Drizzle or Shine, the Winter Farmers Market goes on

Published 7:34 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Despite the light rain forecast and cold temperature, Suffolk’s Winter Farmers Market saw many locals come out to buy fresh produce and unique goods from participating vendors. From Italian cuisine, coffee supporting veteran mental health, and even soaps and fragrances based on coffee and Fruity Pebbles, the market had a variety of goods for the community.

Nicole Pianezze of La Cucina di Milania participates in the market, selling a variety of fresh Italian cuisine — homemade pasta, marinara sauce and even mozzarella balls. With six years working in the food truck business, Pianezze discussed how her food affects the Suffolk community.

“The way that we feel, because we’re Italian, family is everything. Friends are everything,” said Pianezze at the market. “So most memories are made over good meals and conversations are made over good meals. And so that’s where I feel like that’s an impact.”

Email newsletter signup

Jenn Martinez, wife of the owner of Coffee of Valhalla, is another market vendor. The beans are roasted the day it is shipped to be the freshest coffee it can be.

Martinez discussed the origin of the coffee business and the “passion project” recently started by her husband.

“He served in the Navy for 17-and-a-half years,” Martinez said. “While he was serving, he was always down range in Afghanistan and he never had a good cup of coffee. So he had a friend of his send him a bag that was, he said, ‘The best cup of coffee even though it was just the beans.’”

Martinez said in order for him to grind it, he had to use rocks.

“He ground the beans between two rocks,” she said. “Between all the hair, the dirt and the pebbles from the rocks, he said it was the best cup of coffee he ever had.”

After getting out of the Navy and working a few odd jobs, Martinez’s husband started Coffee of Valhalla. The company takes 50% of the proceeds to donate towards “Stop Soldier Suicide.”

“He’s seen a lot of death, not just in his career, but even afterwards,” Martinez said. “Mental health is very close and near and dear to his heart. So he wants to be able to give back to his veteran community.”

Elizabeth Crawford was at the market selling soap and fragrances from her Lizzie’s Lathers Soap Studio. A former paralegal, Crawford gave up working after having her child. She talked about how she spoke to her husband one night about starting up a soap business.

“And I sat straight up and I looked at my husband and I said ‘I want to make soap’ and it was very weird, it was just this weird thing. And he looked at me and was like ‘…Alright, do it then,’” Crawford humorously reflected. “So, I spent the next couple months really researching because you’re using sodium hydroxide and lye and stuff like that. I started real slow in making lip balms, selling that to get the supply money for the soaping. And then I made my first batch of soap and it was history.”

Crawford discussed how she uses only four ingredients for her main base — shea butter, olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil. After the lye comes in and the colors come through, the fun begins for Crawford.

“It’s mostly just a basic ingredient, so you don’t have a lot of stuff that can flare your skin or do any harm at all,” she explained. “They’re very mild. I also like to get honey from local vendors and farms and I put honey in my soap.”

Brandy Roberts, chief executive officer of Edible Arts by Brandy, shared the story behind the shop she started 10 years ago to raise money for her son as a single mother. 

“Being that I have a graphic design background, I was researching on YouTube and found out that you could do art on cookies. So I self taught myself how to bake cookies, trial and error for a little bit. They were a little ugly,” Roberts said, with a laugh. “I just started doing YouTube videos and learning. It was kind of like I was just doing it part-time because I was still working.”

About two years before the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she went full-time. 

“We started with the cookies, then with COVID, we decided to add something because we couldn’t just have the cookies out,” she said.

With a focus on food within containers during the pandemic, Roberts and her business tried having cake jars. This became a hit with recipes such as strawberry shortcake crunch and lemon crunch. Roberts also brought new additions to the business with drinks such as lavender lemonade and other snack foods that made her sugar cookie business into a “full-blown treat” business. 

Roberts said she enjoys bringing happiness to her customers.

“We love to see the expression on our customers’ faces,” Roberts said. “We want to bring them happiness and joy, and it’s not always about the money with us. It’s just making them satisfied, and I love doing that.”