Get the details on six area markets in Collingswood, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, Merchantville, Oaklyn, and Westmont, including times, locations, vendors, and what’s new for 2016.
By Matt Skoufalos | Photos by Tricia Burrough
Sustainable communities aren’t just those with strong tax bases and good recycling programs; they also program public events that help to build a sense of place and cultural identity. In the Garden State, one of the surest ways to link neighborhoods is through food and a connection to the growers who provide it.
Farm-to-table has become a culinary trend in recent years, but farmer-to-shopper and chef-to-diner relationships take on a face-to-face quality for half the year in these open-air, weekly markets. This year, there are six local downtowns hosting such events from May through October. Here are the details on each of them.
Collingswood Farmers Market
Irvin and North Atlantic Avenues
8 a.m. to 12 noon Saturdays
May 7 – November 19
David Hodges has directed the Collingswood Farmers Market for six of its past 17 seasons, and he is the first to say that he’s “stepped into something that was already working pretty well.”
But after nearly 20 years, the most established of the area farmers markets has evolved from being a direct-sales channel for food growers and their customers into an engine of cultural change.
“If they’re going to really do their job the best they can, [markets] have to react to customers’ changing needs and evolving community expectations,” Hodges said.
Last year, the Collingswood Farmers Market distributed some 900 dog leashes as part of a registration effort to manage the volume of pets that walk through on a weekly basis. This year, the market will take a page from the playbook of the Brigantine Beach Farmers Market, debuting a lending library of reusable totes in an effort to phase out the use of disposable plastic bags.
“Markets can lead civic change in small ways,” he said. “The relationship that the farmers have with the vendors, that is still the driving principle. If we lose sight of that, we’ll be creating something that’s other than a farmers market. But while we’ve got all those like-minded people together, there’s other things we can do as well.”
One of the things Collingswood can’t do is grow any bigger than it is; the stable of growers and vendors maximizes the area beneath PATCO Hi-Speedline track, and new sellers are added infrequently. Some change is inevitable, however, and in 2016, soap vendors Rochelle Rose will be replaced by a rotation of six, new, part-time replacements: Barn and Stone House Soap, Bianca Del Mare Soap, Blueberry Fields Artisan Soap, Blissed Out Mamas, Hercules Beard, and Cindy’s Homemade Natural Soap.
Hodges hasn’t yet found a replacement for his egg vendor, the Williamstown-based Far Wind Farms, which lost a devastating number of its laying hens in a storm last year.
“They can’t make a living on a six-month season,” Hodges said. “That’s how narrow the margins are, and how hard those businesses are to sustain.”
As another nod to its sustainability ethos, the Collingswood Farmers Market will add a set of bike racks at the end of the market closest to the Collingswood Bike Share. Hodges hopes the added lock-up options will encourage more people to ride their bikes to the market. Continuing the wellness theme, a rotation of local body workers will offer chair massages during market hours: Rhiannon Flores-Drennen of Philosopher’s Stone Massage & Wellness; Allison Allen of Beau Monde Hair Design; and Courtney Herrman of Elements Massage.
Another key initiative Hodges will undertake to help the market reach the broadest possible audience this season is the incorporation of magnetic card readers supporting the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program should be fully online by the end of the season, he said.
“It makes fresh food available to people who are entitled to have it, and who may not get it otherwise,” Hodges said. “It’s worth the effort, but it’s going to take some time to get it done.”
Finally, he said the Collingswood Farmers Market will begin a dedicated local food writer outreach this year, welcoming Denine Gorniak (TheBicycle-Chef.com), Donna Hutchinson (MyTastyJourney.com), Patricia DiJulio (SouthJerseyGirlsGrub), Ryan Cochrane (IMadeAFood.wordpress.com), and Susan Mauer Lynch (NaturallyLowCarb.com). The writers will offer recipes and simple food preparation techniques to help market-goers feel more confident in having a game plan for their ingredients.
Even if Hodges is running the biggest game in town, he keeps in contact with the directors of the neighboring markets; after all, he said, collaboration and exchange of ideas is what keeps them evolving.
“We can learn from each other,” Hodges said. “I think every town could have its own, if not purely farmers market, its own local business event, at which locally grown food could be an important component. There’s no reason not to.”
Haddonfield Farmers Market
Kings Court, Haddonfield
8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays
May 14 – October 29
The Haddonfield Farmers Market turns 10 this season, and for eight of those years, coordinator Ralph Ciallella has been at its helm.
From its downtown location in the Kings Court public square, the market differentiates itself from its neighbors by serving as a sort of incubator for food businesses looking to test the waters of a larger commercial venture.
“We’re really trying to help that vendor come into business,” Ciallella said. “We have affluent customers; they’re a little pickier, they take a little more time to find a vendor, but once they find you, they come back.”
The Kings Court location also contains a gazebo, which serves as a musical pavilion during market hours; Ciallella says the courtyard atmosphere is another draw for customers who come to visit the market for the social experience.
“I’ve seen more people in the last five years in the market than I had seen in the previous five years because my kids and their kids had gone on their own way,” he said. “The connection to the community is the biggest benefit to a farmers market. It’s that place where people meet, and it will always be.”
Haddon Heights Farmers Market
Atlantic and Station Avenues
9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays
May 1 until October 30
For the Haddon Heights Farmers Market, “five years is the charm,” said coordinator Joe Gentile. What began as a proof-of-concept project in 2011 has become a staple event in the borough, having outgrown its original sidewalk location ringing PNC Bank.
This year, the borough will close half of East Atlantic Avenue north of Station and situate the market in the roadway. For Gentile, it’s an indication that its customer base is strong enough to demand a bigger stage.
“I’m just happy that we’ve made it this far,” he said. “When you’re five years in, I think that’s a calling card saying this is going to work. It definitely takes time to get that justification for shutting down a street every single week for the duration of the market.
“People show up,” he said. “They’re shoppers; they’re not tire-kickers. Vendors are making money, or they wouldn’t come back.”
With later hours and a Sunday timeslot, the Haddon Heights Farmers Market is the last call for the weekend’s markets. Its mix of farmers, food vendors, and artisans satisfies a variety of interests, but in 2016, Gentile said organizers are concentrating on “what we envision the market being.” Gentile has taken his cue from his fellow market coordinators like Ciallella, Hodges, and Doug Kelly, and keeps in contact with them as he looks to shape the future of his own enterprise.
“It’s always nice to know that there’s a guy you can reach out to and get an answer from,” he said. “I strive to be on that same platform; they’re paving the way.”
- Haynicz Orchard View Farms
- Sara’s Produce
- Spino Family Farms
- Summer Wind Farms (CSA and fruit share also offers Wednesday pick-up from 3-7 p.m. at Local Links)
- Vierek Farms
- Charlie’s Chips
- Charlie’s Crepes
- Day Boat Scallops, tuna, swordfish (biweekly)
- Fandessa Gourmet Bakery
- Katie’s Irish Shortbread
- Marie Bee Cake Pops
- Nana’s Secret Mediterranean Food
- Potato Homestead aka Taproots
- Preservation Provisions
- Sweetie Pie Boom Boom Bakery of Barrington
- Tis So Sweet of Haddon Heights
- Barn and Stone Hand Soap
- Bee-lieve It Honey
- Daisy Lady Florals
- Imagine Studios / Marina Westfield
- Kastania Olive Oil
- LilyKat Designs
- Neil’s Sharpening Service
- Philly Art 2 Wear
- Philosopher’s Stone Massage
- Recovery Creations – upcycled jewelry
- Victoria’s Baskets
- Willow Moon Candles
Merchantville Market Off Centre
Chestnut Avnue and Centre Street
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays
June 4 – October 29
The Merchantville Market Off-Centre is a title that orients visitors as much to its address as to its intention. Running on a shortened season (June through October) and with a mix of arts and food vendors, the Saturday morning market is still finding its footing after a handful of years.
“It’s trying to hit that tipping point to get that right mix of vendors that the public will come out for, and trying to get the people to come out,” said coordinator Ryan Middleton.
“Our objective is to just keep growing and be sustainable.”
Middleton has shepherded the market through some changes in the past three years, and for 2016 hopes to continue to push the downtown market scene further towards that goal of sustainability. In the shadow of The Station café and arts studio, the Market Off Centre pairs live music and food with a handful of programmed events including a chili cook-off, Christmas-themed summer market, and a Halloween festival. Its opening day coordinates with the Merchantville anniversary celebration, which is built around birthday activities for kids.
“We try to bring out a draw for people,” Middleton said, adding that the vibe of the market is “a lot more low-key” than some others, with easy access via the borough multi-use path and plenty of parking. Goods and service vendors are sourced from among local businesses that focus on handmade and homemade products. For this season, Middleton is adding a larger list of farmers and prepared food vendors, and he’s still taking applications.
“I’m reaching out more to the region,” he said. “I want it to be sustainable; I want people to come and support it. It is competitive.”
Merchantville Market Events
- June 4 – Birthday Celebration
- July 9 – Storybook Day
- July 16 – Christmas in July
- Oct 8 – Chili Cook-Off
- Oct 29 – Halloween Fest
Farmers and Food Vendors
- Avallone Tomatoes
- Balic Winery
- D&V Organics, LLC
- In My Grandmother’s Kitchen
- Mary’s Mobile Diner
- Mill Creek Apiary
- Our Yards Farm
- Paradise Farms
- August Inspiration Creations
- Clark Family Breast Cancer Services
- Evelyn Taylor Designs
- Fox & Feline
- JerSea Glass Treasures
- Lisa Marks Designs
- Paver Pals
- Pretty Patina Photography
- Sleepy Cat Jewelry
- Sugar Scrubs by Katie
- Cards by Bad Ballerinas
- Totall Envolvement Inc.
- Twisted by Krista
Oaklyn Final Fridays Farmers and Food Trucks
West Clinton Ave. & Kendall Blvd.
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
June 24, July 29, August 26, September 30
The Oaklyn downtown is seeing some big changes this year, as the borough government works to redevelop the vacant Terminal Vending lot, bring Tonewood Brewery and the Manor Bar back online, and generally reignite the renaissance of its neighborhood community.
Mayor Robert Forbes had previously identified an expanded calendar of community events as a goal for the health of his downtown, and a handful of borough organizers are working to bring online a market series they’re calling Final Fridays Farmers and Food Trucks.
Common Grounds co-owner Debbie Forbes, Katie Labine of Tonewood Brewing, and local organizer Paula Yudkowitz have volunteered to recruit vendors for the event, which will be built around a handful of farms, a larger number of food carts, and should plug into the West Clinton Avenue business district.
“We were starting the farmers market and dragging our feet because it just didn’t feel complete,” said Debbie Forbes. “I think it’ll bring more people to the downtown.”
The trio started with a list of 25 potential vendors, including Philadelphia mainstays like The Whirly Pig, Dump N Roll, and Foolish Waffles. They hope that the additional foot traffic from the events will create new opportunities for the established food businesses on the block as well as showcasing its opportunity to future potential tenants.
“Hopefully people will see it and see that it’s up and coming, and consider bringing more walk-up businesses here,” Debbie Forbes said. “[Oaklyn is] friendly on a smaller scale, but we’re a really tight community. Everybody seems to have each other’s back, and you’ve got a lot of great volunteers that help with these types of community projects.”
Westmont Farmers Market
Stratford and Haddon Avenues
4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays
May 4 – Oct. 26
In its eighth year, the story of the Westmont Farmers Market is its great retention, says coordinator Doug Kelly. For 26 weeks out of the year, Kelly packs in 23 vendors in the street outside his Stratford Avenue home and business in Haddon Township.
Guests enjoy the mid-week opportunity to stock up on farm-fresh vegetables, but the success of this market is built around its prepared foods and dinnertime hours.
“The business has been so incredible the last couple years,” Kelly said. “There’s so many choices for dinner. You can’t not find something to eat.”
The connection between food and farmers in Westmont helps underscore the seasonal nature of eating. For Kelly, the experience has taught him to be a locavore, eating what’s grown in the agricultural zone in which he lives as it is harvested. The market takes the guesswork out of meal planning; it’s also given him an appreciation for the fleeting beauty of those flavors during the three or four weeks in which they peak.
“Nothing tastes as good as the day you get it from a market,” Kelly said. “And that’s the crossover into why we have so many food vendors. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat for dinner; just come to the market and then decide, because everything that’s being made is being made with seasonal ingredients.”
Situated halfway between the Westmont and Collingswood Speedline stations, the crowds at Westmont comprise visitors from as far away as Philadelphia, who visit for what is essentially a weekly gourmet street fair. Locals enjoy it as much as a social gathering as a mealtime. In eight years, Kelly has set the scene by stringing lights between the buildings on either side of the alley, setting up dining tents, and hiring weekly musical guests. The intimacy of the venue “with people walking where cars normally go” offers “this temporary time when we can gather in the street,” he said.
As much as the market celebrates the community of Kelly’s Westmont hometown, it has its own internal, self-sustaining community, too. Vendor fees cover the costs of live entertainment and of the attendants who set the market up and break it down; the vendors often send their helpers home with something to eat for their effort as well.
“Because it’s our eighth year, everyone is so friendly with one another,” Kelly said. “Everybody ends up being this family.”
- Haynicz’s Orchard View Farm
- Robson’s Farm
- Spino Family Farm
- Viereck Farm
- Anita’s Guacamole
- Camden County Library
- Charlie’s Crepes Food Truck
- Constellation Collective
- Fandessa Gourmet Baked Goods
- Farm & Fisherman Tavern
- Heart Beet Kitchen
- Hotdog Man
- Kevin’s Salad Station
- Mary’s Mobile Diner
- Mill Creek Apiary
- Nanna’s Secret
- Neil’s Sharpening Service
- Preservation Hand-Crafted Foods
- Revolution Coffee Roasters
- Royal Mile Coffee Roasters
- Severino Pasta
- Silver Spoon Catering
- South Jersey Mobile Café
- The Square Meal
- Surf and Turf Truck
- Sweet Pea Homemade Ice Cream
Get more local news that matters. Check out NJ Pen on Facebook and Twitter, or click here to become a supporter.