For years, Dianna Rose walked by the parking lot of the LIRR station in Laurelton and wondered why there was never a farmers market in the space. In her mind’s eye, Rose saw beautiful white tents filled with vendors selling flowers, produce, and everything in between.
Last year, that vision became a reality when Rose launched the Laurelton Farmers Market, the first Black-run farmers market in Southeast Queens. Now in its second year, the market brings flowers, food, and community to the residential neighborhood.
“Our mission statement is to cultivate community and to be a place where community grows,” Rose explained in an interview this past week. “The Laurelton Farmers market was cultivated because of our community and the lack of access to farm fresh produce and homemade small batch products.
“I love a good farmers market, and I just didn’t understand why Laurleton didn’t have one,” she added.
Rose had the idea to call the railroad directly to see if they would support her dream. She was put in contact with various different departments before finally connecting with someone who supported the idea. The LIRR became an official partner to the project and continues to help it develop.
Simultaneously, Rose worked to pitch the idea to her community by posting about it in The BlaQue Resource Network Facebook Group.
“I said ‘hey, who would like to see a farmers market in Laurelton’ and the response was amazing,” said Rose. “We knew it was gonna be a success. The community had already seen the vision.”
Despite the widespread support, the Laurelton Farmers Market’s inaugural season was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest hurdle we had last year was getting farmers to come to the market,” Rose explained. “Many farmers were already booked at markets or didn’t have the capacity to support additional markets. This year we are proud to say we don’t have that issue.”
The market launched its second season on May 15 with a wide selection of produce, seafood, flowers, meat from an on-site butcher, and handicrafts from various artisans.
“Now people are coming and seeing what they expect,” said Rose. “It has been such a beautiful response and people keep coming back.”
The Laurelton Farmers Market has also found support from many of Queens’ elected officials. Rose thanked State Senator Leroy Comrie for being particularly supportive of the market and for helping to secure the LIRR partnership.
Borough President Donovan Richards and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz are also both supporters and frequent visitors of the market as well.
Rose is confident that the market will help support the local community and business. She is particularly excited by the market’s partnership with Ernest Foods, the first Black-owned organic supermarket in Jamaica.
Ernest Foods is set to open its brick-and-mortar location this summer and has already begun selling produce at the Laurelton market.
Rose also has plans to open two new markets throughout Queens this summer. A market in St. Albans is set to open in June followed by a Queens Village market in July. The new locations will also be in the parking lots of LIRR stations thanks to the partnership.
After the success of the Laurelton Farmers Market, Rose is hopeful that more people will be inspired to take on similar endeavors.
“I’ve had maybe ten people call me since launching the farmers market last year, whether it’s a community group or an individual, who say that they always wanted to do a farmers market. People are unsure and don’t know where to start, so it helps to see that it’s been done before. It’s motivating.”
The Laurelton Farmers Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Laurelton LIRR station. Interested vendors can apply at laureltonfarmersmarket.com.
More information about the market is available on Instagram (@sovereignmarkets) and Facebook (@laureltonfarmersmarket).