A holiday market earlier this month was the culmination of a successful season for the county’s farmers market.
The annual event featured fresh produce, seasonal foods and handmade crafts, and residents were treated to music and a cooking demonstration by the Rod Homestead.
“The farmers all have a lot of produce in their fields, so a lot of the produce are what people are looking for to cook their Thanksgiving meals,” said Mary Pat Robbie, director of the Department of Resource Conservation.
Toys for Tots collected new toys at the market for distribution to needy children, and food vendors included Mom Mom’s Polish Food, 1895 Organic Farm and Pinelands Produce. A live band played for the crowd and Wilson, a Newfoundland dog training for therapy work with cancer patients, made an appearance.
“He loves coming to the farmers market; he comes here every weekend,” said Anthony Dragun, Wilson’s owner and physician at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “He feels like this entire setup is made only for him, like it’s his world and we’re all just living in it.”
A second holiday market will be held at the county’s agricultural center on Dec. 3.
“At this market, we do have a lot more jewelry vendors because that’s always a popular gift item,” Robbie said. “We have a lot of knitwear and painted furniture, which is really cool. It’s a nice mix.”
About 1,073 cars were counted at the county’s agricultural center each Saturday during the market season, including a record high of 1,470 cars on July 16. The market remained open during the pandemic.
“We had a big surge in attendance during COVID, because in the early days of (the pandemic), the governor said that farmers markets are essential services that could stay open,” Robbie noted.
Even with health and safety guidelines during COVID, market attendance was strong.
“We limited the number of people that could come in at any one time,” Robbie said. “ … There was no mingling in front of the farmers’ stands, but I think that brought our existence to a lot of people’s attention, so they continued to come even when we were over most of the COVID restrictions.”
Programs at the agricultural center offer something for everyone, including programs on horticulture and agriculture.
“ … That’s what we set out to do when we preserved this farm … is to really educate people about agriculture,” Robbie explained, “about where their food comes from, and hopefully, they will learn to appreciate their local farmers.”