By Anastasia Millicker
Farmers markets have become a summer staple in the Two River area
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Kylie Read, 4, licked the powder from a doughnut off her mouth as she and her mother browsed the farmers market, stopping to look at flowers from Martz Farm and sample desserts from Kat’s Cookies.
“We come here for the community,” said Kylie’s mother Meredith Read from Highlands. “Not only are we supporting our neighbors but we know where our food is coming from.”
For the past four years, the Atlantic Highlands Chambers of Commerce has hosted the farmers market with area farmers and vendors looking to sell their produce and products to the community, said Sherilyn Przelomski, the chamber’s virtual manager.
The Atlantic Highlands Farmers Market, which runs every Friday from noon until 6 p.m. through Sept. 28 at Veterans’ Park, is one of several markets that set up for one afternoon a week in area towns.
Farmers markets were once found in cities throughout New Jersey prior to their decline toward the end of the 20th century. In the last 10 to 20 years there has been a resurgence in the state with a majority of markets located in Monmouth and Ocean counties, said Lynne Richmond, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.
“People are becoming more interested in eating fresh, healthy and are looking for locally grown foods,” she said.
In 2001, there were only 35 farmers markets throughout New Jersey; last year the state agriculture department had 148 markets registered, Richmond said. A listing of markets is available at the website jerseyfresh.nj.gov.
Now in its fifth year, the Atlantic Highlands market offers Jersey-grown fruit and vegetables, flowers and baked goods, as well as Polish and Italian specialties from High Mountain Foods and Krakus Polish Deli.
“We keep the market centered around the farms with the exception of a few vendors,” Przelomski said, citing Chase Street Soaps and a local jeweler.
A new addition this year is a well-received smartphone app for the borough’s farmers market that has gotten hundreds of downloads and offers customers an opportunity to get discounts, look up weekly specials and share photographs, she said.
Although two supermarkets are less than a mile away, Vina Cui said the farmers market is more convenient.
“They have everything I need here,” said Cui, a nanny from Union Township. “From dried nuts to pickles, they have what we want right here, and I know it’s fresh.”
One of two farm vendors, Marge O’Neil of Martz Farms said she started working at the farm years ago when she went out searching for a gardening job.
“It’s nice to get to know the growers,” she said, pointing out the heirloom and Jersey tomatoes as the stand’s best sellers.
Vito Lombardi of High Mountain Foods has been setting up his tent in the Atlantic Highlands market since the beginning, establishing himself as the most veteran vendor.
Offering Italian specialties and bread, Lombardi said the farmers market gives consumers an opportunity to enjoy the products without traveling to their store.
High Mountain Foods also takes part in other area farmers markets including locations in Highlands and Red Bank.
Tristen Carbone, 42, from Middletown said farmers markets create a community atmosphere that is absent from grocery stores.
“In grocery stores, you see labels and brands of food that you see as a faceless company,” he said. “While at the market, you get to know the vendors. They’ll tell you if something isn’t in season and they take pride in their work. Jersey gardeners at their finest.”
Reina Schuler, 34, of Sea Bright said although a trip to the grocery store is needed to pick up the remainder of her list, farmers markets have a lot to offer.
“When you think of a farmers market, you picture just fruits and vegetables but they have a lot more,” Schuler said. “Here you have a soap vendor, a cheese guy, even a pickle guy. All I need now is a guy for my laundry detergent and paper towels and I’m good.”
Schuler said she visits multiple markets around Sea Bright and Highlands. Although prices may be higher for produce than at grocery stores, she said is willing to pay more to support local businesses.
“A penny or two is nothing, knowing that my food comes from a local farmer,” Schuler said. “It makes me feel better knowing that my purchase makes a difference.”
Here are some of the area’s farmers markets.
Asbury Park Farmers Market Main St., between Fifth and Sunset Aves., Asbury Park June 16 – Oct. 27 Saturdays: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Atlantic Highlands Farmers Market 111 First Ave., Veterans’ Park, Atlantic Highlands May 11 – Sept. 28 Fridays: 12 noon to 6 p.m.
Belmar Farmers’ Market Main and 9th Sts., Belmar Pyanoe Plaza May 22 – Aug. 28 Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Downtown Freehold’s Farmers Market Hall of Records, 1 East Main St., Freehold July 6 – Oct. 26 Fridays: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays: Aug. 11 and 18 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Englishtown Auction Sales/Farmers Market Off County Road 527, Englishtown Open: Year round Sat. and Sun.: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Galleria Red Bank Farmers Market 2 Bridge Ave., Red Bank May 13 – Thanksgiving Sundays: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Highlands Farmers’ Market Bay & Waterwitch Aves., Highlands June 30 – Nov. 3 Saturdays: 8:30 a.m. to sellout
Keyport Farmers Market Waterfront Mini Park, NJ Exit 117, Keyport July to October, 2011 Thursdays: 1 p.m. to sellout
Manasquan Farmers’ Market Miller Preston Way, Manasquan June 30 – Sept. 1 Thursdays: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Carousel Farmers Market First and Ocean Aves. (on the boardwalk), Asbury Park June 30 – Oct. 6 Thursdays: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
West End Farmers Market Corner of Brighton and Kossik across from Jesse’s Café 139 Brighton Ave., Long Branch June 21 – November Thursdays: 11a.m. to 6 p.m.