Farmers' markets are multiplying like rabbits. Once a rarity found primarily in towns such as Ridgewood and Ringwood, this year will see 20 different weekly markets across North Jersey.
And they've become so much more than a weekly bazaar for locally grown produce. Many organizers have grander visions of turning their markets into community gathering points, like the village square of yesteryear.
"It's all about community and a great social event," says Dina Burke, organizer of the inaugural Paramus Farmers Market, which kicks off June 20.
Compared with smaller towns that have five or six vendors, the Paramus market is going to be a local-food extravaganza with up to 15 vendors, Burke says. Highlights include Bobolink cheeses and hearth breads, Snoep Winkel Farm's grass-fed meat and Passion Fruit Artisanal Ice Pops. Most weeks, there will be live entertainment and educational tables on local history, health and green living at the market, which is hosted by the town's environmental commission.
Across the state, farmers' markets are booming as towns try to revitalize downtown shopping districts and consumers are increasingly interested in locally grown food. The number of New Jersey farmers' markets jumped from 35 to 148 between 2001 and 2011, says Lynn Richmond, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.
"This is an attractive thing, a way to bring a community together," Richmond says. "When one sees it working in a neighboring town, especially in an area with not many farms, they want it, too."
More often than not, farmers' markets are started by local residents — usually parents in the community who want to bring healthful eating options to their town. Dumont mom Danielle Mastricova founded her borough's farmers' market, which began on May 5. This Saturday, the event will have inflatable rides for children.
"We're here in Bergen County for a reason, but there's nothing entertaining to do anymore," says Mastricova, whose company, Magic Marketer, runs the town's market.
Oakland moms Jane Graham, Tracy DiTolla and Salma Shamy are launching a farmers' market that will include Wyckoff's Abma's Farm.
"We wanted easy access to locally grown food and products and to help support our local farmers and businesses," says Graham. Each week the market will feature a new artist, a local non-profit, and lessons on cooking, gardening or fitness. "We wanted to involve all generations, so they can be part of it as well," she says.
But as these markets become ubiquitous and evolve, Ridgewood, whose market was founded 12 years ago, continues to stick to its original mission of selling farm goods. "We call it a farmers' market. And it still is that," says Joan Groom, executive director of the Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce. "We've pretty much stuck true blue to that."
The unseasonably warm weather earlier this spring should not affect this year's crops, Richmond says. ("Right now we're optimistic.")
More and more farm vendors are participating in voucher programs to help bring fresh produce to low-income families and seniors. For more information visit: state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/md/prog/wic.html
DUMONT FARMERS MARKET
Where: Sorosis Park, Park Avenue and West Quackenbush Avenue
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, through Oct. 27
Info: 201-374-1899; dumontfarmersmarket.com
EMERSON FARMERS MARKET
Where: Linwood Avenue, near train station
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 3 through Oct. 14
ENGLEWOOD FARMERS MARKET
Where: Depot Square Park, North Van Brunt Street and Demarest Avenue
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, June 8 through Oct. 26
FORT LEE FARMERS MARKET
Where: Plaza at Fort Lee Community Center, 1355 Inwood Terrace
When: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 24 through Nov. 18
Info: 201-693-2763; fortleenj.org
HASBROUCK HEIGHTS FARMERS MARKET
Where: Central Avenue and Boulevard
When: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 through Sept. 25
HAWORTH FARMERS MARKET
Where: Terrace Street parking lot
When: 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 through Sept. 25
Info: 201-374-4785; haworthnj.org
OAKLAND FARMERS MARKET
Where: Borough Hall lot on Route 202
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 30 through Oct. 27
Info: 201-644-6035; oaklandfarmersmarket.com
PARAMUS FARMERS MARKET
Where: Petruska Memorial Park's North Parking Lot, 475 Farview Ave.
When: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 20 to Sept. 26 (except July 4)
Info: 201- 655-5859
RAMSEY FARMERS MARKET
Where: Ramsey Train Station at Erie Plaza, off Main Street
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 6 through Nov. 18
Info: 201-675-6866; ramseyfarmersmarket.org
RIDGEWOOD FARMERS MARKET
Where: NJ Transit Railroad Station (Garber Square)
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 24 through Oct. 28
Info: 201-445-2600; ridgewoodchamber.com
RIVER VALE FARMERS MARKET
Where: Town Hall, 406 Rivervale Road
When: Noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 21 through Oct. 25
Info: 201- 664-2346 ; facebook.com/pages/River-Vale-Farmers-Market/245834772097042
RUTHERFORD FARMERS MARKET
Where: Williams Plaza
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 6 through Oct. 26, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 2 through Oct. 27 (farm produce only)
Info: 201-460-3000, ext. 3156; RutherfordNJDowntown.com
TEANECK FARMERS MARKET
Where: Garrison Avenue and Beverly Road (in back of the Wells Fargo Bank)
When: Noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 14 through Oct. 25
Info: 201- 904-0493; teanecknj.gov
TENAFLY FARMERS MARKET
Where: Washington Street and Tenafly Road
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, through October
Info: 201- 266-6043; tenaflyfarmersmarket.com
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