First Year For Manchester Farmers Market Proves Bountiful

Ian and Ann Marottoli of Leisure Knoll show off the cupcakes and decaffeinated coffee they bought during a recent Manchester Township Farmers Market. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  MANCHESTER – This summer marked the first for the township’s Farmers Market held each Thursday and like any growing season it took some planning to foster a successful harvest.

  The market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Thursday at the municipal complex at 1 Colonial Drive. It began on May 11 and was to have concluded on July 27 but was extended to September 7.

  It features a variety of vendors who offer fruits, vegetables, smoothies, soups, empanadas, desserts, home-baked goods, herbs, bedding plants, herbal teas and tinctures, all-natural dog treats and more.

  The governing body wanted to provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to shop the great homemade and homegrown products while supporting local small businesses.

  Adrianne DeMartino, who runs KC Market Place, has been at the market since it started. “We have jersey corn, tomatoes. Most Thursdays it has been pretty brisk. It has been good here. Corn and tomatoes have been selling well along with our onions and jumbo eggplant. We have a market in Whiting that is also very busy.”

Pine Lake Park resident Holly Lafrenier joins her kids Anna Beth and Rupert at her vendor area at the Manchester Township Farmers Market. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “This the first time we came,” Anne Marottoli said. She and her husband Ian live in Leisure Knoll.

  “We picked up some cupcakes,” her husband said.

  “I picked up some de-caff coffee that I am very happy about,” she added.

  Over at the Grow Without Soil DIY Hydroponic Systems table and trailer was Robert Hankins and his son. “We use hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting. We don’t use any chemicals. We have a commercial version of this little (trailer) in Toms River by the Home Depot by the old Boy Scout building. We sell about 2,000 heads (of lettuce) a week out of that facility. We deliver locally to Whiting to Point Pleasant, the barrier island and to down to Lacey, so about a 10-mile radius.”

  “We were going to have a local pickup along Route 37 but Covid hit and we lost it so we do the Farmers Markets so people can try it and taste it until we get another location,” Hankins said. “Usually, they will try one of these boxes which is similar to a bag salad but it is a box and you get the equivalent of 2 ½ bags of salad. The difference is that will last four weeks.”

  Hankins added, “you are lucky to get four days out of bag salad. It works really well for the retirement people because they don’t eat a whole lot of lettuce.”

  “It grows right here now,” Hankins said as he showed off the interior of the mini-trailer. “We grow it in here live. We use all organic nutrients and all organic seeds. We don’t use and fungicides, herbicides or pesticides because it is grown indoors and there is no soil and so there are no bugs.”

  “Even the gnats – which have been horrible this year – get into the facility, there is no soil so there is no place for them to make a home,” he said.

DIY Hydroponic Systems founder and partner Robert Hankins and his son present their organically grown items during a recent Thursday at the Manchester Township Farmers Market. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “We do well here at this farmers market. We only do Brick and Manchester (markets). We do almost as well here as we do in Brick, which is huge,” he added.

  You could also pick up some homemade Polish pierogies from Krakus Deli of Phillipsburg and some gourmet scones from Butter Me Up. Some shoppers were cooling off over at Dagastino’s food truck that sold gelato and specialty desserts during the hot summer afternoon.

  Local vendor Holly Lafrenier was selling “herbal extracts and mostly herbal teas, salves, lip balm, body butters. I live right over in Pine Lake Park. I have been here since May.”

  Lafrenier makes up all the recipes “and I make everything from my home myself.” She brought along her two children. Her daughter Anna Beth and her son Rupert helped her out during the afternoon.

  It is hoped that the market will grow in the years to come.