Market harvests sense of community
Three times a week, city residents can support local vendors and pick up fresh produce all in one place at the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market.
Located at 178 Jones Ave. and sponsored by the University, Johnson & Johnson and the city of New Brunswick, the Farmers Market runs every Tuesday from 12 to 5 p.m., Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The event creates a community atmosphere in the city; some of the products brought by the vendors are retail items or handmade crafts, but all are from local residents, said Market Manager of the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market Jaymie Santiago.
"Johnson & Johnson and Rutgers collaborated … [and] they created this farmers market in order to give people the opportunity to shop and get fresh produce from the farmer," he said.
The market offers fresh produce provided by Pop's Farm Market based in Monroe Township. Farmer David Byrne had a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on display at last week's market, including red and orange bell peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, winter yellow peaches, yellow doll watermelon, eggplant, tomatoes and more.
Pop's Farm Market employee Christine Bottomly said they have been bringing produce to fit the needs of New Brunswick residents, and the turnout has been excellent.
"What we've been doing is adding a lot of mix to suit the community; we have hot peppers [and] we also added a tropical selection, which includes mangos, grapes, pineapples, avocados," she said. "We find that a lot of the Mexican community likes the zucchini."
Bottomly said they sell their products either by the piece or the basket, and it is measured on the scale and priced accordingly.
She said the unusual amount of rain this summer had an effect on the crops, primarily tomatoes.
"We're finding everything to be about two weeks behind because of the terrible weather we encountered, but so far, so good," Bottomly said.
She said they will be selling products at the market until the end of October and are hoping to even extend into November as long as there are crops.
To arrange the market, they collaborated with the Intersect Fund, a student-run non-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs jump-start their businesses, Santiago said. The New Brunswick-based fund got them in touch with vendors who could sell their products at the market.
Executive Director of the Intersect Fund Rohan Matthew said he helped place two of the fund's star clients, the Lounge Society and Taking Tea in Style, as vendors at the market.
"When I heard the farmer's market was sponsored by Rutgers and partnered with the city,
I thought it was a natural way for some of our clients to get an opportunity to sell in the community," he said.
The market has been great for their clients, with the vendors taking in $200 to $300 each time, Matthew said. Both clients are graduates of the fund's business workshops and thought their organic and homemade products would fit in well with the fresh produce available at the market.
Santiago said the market held its grand opening on July 7, when University President Richard L. McCormick made an appearance and speech.
He said the community farmer's market differs from that of the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, held on Cook campus.
"The vendors over there have more of a focus on specialized items, whereas here the focus is more on helping the community by providing a location and produce that's right around the corner," he said.
Santiago said both markets offer Jersey Fresh produce.
Owner of Taking Tea in Style Sharon Levy said her Princeton-based company holds tea parties, as well as table manners and etiquette workshops for children.
"Most recently, I just started selling the tea that I serve at parties because people love the tea so much," she said.
Levy carries 18 different gourmet teas including white, black, red, green, decaf and organic.
"These are teas that are not found in the stores — they're exotic flavors, they're very healthy for you," she said. "I want people to learn about teas as far as health benefits."
Levy, who formerly worked as a marketing manager for IBM, said she started her company because she wanted to help out people who have events and parties for their children.
"I thought, why don't I go into people's homes and bring everything?" Levy said. "I bring all the china, the tablecloths, flowers, all the tea samples, pastries, candlelight and the background music, so it's a complete set-up, serve and cleanup."
Maria Vivar was in attendance at the market selling tacos as a fundraiser for the local 4-H group her children are involved in.
She said she prepared the food at Elijah's Promise soup kitchen, and she comes to every market with tostadas and beef and chicken tacos, with jalapenos, onions, radishes, cilantro and optional hot sauce for sale.
Max Gotti, a School of Engineering senior, came out to the market and enjoyed the tacos.
"I've been to other similar [farmer's markets] before but not this one," he said. "It's a nice day, it's relaxing"
Gotti said he was interested in the products offered by the Lounge Society, which sells handmade jewelry and African cultural items.