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Madison Farmers’ Market still draws crowds

AFP Correspondent

MADISON (July 1, 2017) — This town has fewer empty storefronts than surrounding towns. It has some brick sidewalks and streetscape plantings to make the downtown more attractive. The affluent Morris County borough is getting new streetlights, a new triple level fountain (for adults, children and pets) and new benches.
And every Thursday, from 2 to 7 p.m., Central Avenue is blocked off for the Madison Farmers’ Market.
None of this is by accident. The borough’s Downtown Development Commission is chartered with the responsibility of bringing more people downtown and the farmers’ market is an integral part of their mission.
John Hoover of the commission has been volunteering all day on Thursdays during the market season for three years.
He helps with set up and take down and stamps the frequent shopper cards that give a $10 coupon after a certain number of visits to the market.
The market has three large area farms:  Alstede’s, Melick’s and Vacchiano’s with a variety of produce and meat.
Michelle Pechinka gave up a corporate job to “renew” herself working for Melick’s farm. “I enjoy spending my summer outside and interacting with people.”
She was straightening bins of vegetables at the market on Thursday, June 15. Melick’s does as many as five markets in any given week. Although Pechinka hasn’t been working for them long, she sees that Madison has plenty to attract customers: music, activities for kids, dog friendly.
Vecchiano Farm in Port Colden, Warren County, was staffed by three generations of Anthony Vecchianos. Coolers of meats lined the tables at their booth.
The Vecchianos have Black Angus beef, lambs, goats, rabbits. chickens and turkeys. They slaughter the birds on site and send out the other meat. Anthony Sr. has been a butcher for 60 years. Anthony II and another butcher also work on the farm.
Anthony Sr. said Madison is pretty busy, but not like their other markets, in Summit and Montclair which are on weekends.
Anthony II said Madison is good for a Thursday market. Montclair is unusually successful because of the affluence of the residents who work in New York City.
The Vecchiano sausage is 100 percent pure with no fillers, Anthony II said.
Even the ground turkey is 100 percent pure, he added, with no soy or dry milk. “We use very good ingredients for people who sell meat on the street,” he said with a laugh. He says his best seller is the broccoli rabe sausage.
They also make and sell buffalo mozzarella. They get the water buffalo milk from a Sussex County farmer.
Another meat provider is Aspin Ridge Farm of Oxford. Farm manager Meredith Acly said she also does the Monroe County Farmers’ Market in Stroudsburg, Pa., and sells off the farm and with a small CSA.
She has a pickup for the CSA, which provides meat and eggs, in Madison, so it seemed natural to do the market.  She contacted the manager, Lisa Ellis, and there was a spot available.
She said setting up a good display is important at a big, busy market.
Acly uses a small slaughterhouse where she can can truck her animals herself. She said she spends a lot of time trailer-training her pigs for a week or more so they are used to loading and unleading. “If one gets scared they sound the alarm,” she said, adding, “You can’t force a pig to do anything.”
The advantages of a small slaughterhouse are many, she said, starting with the farmer know she is getting her own meat back.
Ellis arranges for music at every market, Hoover said.  She has been bringing in students for the past couple of weeks.  They play until about 4:30, then a professional performs from 4:45 to 6:45 p.m.
Tables are also available for non profit organizations. On a recent week, the Madison High School Band Boosters were set up as well as the New Jersey Shakespeare Company based at nearby Drew University.
Hoover said one of the goals of the Downtown Development Commission is to bring students from the three nearby universities (Drew, Fairleigh Dickinson and the College of St. Elizabeth) into downtown Madison.