Sweet corn and juicy, red tomatoes

Dozens of farmers will sell their products at weekly county market. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BURLINGTON COUNTY PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE

Dozens of farmers will sell their products at weekly county market

Burlington County farmers are known for a bounty that over the years has helped New Jersey cement its reputation as the Garden State, including sweet corn and plump red tomatoes.

Those farmers have the support of the Burlington County Commissioners through the Farmland Preservation Program to sell their goods at the weekly county farmers market. The season opens May 13.

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Two weeks ago, the commissioners approved the preservation in perpetuity of three farms, said county spokesperson David Levinsky. They are the Black Walnut Farm in Mansfield, a 60-acre grain farm off Atlantic Avenue in the center of Columbus; the Gatley Farm in Shamong, a 45-acre grain and vegetable farm off Indian Mills Road; and the Brace Lane Farm in Tabernacle (formerly part of Russo’s Fruit and Vegetable Farm), a 31-acre property off Brace Lane and Bozarthtown Road being converted into a sheep farm.

Through the preservation program, the county makes offers to purchase farm development rights and have the properties deed restricted to remain in agriculture. The farmers continue to retain ownership of the land, according to Levinsky.

“The first farm preserved in New Jersey was in Burlington County, and we’re proud to be a national leader in total acres preserved,” said Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “The preservation of farms and open space helps maintain our county’s scenic landscape and keeps farming alive and viable for current and future generations.”

Meanwhile, more than three dozen farmers sell their produce at the farmers market, held at the county agricultural center on Centerton Road in Moorestown every Saturday, rain or shine, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The market also features food vendors, artists and crafters. Shoppers will find an assortment of farm-fresh produce, flowers, plants, foods and handcrafted goods from across the county.

“Burlington County is proud of our agricultural heritage and our status as the county with the most acres of preserved farmland in the entire state,” said Burlington County Commissioner Allison Eckel. “Our farmers market is another great resource for our farmers and small businesses.”

Craft beer and liquor sales are also returning to the market this season. Marlton-based Zed’s Beer, Cherry Hill’s Forgotten Boardwalk and Columbus-based Recklesstown Farm Distillery were featured on opening day.

Future markets will also feature Burlington City’s Third State Brewing and Somerdale brewery Armageddon. Alcohol sales are for off-site consumption, though over-age adults will be permitted to try samples.

Starting June 1, the Burlington County Office on Aging will also offer vouchers for fresh produce at the county market – as well as other participating markets – for income – eligible senior citizens.

The county has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Department of Health for more than a decade to provide seniors with $30 vouchers. Voucher applications are available by calling (609) 265-5069, Levinsky said.

As for the farms preserved by the commissioners, all three are eligible for state funding for up to 60% of preservation costs. The Black Walnut Farm is also within a five-mile military buffer zone around Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which makes it eligible for Department of Defense funding to cover the remaining 40% of preservation.

The zone is important because it helps minimize security issues and limits development and land-use conflicts near the base. Since 2008, the county has preserved a total of 35 farms totaling 2,348 acres in the zone.

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