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Farmers’ markets throughout state prepare for season

By JANE PRIMERANO
AFP Correspondent

NEW BRUNSWICK (May 1, 2017) — Some farmers at the Northeast Organic Farmer Assciation-New Jersey Winter Conference said they were concerned about a slow season in 2016.
A few markets experienced a downturn over the summer, either for the entire year or part of the season.
Lorette Pruden, manager of the Montgomery Township Farmers’ Market said at the conference the season at her market was slow.
She wondered if the prevalence of prepared food delivery services to the home for cooking was a reason.
Kent Kimball who participates in the Belvidere Market said theirs seemed to have some slow periods over the summer as well.
The Washington Borough Farmers’ Market had a slow August, said Councilwoman Josephine Noone, who is in charge of the market.
She said August was very hot, which could be a reason for the drop off.
It could also be that more people take vacations in August than in the other months.
Business picked up again from September through closing.
Other markets did well for the whole season.
The Chester Market, which is run by the Rotary Club,  went well all season.
It had 23 vendors, although not all are present at the same time.
Phil Maguire, who runs the market for the club, said 13 of last year’s vendors have contacted him about coming back.
New vendors have also reached out to him, but he is giving last year’s vendors a chance to sign up again before he accepts any new ones, he said.
He said he doesn’t want any new vendors that sell the same thing as his regulars.
“I thoroughly vet vendors to maximize profits,” he said.
Maguire didn’t contract with a band last year. “We don’t need music to lure people off Main Street,” he said. “We want people to walk around Main Street as well as come to the market.”
In addition, vendors complained the rock band that played at the market was very loud and they couldn’t always hear their customers.
“We need background music,” Maguire said, “somebody who walks around the market for a little while, but we can’t afford to pay much.  We’d like to find somebody to donate his time.” 
The Rotary is a non-profit and puts any money it makes on the market into community service, he said.
The Sparta Farmers’ Market did well last summer and over the winter, Manager Mitchell Morrison said.
The winter market, held at the Sparta Middle School, closed April 29 — but the summer market, which is held in the parking lot of the Sparta Health and Wellness Center starts up May 6.
The summer market will have about 35 vendors.
Morrison said some vendors do better than others. “It’s a tough business,” he said.
He is starting a new market in Jefferson Township.
He said he doesn’t feel it will be undue competition for Sparta even though the townships are neighbors.
Jefferson’s market will be open on Sundays in the parking lot of the municipal building on Weldon Road, he said.