AUGUSTA, NJ – On Saturday, August 16, the Sussex County Farmers Market at the Sussex County Fairgrounds celebrated its grand reopening after the New Jersey State Fair.
Though I’ve been to other farmers markets in the area, this was my first time at this one. It is located indoors at the Glen Vetrano Agriculture Building on the fairgrounds property at the main entrance, located off of Plains Road.
What makes this farmers market specifically appealing, and all of them are, is this one is inside, which is great to dash in to someplace cool during the oppressive heat, and if it happens to be a rainy day, one can still shop with local farmers and artisans, in a covered area.
This farmers market opens its doors every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the last day of the season right around Thanksgiving, on November 29. The farmers market is a wonderful place where one can purchase Jersey Fresh items that are seasonal, such as now the Jersey Fresh corn, tomatoes, and peaches. As the weather cools, there are the fall and early winter produce items that will be for sale.
We are blessed as the Garden State, with Jersey Fresh items that range from freshly picked kale to honey to cheese produced on local farms, and meats raised without antibiotics. Eggplant, broccoli, beans, herbs, watermelon, blueberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers, various types of lettuce, okra, garlic, and more of nature’s bounty are items that are available from our local farmers markets.
Peach cider, New Jersey wines, fresh breads, apple cider donuts (which were sold out by 10:30 yesterday), salsas, preserves, fresh cut sunflowers, handmade goods, and more were among some of the products for sale.
Some of these items are available at the supermarkets. At the same time, there is nothing like freshly picked from the farm. Such as kale that I saw early yesterday afternoon while I was there, which was just picked that morning at one of the participating farms.
I am not saying don’t buy from markets…local markets such as Dale’s in Andover Township, was just advertising local produce on the signage outside the store.
There is a misconception that a small vendor such as a local farmer won’t be as affordable as a market. This is a fallacy. Local businesses can adjust pricing more easily than big businesses. Of course, local farmers do sell to some big markets, but other items are trucked in from other parts of the state, or out of state (part of the expense rolled into the price is the cost of transporting the produce), which costs the consumer more…plus the items are not as fresh.
For example, yesterday I picked up a dozen ears of corn from Green Valley Farms of Wantage, which has a stand at the farmers market at the fairgrounds. I purchased them for .50 per ear, so my tab was $6.00.
One of the supermarkets was advertising corn though it did not specify where the corn was from, though it said in the flyer it was “local.” The price per ear was approximately .33 cents per ear. However, when shopping at the supermarket, many pilfer through the piles of corn to ensure they find a decent ear. There are corn husks and silks all over the place, corn ears placed back in the pile that may not have been perfect, and more. Though I’m about getting the best deal, that is not always the best deal per se…how is the quality in a lot of these stores? How long have these items been sitting around? How many times have you purchased produce at the store, have not eaten the items quickly enough, and had it go badly quickly…sometimes only within a few days?
That’s something that won’t happen at a farmers market. The corn I brought home from Green Valley Farms was wonderful. No need to have to peel it back to check the condition as one does in the supermarket. It is the perfect, Jersey sweet corn with the yellow and white kernels.
I also picked up two cucumbers for $1 from this vendor. One of the supermarkets had just advertised cucumbers for about .66 a cuke. The ones they advertised were USA cukes…but where from? What condition are they in? And obviously, what I purchased at the farmers market from Green Valley Farms was a better deal. And I can say, these cucumbers from this farm stand are truly “Jersey Fresh!” I’d sliced them up last night for a cucumber salad, and they are crisp, aromatic, juicy, taste delicious, and don’t have that waxy feel that store cucumbers often have.
What I am suggesting is, to buy local whenever you can, whether it’s from a farmers market, from a farm stand or farm, or from a local small grocer. The pricing is better, the quality is better, and our local economy flourishes. When items are being trucked in from out of the area, not only do we pay more, we pay more in terms of the lack of freshness. How long have those items been sitting on trucks? How long were they sitting in warehouses before they were trucked to the stores? How long are they sitting in the stores before they are put out into the produce department for shoppers to purchase?
When you purchase from a local farmer, it’s farm to table typically within the same day! Guaranteed fresh! Guaranteed local, unless they specify otherwise…which, most farms if they do purchase something from vendors, such as a wonderful peach salsa that I bought yesterday from Windy Brow, it is still a product made in the Garden State. Windy Brow also had pasta sauces for sale that are Jersey Fresh, including a vodka sauce.
I am not saying ignore our supermarkets either…because many of them do stock produce, eggs, and more from local farmers. In fact, the Jersey Fresh tomato sauce that was at the Windy Brow booth yesterday is sold in one of our local supermarkets too. So be sure to check the shelves and dairy cases of your local supermarkets for products that are for sale from local farms or are Jersey Fresh. Ask employees at the local supermarkets to help if you have questions which products are Jersey Fresh. If you know of some great products that are Jersey Fresh and you don’t see them in your favorite supermarket, ask the market managers about stocking them. Stores are usually open to the idea of taking consumer suggestions for particular products if there is a demand for them.
Some local supermarket giants have helped to sustain our local economy by buying some products from our local farmers..and I do applaud them for that effort. Look in the stores and when you see signs, especially if it says the name of the local farm it comes from, please consider helping our local economy by buying local from the stores, if these items are offered there.
When you buy local, you’re not only supporting a local business, you’re supporting a local family. Locals should do as much business with each other’s local businesses wherever possible.
Click here to check out the website for the Sussex County Board of Agriculture, a non-profit organization. This website offers complete information about county agricultural events and the farmers market.
Yesterday, vendors who were present included: Green Valley Farms, Dana Ray Farms, Ideal Farms, Windy Brow Farms, Liberty Farms, Glenmalure Farms, Georges Farmhouse Gourmet, The Everlasting Garden, Springhouse Creamery, and Sussex County Alpaca.
There was also some “home grown” live music from Non-Stop Denny, and bass guitarist Kevin McNeel, both from Sussex County.
Former Sussex County Freeholder Glen Vetrano, who volunteers his time at the farmers market, said that a peach festival is planned for next week’s market. The special market bags planned for giveaways today will actually be given away next week (due to a UPS shipping glitch, they did not arrive on time for the market’s grand reopening).
Click here for a previous article that I’d written about the Newton Winter Farmers Market at the Springboard Shoppes, which offers Jersey Fresh items even when there is snow on the ground. I’ve enjoyed meeting other vendors there as well, including Jersey Barnfire Hot Sauce (at the Sparta Farmers Market yesterday). Also the Hummus Boss, who has made a delicious hummus that locals seek out, and a delicious and healthful bruschetta. I have enjoyed both of these items personally. The Hummus Boss makes his way to our local markets, plus markets beyond, such as the Millburn Farmers Market. I will say, we have a lot of local culinary talent and food purveyors at these markets.
Click here to learn about our other area farmers markets through the Foodshed Alliance and other organizations too, including the Sparta Farmers Market, open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October. Sparta Farmers Market takes place every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through November 1. The Hopatcong Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October 12. There is also a Farmers Market every Saturday in nearby Blairstown in Warren County every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..
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