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Jefferson market enjoying strong debut season

AFP Correspondent

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP (July 1, 2017) — Residents had asked why Jefferson Township didn’t have its own farmers’ market for nearly 10 years, Vicki Burke said, but it wasn’t until Mitch Morrison of the Sparta Market spoke to her at a meeting of the Sussex County Beekeepers near the end of January that she decided to do something about it.
Burke approached Farmer Tom, Thomas Galfo, who says he may be the last man tilling the soil in this formerly agricultural township, and approached municipal officials.
The enthusiastic reception helped move the market’s formation quickly, Burke said, and by June 4, Mayor Russell Felter and Council President Debi Merz were cutting the ribbon.
The market is set up along the wide entrance drive to the municipal building on Weldon Road in the Oak Ridge section of the township, leaving plenty of parking in the library/municipal building lot.
Burke used social media to recruit vendors and spread the word about the market. “I posted on Facebook, using a few sites,” she said, “And had business cards printed up.”
Because of the late start, a number of vendors were committed for the season, but Burke is pleased with the group she has.
One goal is to have a non-profit organization at each market, Burke said. At the Sunday, June 11 market the Blue Star Mothers set up.
They are attempting to start a local chapter.
“Ideally, we want one of each type of vendor,” Galfo said, “no more than two until we grow enough to warrant it. As we become more successful we will expand. Actually, we want the community to never be satisfied,” always asking for something different, he added. He said he wants variety in the market, perhaps even changing vendors periodically.
For now, Galfo is sourcing hydroponic tomatoes and out-of-state berries, until his own produce comes in.  His family tastes any produce he brings in before it gets in the market, he said.
Galfo is proud of being the third generation in his family to farm. “There are a lot of farmland assessments but not many people turning the ground commercially” in the township, he said. Jefferson is a sprawling township of more than 40 square miles.
The northern, or Milton, section was heavily agricultural as recently as the 1970s.  Galfo farms 8 1/2 acres that he owns plus land he leases. He also operates a 40-family CSA.
“I gave up a job in the real world to take over my parents’ farm,” he said. He was a meat manager at an A&P.
His girlfriend, Hazel Yaptagco, and her daughter, Pia, 11, are involved in the farm.
“Pia says she’s marketing manager,” Galfo laughed. She does make up flower pots and helps with seeding in the greenhouse and she loves to weed, he said.
Ken Olsen brought his Olsen’s Honey and Spice tent to the market. His main operation is in Augusta but he also has hives in Lafayette and Sparta.
He is selling mostly honey now, but will add his garlic when it comes in.
Olsen said it was a rough winter for his 38 hives because of the cold/warm/cold season.
Sparta Mountain Farm’s Bob Ricadela helps Galfo and Burke manage the Jefferson Market and keeps a booth there. His wife, Katrisha, plans entertainment for each week of the market.