New Jersey farmers’ markets enjoy strong growthPosted on June 14th, 2012 No comments
A fourth-generation farmer, Christina Krowicki has an old photo of her grandfather selling watermelons for 5 cents at a farmers’ market in Trenton.
As she stood behind a counter selling lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus and rhubarb at another farmers’ market here Wednesday, she could take pride in the longevity of the family business.
“He had a high demand back then, and we still do,” said Krowicki, whose family owns Krowicki’s Farm Market in Plumsted.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture on Wednesday unofficially kicked off the farmers’ market season, with Secretary Douglas H. Fisher ringing a cowbell and bringing attention to local farmers who grow and sell produce.
Farmers should find themselves in a strong position this summer, given a growing consumer emphasis on healthy eating. But they also note that towns are adding farmers’ markets at a fast pace, raising the question of how many can survive.
The Toms River farmers’ market – each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the corner of Water and Irons streets – attracted vendors from throughout central New Jersey, including Farmer Al’s Market in Monroe and High Mountain Foods in Roxbury.
They catered to customers such as Donna Natalini, 64, of Berkeley, who strolled the makeshift market before the rain started. She bought radishes and stopped a reporter to see if he had come across a particular bread maker from Nutley.
“We love it because everything is fresh,” she said. “I bought radishes here, and it’s got nice leaves on it. I can make a salad out of that.”
The number of farmers’ markets has grown to 148 from about 40 a decade ago, Fisher said. It has contributed to an agriculture industry that in 2007 generated $986.9 million statewide, according to a Rutgers University study.
The state maintains a list of farmers’ markets at http://www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/searches/urban.htm.
Some farmers said they visit two markets a day, helping them add to revenue they generate selling to customers at roadside stands or to grocers and restaurants wholesale. And some customers said they take heart knowing that they are buying locally grown, healthy food that helps preserve open space.
Not that the business is without worries. Farmers’ markets are popping up so frequently that Karley Corris of E.R. & Son Organic Farm in Colts Neck joked that soon they would outnumber farmers.
The risk, she said, is that she might lose customers to other farmers’ markets.
“It’s the same people spending the same money but spread over more locations,” she said.
Fisher said the state was nowhere near the saturation point, although he advised towns to work closely with farmers to ensure their markets will be viable.
Krowicki said she has been careful about which markets to attend. But she wasn’t quite as worried. Growing up, she considered first becoming a hygienist and then a nurse, before deciding to join the family farm. She said she has little reason to reconsider her career.
“Everybody’s got to eat,” she said. “There’s nothing to worry about.”Charter Schools, Community Development, Community Real Estate, Education, Green Energy, green tech, healthy foods, Non-Profits, Nonprofit facilities, School Nutrition
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