By Michele S. Byers
Now that cold weather is upon us, are you yearning for the fresh produce and local foods you enjoyed all summer at your local farmers market?
The Garden State’s delicate warm-weather crops may be gone, but a growing number of farmers markets are staying open all or part of the winter, offering an amazing variety of cold-season vegetables, artisan cheeses, homemade pickles and preserves, wines, eggs from free-range chickens, baked goods, jellies and jams, locally-raised meats and poultry and more.
The latest winter market to set up shop is the Newton Winter Farmers Market in Sussex County, which held its grand opening in a local community center on Nov. 17. Sponsored by the Foodshed Alliance Farmers Access Network in cooperation with local farmers, the Newton market will be open each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring foods and goods produced within a 25-mile radius.
“We want to provide all residents in our area with a centralized location to obtain fresh meats, cheeses, breads and produce all grown and produced by our local farmers within our foodshed,” explains Kendrya Close, the market’s manager. “Offering a year-long market serves to strengthen our sense of community.”
“Community” is a big part of the farm market appeal. More and more people not only want to buy the freshest foods possible, but they want to meet the farmers. Customers can chat with growers, ask questions, sample products, and leave with recipes and serving tips. Another plus: Farmers remember regular customers and greet them like old friends on return visits!
Winter farmers markets have the same charm as their summer cousins, but they’re located indoors and carry different seasonal products. You won’t see fresh-picked Jersey tomatoes, sweet corn and blueberries, but you can find delicious locally-made tomato sauce, corn relish and blueberry jam.
The number of winter markets in New Jersey is still relatively small, but more are added each year.
Check out some of our winter markets:
The Paterson Farmers Market, on Railway Avenue along the old Erie Railroad line, is open 365 days a year.
Jersey City has two farmers markets that will remain open through December. The market by the Grove Street PATH station is open Mondays and Thursdays, while the one at the Hamilton Park gazebo is open Wednesdays.
The Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers Market, located at the Dvoor Farm at the Route 12 circle outside Flemington, is open on the third Sunday of the month from December through April.
The Stockton Market is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays all year-round.
The Rutgers Gardens Farm Market in New Brunswick will be open Fridays, Nov. 30, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21; the rest of the winter schedule is yet to be determined.
The Princeton Farmers Market will open in the local library on the second Thursday of the month through April.
The Englishtown Auction, an intriguing combination of farmer’s market, craft fair and flea market, is open weekends all year-round in Manalapan.
The Cowtown Farmers Market in Pilesgrove is open year-round on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Winter markets are great for the farmers, because it provides them with another potential source of income. But what’s also needed to keep farming viable in New Jersey is a stable source of funding for farmland preservation. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of our highly successful farmland preservation program, but funding for the program is running dry. The Garden State Preservation Trust needs to be replenished to keep farming going strong!
For a full list of New Jersey farmers markets – summer and winter – go to the state Department of Agriculture’s Jersey Fresh website at www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/searches/urban.htm. Another helpful resource is Edible Jersey’s website at www.ediblecommunities.com/jersey/farmers-markets/2012-guide-to-farmers-markets.htm.
And for more information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.