There are many farmers’ markets in northern New Jersey and they each have to get creative to stay busy and profitable.
The market in Sparta, Sussex County, has moved twice, from the municipal building parking lot to the middle school lot and now is in the parking lot of medical offices.Emma Lavin, who was minding the market on a recent hot Saturday afternoon, said people like the new location. “It’s easy to find good parking,” she said. The market is adjacent to the staff parking lot of the medical building, very convenient to the market.
Sparta is a dog-friendly market. Lavin’s colleague Christie Erickson was offering a Rhodesian ridgeback mix some cold water, but Hopatcong’s is known for being one of the most dog-welcoming markets. Councilwoman Marie Galate and Councilman Michael Francis have been known to “babysit” dogs while their owners shop the market.
Galate is the face of the market. Even with her council responsibilities and a small business that she runs, she never misses a day from Father’s Day to late October.
She has tote bags made each year. The 2015 bags are bright yellow with a smiling sun. Last year’s were bright blue. The market also has t-shirts for sale for $7 each. They were made by a local business, Diamond Graphics. The market committee uses local businesses as much as possible.
Galate believes products with the market’s name help to get the word out there is fresh, healthy food available in the borough, which is also in Sussex County.
The Hopatcong market is in the municipal building parking lot, enabling the committee to provide music, either live or taped, using the borough’s sound system. A shaded area of the lot is perfect for alpaca fiber vendors to bring their animals and keep them out of the heat.
Galate set up a Civil War reenactment. “They recruit people to be bodies,” she said. Other events have been a classic car show, a tribute to veterans, a demonstration from the Hopatcong Community Garden and one from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The height of tomato season is marked by a tomato-sandwich making contest, Galate said.
Tireless volunteers are the hallmark of successful markets.
Belvidere, the county seat of Warren County, has a committee that runs a market in front of the courthouse on Sundays. The fact that there are three churches around the courthouse square and that many people walk their dogs around the square give that market an automatic audience. As soon as services at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and First Presbyterian are over, congregants stroll over to the market.
Also in Warren County, Blairstown has a market in a lot opposite the elementary school. The school parking lot is used for market parking and the Foodshed Alliance, which runs the market, works with the school whenever it can.
Opening day of the market this summer, May 30, corresponded with a day of foot races at the school, market manager Donnalee Cannistraci said.
Because of the proximity of the kids participating in the “Paws to the Pavement” races, a 5K, a fun run and a pre-school run, the market made sure to have plenty to keep the children occupied after the races were over, Cannistraci said. She said race coordinators Jess Griffen and Renee Carbonaro encouraged the kids to go over to the market after completing the races.
Krystal Kise painted the faces of the children with bright butterflies and other spring themes. “I just do this because I enjoy the kids,” the Blairstown native said.
Next to the face painter, Sandy Roberts set up her tent of science experiments for kids. A former bio-chemist, then a school teacher, Roberts is on her third career. She takes her traveling science show into schools for afterschool programs, home-schooler programs, clubs and summer camps. The kids made rocket launchers out of 2-litre soda bottles and plastic tubing. Shoppers occasionally had to dodge the rockets since navigation wasn’t the strong suit of most of the children, but nobody seemed to mind.
A new, popular, vendor sells homemade dog biscuits using locally sourced ingredients, Cannistraci said.
In Morris County, the Chester Farmers’ Market has one of the more interesting draws: a Grateful Dead cover band. A Touch of Grey loves to play the market and residents and visitors enjoy listening.
One of the vendors, Let It Grow Farm, has a name that’s a play on a Grateful Dead song. In addition, all of the products made from the farm’s produce are named for Dead songs, like Jack Strawberry Jam.
“The band just happened,” Let It Grow’s farmer Josh Chaffee said.