring agent.
I am so grateful to all of you who have supported us all these years. I can honestly say that I've kept this moving forward because I believe in the farmers and local food producers, with all my heart. We will not achieve health in our communities until we have access to fresh, local and healthy food for each and every member.
Special thanks go out to Santos Valenza for supporting my dream of local food and making it possible, the Honorable Legislator Denise Ford for help getting me started, Georgia LoPresti Meckes for taking the wheel, Marcia Mule, Howard Fuches and Terry Young at the NIKE School, our amazing Board of Directors: Janet Slavin, Brian Berkery, Karen Adamo, Joey Naham, and Hal Moldauer. Thank you to
Linda, Aly & Sean of the KP Civic, Nancy Copperman at Northwell Health for the great opportunities, the City of Long Beach, Nathan Sukonik, Dana Youkalis, Erica Ascher and all the LIU Post and NIKE interns for their time and dedication. Lastly, thanks to my Dad for letting me get my hands in the dirt as a young gardener and for my Mom who always let me know that I had a one track mind.
It's a big victory for a little outfit - Let's keep doing great things together!!