Standing in scorching temperatures nearly hot enough to cook the vegetables in front of them, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and a host of local officials launched teenager-staffed farm stands they hope will boost local agriculture and encourage healthy eating.
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Wednesday she will seek $100,000 in federal funding for the project, which will have teenagers from Bellport and Roosevelt selling produce on Sundays starting this weekend through the end of October.
The stands - on Montauk Highway in North Bellport and on Nassau Road in Roosevelt - are expected to sell 300 pounds of corn, squash, cabbage, beets, lettuce and other produce each Sunday, according to Sarah Lansdale, executive director of Sustainable Long Island, which is coordinating the program.
Gillibrand said the program will also help fight the region's growing teenage obesity rates.
"They've all promised me they're going to try every vegetable that is sold on the farm stand," she said. "So they're going to learn a lot about nutritious foods as well."
Brandon Jackson, 16, of Roosevelt, said he's excited to be able to learn about eating healthier. He said he's looking forward to trying the zucchini and radishes he'll be selling.
"I'm overweight," he said. "This is a great opportunity for me to learn about new ways to eat. It'll be a great skill and one I can pass along to others."
Kiana Scipp, 16, of Bellport, said the North Bellport farm stand will mean her family won't have to go to Patchogue for fresh vegetables. "We don't have a lot of stores with fresh food near here," she said.
Other politicians on hand included state Sen. Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point), who said he enjoys cooking fresh beets al dente, lightly salted with "a little pepper," and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who said he takes his corn with "a little butter" but no salt.
Gillibrand said she enjoys all vegetables but is a beet novice. "I've never cooked a fresh beet," she said. "That's my challenge this summer."
"I don't eat beets," Bishop said. "Just so you know."