NJ Pen 2015 Local Farmers Market Preview

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The 2015 season promises to be a full one, with the bounty of New Jersey on display in all its forms in Collingswood, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, and Westmont.

By Matt Skoufalos

 

Credit: Tricia Burrough.

Credit: Tricia Burrough.

For all the small-business commerce that drives the inner-ring suburbs of Camden County, the area is somewhat removed from the farmers and growers producing the fresh foods that give the Garden State its name.

That distance, while not appreciable, is enough to make the neighborhood farmers markets that pop up at the turn of the season enough of a local delicacy on their own—to say nothing of the locally sourced foods they bring.

From spring to fall, shoppers in Collingswood, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, and Haddon Township can save a weekend trip to the supermarket often by going no farther than their local downtowns. The growth of these enterprises has blossomed into a three-days-a-week affair, thanks in no small part to the volunteers that staff, set up, and break down the open-air markets.

There’s some vendor crossover from market to market, but no sense of competition, said Haddonfield Farmers Market director Ralph Ciallella, who credits a close working relationship among his fellow coordinators in Westmont, Collingswood, and Haddon Heights with enabling the sites to grow cooperatively.

“We’re trying to help each other,” Ciallella said.“That’s the key, helping our vendors grow. Some of the smaller vendors only come to our market once or twice a month. That working relationship is important.”

“I have a tremendous working relationship with Doug over at Westmont, and Joe Gentile and I at Haddon Heights are friendly about vendors and sharing ideas,” said Collingswood market director David Hodges said.

Even with four bustling markets in the immediate area, only Haddonfield and Collingswood “go head to head” on Saturdays, Hodges said, “but it isn’t really a problem for either of us.

Tomatoes. Credit: Tricia Burrough.

Tomatoes. Credit: Tricia Burrough.

“I hope everybody succeeds,” he said. “We really can; we’re far enough apart.”

“I think it has made our area feel smaller and closer together through the sharing of the four towns that have markets,” said Doug Kelly, who manages the Westmont Farmers Market.

“All the managers work together and share the resources, and we support each other by going to each other’s businesses. I think it really made everyone closer.”

“I started with Doug and Ralph,” said Haddon Heights market manager Joe Gentile.

“I give those guys a ton of credit. I learned a lot about how they run those markets, the different ideas for the food, the music. The Collingswood Farmers Market; it’s probably the best market in the state. I strive always to achieve the momentum, the community that supports it.

“You couldn’t do it without the other markets,” Gentile said. “The camaraderie between all the markets; I never feel like there’s a competition. The market, the vendors, the managers who run it, it’s like a big family.”

Credit: Collingswood Farmers Market

Credit: Collingswood Farmers Market

Collingswood Farmers Market

Beneath the PATCO Hi-Speedline between Collings and Irvin Avenues, Collingswood

8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturdays, May 2 through November 21

The Collingswood Farmers Market enters its 16th season as the dominant player among the local neighborhood markets.

Its rain-or-shine, dog-friendly atmosphere has made Collingswood one of the leading Saturday destinations for fans of Jersey Fresh produce, and with 94 of its 100 vendor spaces dedicated to retail sales from small growers or local farms, market organizers have worked hard to keep the focus on that original mission.

“It’s an increasingly rare producer’s market; a grower’s market,” said Hodges.

“It’s important to us that we continue to honor our original mission of promoting Jersey Fresh agriculture, so we’re very careful not to provide space to anyone who buys produce or foods for resale.”

Hodges said Collingswood prides itself on a “from the hand, to the hand sort of philosophy” whereby customers “are going to meet the person who made or grew or raised or harvested the food for you.”

Even seasoned market-goers may not have noticed the internal tablecloth marketing program that alerts them as to how stringently vendors in Collingswood comply with that philosophy.

A stall with a green-and-white striped tablecloth indicates a seller whose goods still qualify as Jersey Fresh, but which were bought from another nearby farm. (Hodges offers the example of Flaim Farms, which may pad its inventory with Hammonton-bought blueberries from another neighborhood farm that it then resells.)

Red-and-white striped tablecloths indicate products that are being resold from a farm that is out of the region.

“The region is as near as we can make it,” Hodges said, “but we’ve got some Central Jersey, South Jersey; most everything South of Trenton and in the state of New Jersey. Some from Philadelphia.”

The remaining five or six non-vendor market spaces are devoted to farmers market volunteers, dog registration, market sponsors, nonprofit fundraisers, a weekly performing artist, and the free veggie valet shopping aid service.

“Veggie Valet will take your large bags from you and you can reclaim them by turning back in your matching playing card at the end of the day,” Hodges said. (Pro Tip: pull your car up to the street between the market and the police station, and load your goods in car-side.)

Credit: Doug Kelly.

Credit: Doug Kelly.

New for 2015

Hodges publishes the site plan for the upcoming market day on the Friday morning prior. Six spaces at the west entrance of the market are designated for Collingswood BID participants, and the market will feature a rotating roster of guest vendors, for which applications are still being processed.

New faces will include:

  • O Made Granola – baked and strictly vegan, the only added fat in this unprocessed homemade product is organic coconut oil; the only sweetening agent is organic maple syrup.
  • Constellation Collective – from their home base of the Revolution Roasters kitchen at The Factory, the Collingswood-headquartered business will appear for nine dates this season, featuring pickled specialties and unique baked products.
  • Neil’s Sharpening Service – hand-sharpened knives, hatchets, saw blades, while you wait, Neil will put a fine edge on whatever you bring him on the final Saturday of every month.

Without question, the biggest change for the market this season is its new dog leash policy. Hodges describes the Collingswood Farmers Market as “dog-friendly and committed to keeping the market open to anyone who brings a well-behaved animal,” but added that organizers have had “increasing concerns” about the safety and behavior of “both our four-footed and two-footed guests.”

“Last year we counted our guests, and on the day we counted, we had 4,077 visitors and maybe 500 dogs,” Hodges said. “We’re requiring anyone who brings their animal to the market to register with a simple process and pledge to comply with simple behavior guidelines.”

The new policy will be rolled out throughout the month of May. Dog owners are asked to check their pets in at the dog check and pick up a four-foot long, hot yellow, non-retractable “market leash” that will keep dogs closer to their masters and under control.

“The leash is the permit,” Hodges said. “There’s no paperwork involved. It’s a simple matter of making a $5 donation to the animal agency that’s onsite that day to defray the cost of the leash itself.”

Credit: HH Market.

Credit: HH Market.

Haddon Heights Farmers Market

Station and Atlantic Avenues

Sundays 9:30 to 1:30 p.m., May 3 to October 25

The youngest of the community farmers markets, Haddon Heights has made a name for itself locally as the weekend’s “last call” for fresh goods over the past three years. Heading into its fourth season, the market has cultivated a mix of farm goods, snacks, and artisan goods.

“We’re opening it up to people who take those farm products and those eco-friendly products and [make]anything that’s handmade, hand-crafted,” Gentile said. “It’s offering options to people other than going to a supermarket to support local farmers, artisans, and businesses.”

It’s the model that he’s carried through in Local Links, his combination co-op and eatery situated across the street from the market, which in the off-season features many of the same products typically only available during market months.

“Everybody that’s here at Local Links is now participating in the market, and now it gives them an option,” he said. “A lot of these people are Camden County residents. That’s important when we talk to [market guests].”

The 2015 kickoff party for Haddon Heights will feature expanded hours on the opening day of the market, running until 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, to accommodate a local beer garden.

For $5, connoisseurs can choose from among the Farmhouse Ale from Somerdale’s Flying Fish brewery, Summer Love Ale from Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, PA, and the Lunacy IPA from the Magnolia-based brewer of the same name. Proceeds benefit Haddon Heights Neighbors’ Night Out.

Credit: HH Market.

Credit: HH Market.

New for 2015

“I think the best thing we’ve got going on this year is our first certified organic farmer,” Gentile said.

Summer Wind Farms, which will also participate in the Haddonfield Farmers Market, is offering CSA pickup at Local Links from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays during the season. With 45 different products, a half-share is $365 for six months.

“They do tunneling, they have greenhouses; they do all this cool stuff,” Gentile said. “We’re just lucky to have a farmer that’s certified to do what a lot of farmers say they are doing.”

Aversa’s bakery, which is also participating in the Westmont Farmers Market, was a personal win for Gentile, he said, because their bread is a favorite of his father.

“I told my dad now he can move to Haddon Heights because Aversa’s is here on Sundays,” he said.

Other local vendors include a mix of crafters and artisans:

  • Bee-Lieve-It! Honey –  Somerdale-based apiary
  • Thyme to Plant – an Audubon-based business focused on educating customers on how to grow seedlings.
  • Rich’s Micro Roast Coffee – blended bean coffees from Mt. Laurel
  • Kastania Olive Oil – Greek-imported olive oil from a Collingswood family
  • Gypsy Art – “upcycled” art created from vintage goods
  • Planet Earth Store – eco-friendly jewelry from Oaklyn
  • Daisy Lady – Haddon Heights flower arrangements
  • LilyKat – handmade artisan Handmade jewelry
  • Philosopher’s Stone Massage – chair massage
Credit: Westmont Farmers Market.

Credit: Westmont Farmers Market.

Westmont Farmers Market

Stratford and Haddon Avenues, Haddon Twp.

Wednesdays from 4 p.m. 7 p.m., May 6 through October 28

“Our vibe is night market,” said Kelly.

“We’re 100-percent farmers market because we’re all food, but we have the dinner time slot with 15 vendors doing prepared foods.”

On any given week, the dinner selections range from a Korean barbecue cheesesteak to salad in a biodegradable cup, with everything in between, from juices and smoothies to pastries and cookies.

Haddon Township businesses like Silver Spoon and Severino Pasta are represented as are those from nearby Haddonfield (Sweet Pea Homemade Ice Cream), Haddon Heights (Hot Dog Man), and Collingswood (Revolution Coffee Roasters). The unofficial accompaniment to these, regulars will tell you, is a selection of craft beers and wines from the nearby Cook’s Liquors.

That selection and the proximity of the market to the Westmont and Collingswood Speedline stations has drawn an audience from Philadelphia as well as from the surrounding communities, Kelly said. At dusk, lights illuminate the street between Blue salon and the former Sea-lect Seafood shop, with its mosaic wall.

“It’s got this European thing going,” Kelly said, with shopping and dining accented by 26 weeks of rotating live music acts. “Having that affirmation that people were coming from Philly, getting done work and coming here because they enjoy the vibe encouraged the volunteers. It was elevating the town, and that reminded us, we’re special.”

Credit: Doug Kelly.

Credit: Doug Kelly.

New for 2015

One of the key differences for the Westmont Farmers Market this year will be its layout.

With an eye to redevelopment at the nearby Westmont Theater, which has served as the de facto parking lot for the market, its food trucks will be lined along Haddon Avenue, and not in the lot.

“That gives us a lot more visibility,” Kelly said, “and our two food courts are going to remain in the market area [with]three tents of seating.

Westmont is also refining its focus this year to prepared food and New Jersey-grown plants, eliminating its artisans and crafters tents.

Just like in Collingswood, Neil’s Sharpening Service will make a monthly appearance, as will the Food Bank of South Jersey.

New vendors include:

  • Aversa’s Bakery – the Turnersville mainstay features every Italian pastry under the sun as well as tomato pies, Stromboli, and other baked goods.
  • Cape May Crab Cake Factory – filling the void left by the departure of Sea-lect Seafood from Haddon Township, the Crab Cake Factory will serve crab cakes, lobster tails, and chowders.
  • Farm and Fisherman Tavern – Chef Todd Fuller will bring a sampling of the seasonal menu from his Cherry Hill farm-to-fork restaurant.
  • JM Ferrucci Nursery – non-GMO, sustainable greens, fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers.
Credit: Haddonfield Farmers Market.

Credit: Haddonfield Farmers Market.

Haddonfield Farmers Market

Kings Court, Haddonfield

8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, May 16 through October 31

“We go back nine years” in Haddonfield, Ciallella said

For four of them, the market has found a home in the Kings Court community space on Kings Highway in Haddonfield, and has seen a decided uptick in customers since relocating there in 2011.

The pocket-park feel of the courtyard is a defining feature of the Haddonfield Farmers Market, with its Victorian gazebo and brick walkway.

A recent re-landscaping with some new shade trees only adds to the appeal, as does the diverse lineup of musical acts that performs there weekly.

Ciallella describes its setup as “more of a boutique market.” Designed by local architect Alberto & Associates as an open-air market, the courtyard is intended to house about four vendors in each of its quadrants, and that’s near enough to the 25 merchants Ciallella will bring to the space in 2015.

Ciallella and friends. Credit: Haddonfield Farmers Market.

Ciallella and friends. Credit: Haddonfield Farmers Market.

New in 2015

Opening May 16 (“Jersey produce isn’t ready until then,” Ciallella said), the Haddonfield Farmers Market will welcome a handful of new additions for the upcoming season.

  • The legendary Philadelphia automat Horn and Hardart bakery café is “making a big comeback” with desserts, Ciallella said.
  • Artisan rice pudding makers The Wood Spoon of Cherry Hill will split time in Haddonfield and the Collingswood and Westmont Farmers Markets.
  • Ciallella’s own Sweet Pea Homemade Ice Cream will be offering handmade ice cream sandwiches with cookies from Cristal Gogolen’s Turbinado Bake House.
  • Fully certified, farm-to-city organic farmer Summer Winds.

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