Rutgers farmers’ market looks to expand

AFP Correspondent

NEW BRUNSWICK (Nov. 1, 2016) — Now in its ninth season, the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, held Friday afternoons off Ryders Lane near Routes 1 and 18, has succeeded enough where there is now talk of expansion.
Recently, an anonymous donor challenged the gardens to raise $150,000 in matching funds to construct a sustainable structure called Cook’s Market.
The structure will allow participating farmers and food vendors to sell their produce, bread, wine and other products through the winter months, where applicable.
Mary Ann Schrum is program coordinator for the Rutgers Gardens and manager of the Farmers Market, located on the Cook campus near the border of New Brunswick and East Brunswick.
“It started out as a student project for Cook College students,” Schrum said, referring to the now-named School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “We had perhaps nine vendors the first year.”
Schrum works closely with Bruce Crawford, director of the Rutgers Gardens and the person who oversees the popular, annual Mother’s Day plant sale, which offers vegetable seedling plants and all manner of yard and landscape plants and shrubs.
“This year we have about 35 vendors and the Friday hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will continue until the end of November,” Schrum said.
After Dec. 1, the market is held every other Friday from noon to 3 p.m., weather permitting.
Participating farmers include Beech Tree Farm in Hopewell, who provide grass-fed organic beef and other products, the Cook College Farm, which also offers grass-fed meats, Chickadee Creek Farm in Pennington managed by Jessica Niederer; Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes; Neshanic Valley Beekeepers selling honey and candles; Stults Farm in Cranbury, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary; Fruitwood Farms in Monroeville, Gloucester County; the Valley Shepherd Creamery based in Union County, selling cheeses; Franklin Soaps, offering natural soap; Stefan’s Pure Blends, based in Wayne, selling smoked kielbasa, bacon, pierogis and stuffed cabbage and Jams by Kim, based in Hillsborough, a business run by a Rutgers alumna.
A complete list of vendors is posted on the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market web page,
“Right now we’re in the process of raising funds for an indoor permanent structure to be built on the property that will allow us to be open every Friday through the winter and year-round,” Schrum said.
“We have an anonymous donor from the area who kindly granted us $150,000 but he’s asking other charitable people to match his donation so that we can raise the estimated $300,000 for a permanent building here.”
Once a permanent building is in place, there is great potential for expansion, Schrum said.
“The idea is it will be a place for vendors to sell their products year round, though I don’t know how many stalls we’ll actually have.”
Once a permanent structure is in place, patrons of the farm market will know they can come out in any kind of weather.
“There is a fee involved, but we promote it and we secure their needed space for them from week to week,” she said. “Another vendor that works with the Cook College Farm stand is the Heritage Shellfish Cooperative in Egg Harbor.
“People should know they can come from week to week and pick up their pre-purchased shares of oysters, clams, shrimp and various kinds of fish.”
How does Schrum explain the success of the Rutgers Gardens Farm Market?
Granted, it is on a busy stretch of Ryders Lane and close to the city of New Brunswick and Routes 1, 18 and 27.
“I think we get people from all over, but we also pull people from the university itself — faculty, staff and students — and a certain number of immigrants who appreciate fresh fish and fresh produce,” Schrum said.