NJ Pen 2017 Farmers Market Preview


A look ahead at what the six seasonal markets in suburban Camden County—Collingswood, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, Westmont, Merchantville, and Oaklyn—will offer for the coming season.

By Matt Skoufalos | May 1, 2017

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 Camden County, one of the surest ways to link neighborhoods is through food and a connection to the growers who provide it.

Local farmers markets thrive on social connections, building relationships that aren’t only farm-to-table, but farmer-to-shopper and chef-to-diner. From Wednesday through Sunday, May to October, there are at least three per week, and sometimes more. Here’s what they’ll be doing this season.

From left: NJ Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher, Westmont Farmers Market Coordinator Doug Kelly, and NJ Commissioner of Health Cathleen Bennett. Credit: Tricia Burrough.

Westmont Farmers Market

Stratford and Haddon Avenues
4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays
May 3 – Oct. 25

“So when’s the market open?”

Year round, it’s the question that Westmont Farmers Market coordinator Doug Kelly is asked more than any other.

For the first time in 2017, this week he gets to say, “Wednesday.”

In its ninth year, the weekly Westmont Farmers Market has become not just a social event in its own right, but a generator of community programming downtown Haddon Township. Friends and neighbors still flock to the intersection of Haddon and Stratford Avenues for the 25-vendor night market, but now Kelly has his sights set farther along the block for 2017.

With the first pop-up event at the vacant lot on the corner of East Albertson and Haddon Avenues drawing hundreds of attendees last weekend, he feels the stage has been set for the township to expand its calendar of public offerings.

“It’s a lifestyle that maybe left a lot of communities when sprawl happened,” Kelly said.

Last year was a high-water mark for the Westmont Farmers Market, when state representatives visited to issue a proclamation about its local influence on agriculture, nutrition, and business. It was a far cry, Kelly said, from “the days when there were 11 vendors, and we would sometimes joke that you can hear the crickets.”

Today, his concerns are about how to keep the market a sustainable enterprise for years to come.

Credit: Westmont Farmers Market.

“Creating events in the downtown has been beneficial in so many ways,” Kelly said.

“People want to move to towns that are having events.”

With so many years in the rearview mirror, the market won’t have too many surprises for 2017, he said.

Prepared foods and take-and-go dinners will be vended from five food trucks, which for the first time this year includes the SoHa Arts Building’s Kitchen Crewser.

Longtime participants Haynicz Orchard View Farm, Robson’s Farm, Spino Family Farms, and Viereck Farms will all return. The Flower Peddler of Bridgeton is a new addition, as is neighboring Rocket Fizz soda shop, which will vend fountain sodas and floats. The entire evening is BYOB, set to live music, and beneath a weave of overhead string lights.

Perhaps most importantly, Kelly said he believes the market best embodies the township slogan (“Where Community Thrives”), which is why he doesn’t tire of answering, “When’s the market open?”

“It makes me proud that other people count on it,” he said.

Collingswood commissioners cut the ribbon on a prior year market opening. Credit: Tricia Burrough.

Collingswood Farmers Market

Irvin and North Atlantic Avenues
8 a.m. to 12 noon Saturdays
May 6 – November 19

Entering its 18th year, the Collingswood Farmers Market is set to return Saturday, May 6, “with our usual dependable lineup of quality vendors,” said market coordinator David Hodges.

Still the largest and longest-running outdoor market in the area, it fills the parking lot beneath the PATCO Speedline station at Irvin and North Atlantic Avenues for about the length of a municipal block. Musicians perform at either end of the market, which is built around a stable of local farmers and prepared foods made from the Jersey Fresh produce they sell.

“We go way out of our way to make sure that we encourage vendors to come to the market who are in some way encouraging and promoting, as we do, Jersey Fresh produce,” Hodges said.

Charlie’s Crepes uses ingredients from Springdale Farms, and Dan-Lyn Organic, and Savoie Organics, and Schroeber’s Orchards,” he said. “Garden State Juice Company has been accepted to the market because of their willingness to buy their produce from Flaim and Farmisano. Wecherly’s Ice Cream buys their blueberries and fruit and a lot of herbs at the market.”

Directional signs. Credit: Collingswood Farmers Market.

New to the market for 2017 are pastry makers Flour and Oats, Inspired Brews kombucha, and bison meat vendors Buck Wild.

Nature’s Own Farms, which last year replaced egg vendors Far Wind Farms, will be bringing an upgraded rig on a trailer with a commissary awning, selling heritage pork, and pasture-raised beef and chicken.

Absent from the market this year is Collingswood’s DiBartolo Bakery, which Hodges said “is taking a season off,” to be replaced by its Haddon Avenue neighbor, Dulce, the rear entrance of which faces the market.

Hodges also provided updates on a pair of market initiatives begun last year but which have not yet been fully implemented. The first is a plan to allow market vendors to process EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) payments, which he said was being completed with the assistance of state regulatory agencies.

“They’re eager to have us take part in the program,” Hodges said. “For the market, it opens up the availability of Jersey Fresh produce to an entirely new and completely deserving population we haven’t yet served very well.”

Last year, the Collingswood Farmers Market began working to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags by building a lending library of reusable bags and selling t-shirt bags. This year, Hodges said vendors will ask shoppers if they have their own bags instead of automatically offering them plastic ones.

Collingswood Farmers Market Lending Library bag. Credit: Tricia Burrough.

“Our goal is to discourage that reflex dispensing of throwaway plastic bags on the vendor side,” he said.

“If we can break that habit of automatically putting stuff in bags and make it a negative option instead of a positive option, I think that’ll help us break that habit.”

Hodges said he’s also in talks with banking sponsors to bring “a very convenient ATM on or near the premises of the market” sometime this year.

“There’s plenty of vendors who take credit cards, and they all accept cash, but at the moment, there’s no other way to grab some quick cash at the market,” he said.

Haddonfield Farmers Market Coordinator Ralph Ciallella (second from left) and friends. Credit: Haddonfield Farmers Market.

Haddonfield Farmers Market

Kings Court, Haddonfield
8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays
May 20 – October 28

The Saturday morning Haddonfield farmers market kicks off its 2017 season with a critical new sponsor: the local business improvement district (BID), Partnership for Haddonfield (PfH).

Market Coordinator Ralph Ciallella said the BID endorsement reflects the integration of the farmers market with the greater downtown business community as it marks its fifth season in the Kings Court public square on Kings Highway.

“The town’s bringing itself together,” he said, “uniting the separate 501c4 that we have with the committee members who are involved in the town. Bringing together all the groups is the key.”

Ciallella said PfH sponsorship supports the farmers market with shared marketing responsibilities, and helps clear the way for an expansion of vendors along the Kings Highway sidewalks. That outgrowth creates more of a visual entranceway that Ciallella said should lure in more shoppers from the borough downtown. It’ll also lead to Kings Court business owners coordinating their weekend hours with those of the market. BID retailers will also be offered use of a pop-up spot in the market as part of the agreement.

Credit: Haddonfield Farmers Market.

“We’re discussing going out into the highway a little bit, opening up the sidewalk,” Ciallella said.

“That way you’re visibly more geared towards the town.

“[We’ll have] music in the gazebo, an entrance on the sidewalk, and the Kings Court vendors are happy because they can open up earlier.”

Ciallella said the Hadddonfield market is focusing on produce by adding three new farm vendors for 2017, bringing its total up to seven.

Certified organic vendor Waking Earth Farms is among them; Buck Wild bison, which is also participating in the Collingswood market, is another. Haddonfield restaurant Two Fish will offer vacuum-sealed fresh fish, and Ciallalla said other eateries in the borough may follow suit with preserved and prepared foods.

“We just want people to come in and enjoy the town and get their produce,” he said. “Haddonfield’s a sleepy town on Saturday. We bring a vibe to Saturday morning in town that we never had before.”

Haddon Heights Farmers Market. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Haddon Heights Farmers Market

Atlantic and Station Avenues
9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays
May 7 – October 29

For six years, the Haddon Heights Farmers Market has remained the final holdout for shoppers looking to grab farmstand produce and prepared foods before the week’s end.

Market coordinator Joe Gentile said he’s working to cultivate a Sunday-morning vibe that will allow guests to ease into the upcoming week with live music, themed programming, and prepared foods.

“I want this to be a place where people get their grocery shopping done,” Gentile said. “Walk around, enjoy, take your time. We’ve got everything you need.”

Casual strollers are a welcome change for a business district that used to be mostly dark on Sundays. Gentile, who co-founded the Haddon Heights in Progress (HIP) business association and whose Local Links café anchors the farmers market, said the neighborhood is responding to the extra foot traffic.

“Six years ago, nothing was open on Sundays,” Gentile said. “Now when the market comes around, people change their hours.

Haddon Heights in Progress cofounder Joe Gentile stands outside a mobile billboard vendor advertising Rhythm & Brews 2017. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“The expectations that people have of our organization have grown,” he said. “I think the farmers market is a foundational piece.”

To that end, Gentile said the 2017 market will revolve around the theme, “What’s in Season,” with food specials and activities for children rotating on a weekly basis with incoming crops.

In addition to fresh seasonal produce from newcomers Bill Farms of Monroeville and Full Circle Farmers of Franklinville, more than 30 Haddon Heights market vendors are offering prepared foods and household goods.

New among them for 2017 are soy candle vendor Wicked Expressions, chocolatier Cucina Confections, and Valenti’s Prepared Pasta. The Flower Peddler, who’s also appearing at the Westmont and Merchantville markets, will make the rounds in Haddon Heights, too.

“We’re making it a priority to offer what you need at the market, so please make it a point to shop, walk, and eat with us,” Gentile said. “There’s always something different going on.”

Merchantville Market Off-Centre. Credit: Merchantville Market Off-Centre.

Merchantville Market Off-Centre

Chestnut Avenue and Centre Street
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays
June 3 – October 25

Downtown redevelopment remains a focus for the Merchantville government in 2017, and at the heart of its renaissance is the faint but steady pulse of the five-month run of the Market Off-Centre.

Continuing to gain steam under the coordination of market director Ryan Middleton, the market is building its Saturday calendar around weekly themed events.

“I stepped in to run this thing because I love that my family can walk and buy fresh produce,” Middleton said. “Kids are running and playing; it’s such a community atmosphere.”

Every year, things kick off with the Merchantville town-wide birthday celebration (this year, it’s June 3) and close with a Halloween party (this year, as in 2016, it will coincide with the borough’s Monsterville makeover). In the intervening weeks, organizers are planning a number of family-focused activities, from classic car shows to health and fitness programming to a chili cook-off.

Middleton said his primary focus is to not only capture interest in the market and its vendors, but also to help direct that attention throughout the rest of the borough downtown.

“I want people to feel that they can come and be invested and have that moment of interaction with the local groups,” he said. “When people come from outside of town, I want them to stay in town. It’s a destination to support the other businesses that are here.”

Merchantville becomes Monsterville at the Market Off-Centre. Credit: Kitdz Shotz photography.

The calendar of events helps to highlight the market focus on community activities, Middleton said, but the market itself features local, handmade, and homemade goods.

Situated outside The Station Café on Centre Street, Mat and Nicole Eiland’s coffee-and-arts hub provides two musical acts weekly.

Nearby Eclipse Brewing is expected to offer earlier weekend hours during the season at its nanobrewery taproom, and local eateries Park Place Café and The Juice Bar will make appearances.

New to the market for 2017 is Pink Moon Farm of Mickleton, which joins the long-running Katt Paradise Farm of Moorestown as the Market Off-Centre fresh produce vendors.

2017 poster for Oaklyn Final Fridays. Credit: Falco Media Services.

Oaklyn Final Fridays Farmers and Food Trucks

West Clinton Ave. & Kendall Blvd.
4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
June 30, July 28, August 25, September 29, October 27

In its inaugural year, the Oaklyn Final Fridays Farmers and Food Trucks series was an unequivocal success.

With just four events to its season, the monthly celebration jammed West Clinton Avenue in the borough downtown, lining it with food trucks and live entertainment.

This year, organizers are hoping to build on the success of the street festival by adding another date to the series, extending the celebrations by another hour apiece, and incorporating more live music.

Guitarist Barry Hollander will have a residency outside the storefront of the Common Grounds coffee house, while larger live acts will plug in outside Tonewood Brewing at the other end of the block.

“Last year was really successful,” said co-organizer Katie Labine. “We’re just trying to build off of that.”

New food trucks will include I Got Crabs…N Some from Glassboro, Rob’s Craft Sandwiches of Medford, which is operated by former Treno GM Rob Silcox; Dump-N-Roll from Philadelphia; and Sweet Ride of Moorestown, which vends ice cream from a retrofitted Volkswagen microbus.

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