Community increase at farmers market

The Burlington County farmers market features cooking demonstrations and alcohol distillers

The Agricultural Center hosts the Burlington County Farmers Market every Saturday from mid-May through October. The market features locally produced fruits and vegetables, handcrafted goods, prepared foods, and live music. (David Levinsky/Special to The Sun)

The Burlington County farmers market has returned to the stands this summer for its 15th season. With restrictions lifted, the farmers market allows multiple crafters from the South Jersey area and a new treat for residents; alcohol distillers.   

“The presence of the breweries, wineries and distilleries added a unique element to the market,” said Burlington County Director of the Department of Resource Conservation Mary Pat Robbie. “We’re seeing a lot of people that come to the market just to enjoy the day.”

With more crafters and the allowance of distillers to participate in the Burlington County farmers market, those weekends of strolling around eyeing the right produce turned into a day event, where family and friends could hang out as long as they please. The Resource Conservation plans to use that to their advantage by incorporating different events during the market. 

When the farmers market opened for the first Saturday of the summer on May 6, the market featured seven different crafters including, Green Cow Soaps, Clay Scenes and Frank Sharpening Centers. The Resource Conservation department has 48 crafters on the list that will rotate each weekend to fit four to six crafters every Saturday.    

“We try not to have similar vendors there on the same day. We also do that with the breweries,” Robbie explained. “There are three breweries that have signed up to be with us, so one brewery is on the third Saturday. Another one is on the first and fourth.”

Two of the brewers featured at the market are Third State Brewing in Burlington Township and Zed’s Beer in Marlton. As for farmers, each year Robbie calls her anchor farms, which are made up of six farms around the area, to sell their produce. 

The 1985 Organic Farm and Durr Farm are two out of the six farms who have joined the market since the original opening 15 years ago. The newest farm introduced to the market is Pineland Produce.  

“We also have what we call niche agricultural vendors,” Robbie revealed. “For example, Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, they make their own cheeses, sausages and they raise cows.” 

Although Robbie and her team don’t have to manage the number of community members coming in and out of the market, like they did last year, she still keeps a count on the number of cars in the parking lot. 

This year the department has counted on average 1,149 cars per day, compared to last year’s 1,028 cars per day, at the market. Even though it’s not a huge jump, Robbie noticed more people staying longer to leisure with different guidelines in place. 

During the peak of COVID-19, Governor Phill Murphy identified farmers markets as central places that were not required to close during the pandemic. However, the Resource Conservation group still had to put limits on outdoor gatherings and monitor the number of customers allowed in the farmers market.

“We had to have people posted at the entrance to count the number of people that were on the site at any given time,” Robbie recalled. 

To continue the increase in customer attraction to the market, the Conservation team put together events like Christmas in July, which was held on July 17, and a cooking demonstration of a watermelon recipe on July 24.

Going forward, Robbie hopes to incorporate an educational aspect to the farmers market so the community can purchase fresh produce and find recipes on how to cook vegetables and fruit. 

“It’s become a community gathering place, it was always my vision to have this almost cafe-type vibe. Where you’re hanging out, listening to music and enjoying some good food,” Robbie noted. “It’s what we set out to achieve, buying local and supporting our small businesses.”

The Burlington County Farmers Market is held each Saturday till the end of October from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Burlington County Agricultural center on 500 Centerton Road, Moorestown.