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Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market

Linda Johnson presents a check to support Stony Brook Cancer Center to registered dietitian Jennifer Fitzgibbon. Photo by Terri Quinn

By Susan Risoli

Thanks to Linda Johnson, the Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market has become a place of healthy healing, not only through its fresh produce but because of the fellowship and friendship it offers. For her hard work and dedication to reinventing the market, TBR News Media names Johnson one of the People of the Year.

Linda Johnson helps a customer at the Three Village Market. Photo by Terri Quinn

The Three Village Market — as it is colloquially known — sets up shop on the North Country Road grounds of the Three Village Historical Society. This year Johnson stepped up to manage it and ran the event every Friday from June through October. She is scheduled to manage it again in 2019.

Those who shopped at the market say Johnson infused it with the same spirit that flavors her family-run chocolate business, Chocology Unlimited in Stony Brook.

“Linda’s business is about the whole experience of chocolate, and philanthropy, and building relationships in the community,” said Sandy White, Three Village Historical Society office manager.

Johnson turned the market into an opportunity to support survivorship programs at the Stony Brook Cancer Center. She also made it a relaxed gathering spot, where neighbors brought their dogs and kids and enjoyed live music.

The Three Village Market features locally grown and crafted wares, with an emphasis on the freshest of foods. Jennifer Fitzgibbon, a Cancer Center registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition, found the market to be an ally in educating her patients and raising funds to support the Cancer Center. She said Johnson donated a percentage of sales from the farmers market, as well as a percentage of sales from her chocolate business, to purchase exercise equipment and yoga mats for cancer patients and survivors to use.

As part of the Cancer Center’s Healthy Forks program, Fitzgibbon takes people to grocery stores to show them how to shop healthy without spending a lot of money. So taking them on tours of the Three Village Market was a great addition to Healthy Forks, she said. Fitzgibbon said she and her patients appreciated Johnson’s efforts to establish “an uplifting and beautiful experience. It’s just a healthy atmosphere.”

For one vendor, working with Johnson turned into a homecoming. Ann Marie’s Farm Stand, a beloved Three Village mainstay, was for many years headquartered right up the road from the farmers market. Although they’re doing well at their new location in Port Jefferson Station, many in the Three Village community mourned their absence. So Johnson brought Ann Marie’s back, by inviting them to sell their produce at the market every week.

“She was sort of our guardian angel,” said Ann Marie’s owner Mary Ann Deriso. “We saw our old customers again, and that was great for us.”

“She has a lot of positive energy. She always has so many ideas.”

— Jennifer Fitzgibbon

Deriso praised Johnson’s people skills.

“It’s not easy positioning the vendors in their spots and making them happy where they are,” Deriso said. “She’s very good at it. She made us all feel comfortable and welcome.”

Above all, “Linda is down to earth,” Deriso said. “She’s likable and real.”

Fitzgibbon said Johnson created a diverse marketplace that was more than just vegetables.

“She has a lot of positive energy,” Fitzgibbon said. “She always has so many ideas.”

The nutritionist said one example was “at the market there was a bread person, a gluten-free dessert person, a pasta vendor and even a lady who knits.”

Fitzgibbon called Johnson “the heart and the soul and the nucleus of the farmers market.”

Besides setting up the vendor tables every week, “she was literally going through the neighborhood, getting people to come over there and shop.”

White said Johnson put together a farmers market that filled a void.

“Yes, there are other farmers markets in other areas, but we needed one here,” she said. “The market is successful, and we’re happy that Linda took it over.”

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A customer checks out the variety of salsas at the Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market in East Setauket. Photo from Linda Johnson

Visitors to the farmers market on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society every Friday afternoon will discover new things this year, including a mission to help out a good cause.

The East Setauket Farmers Market has now been named the Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market, or nicknamed Three Village Market for short. Linda Johnson, owner of Chocology Unlimited and market manager, said the new name reflects the growing participation of vendors from across the Three Village area and the artisans, musicians and other makers on hand every week. This year, the market aims to raise money with various fundraisers throughout the season for Stony Brook Cancer Center, specifically the Healthy Forks and Move to Heal Survivorship series.

Attendees at a recent Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market visit the different tents on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society. Photo from Linda Johnson

“We want to make the market more of a gathering place and at the same time give back to the community,” Johnson said.

The business owner said it made sense to partner with the cancer center’s program.

“It’s all about nutrition and eating healthy, and how people can eat healthy but also not spend a lot of money,” she said.

Jennifer Fitzgibbon, Stony Brook Cancer Center’s oncology nutritionist and the Healthy Forks program coordinator, said she was pleased when she heard the farmers market’s fundraisers would benefit the program.

“I am a firm believer in the addition of fresh produce and what the market features, so the fact that we’re going to be working together, I’m so excited about it,” Fitzgibbon said.

The nutritionist says she takes participants in the program to grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s, to show them how to make healthier choices while eating
affordably, and she plans to take them to the Three Village Market this year.

“I love going there,” she said. “I just think it’s such a beautiful climate. You go there and everyone is so friendly, and every little spot you look at — for example, the organic herbs and the pepper hot sauce — you can really get a nutritional sense from every little piece.”

Fitzgibbon said farmers markets offer fresher, more seasonal products, which means adding a better variety of nutrients to diets. She suggests eating five to eight servings of low-glycemic plant foods a day.

“I just think it’s such a beautiful climate. You go there and everyone is so friendly, and every little spot you look at — for example the organic herbs and the pepper hot sauce — you can really get a nutritional sense from every little piece.”

— Jennifer Fitzgibbon

As she works in conjunction with physical therapist Denise Dahlgren, the funds raised at the Three Village Market will go toward exercise equipment, including yoga mats and pedometers for participants in the Healthy Forks series.

Linda Bily, director of cancer patient advocacy and community outreach at Stony Brook Medicine, said the hospital always welcomes donations from the community. She said patients have received items
including cards from Scouts and hats knitted by senior citizens. One patient who received both a hat and a card was inspired to ask her company to create bags for cancer patients that were filled with hand sanitizers, tissues, lip balm and more.

“It’s hard for someone that isn’t going through cancer treatments to understand the value of these small, comforting things that say, ‘Hey, I got your back. Someone is looking out for you,’” Bily said.

Johnson said the market almost didn’t come together this year. She decided to help manage the market and reached out to the owners of Ann Marie’s Farmstand of Port Jefferson Station. They were the first to agree to be part of the new market and other businesses quickly joined the list of vendors.

The market opened June 1, and Johnson said each week more people are stopping by. She said there is also a tent where children can make crafts and listen to authors read their books.

“People have been very happy, which is really nice to see,” she said. “They’re liking what they’re seeing and feeling.”

The Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market is open every Friday until Oct. 26 from 3 to 7 p.m. It is located at 93 N. County Road in Setauket.