BARNEGAT – Quite a crowd showed up to the corner of Route 9 and East Bay Avenue for opening day of the Barnegat Farmers’ Market on June 22, so much so that the space reserved for parking was filled up shortly after the market opened at 11 a.m. Many people opted to park in a nearby shopping plaza instead, some armed with reusable shopping bags to store fruit, vegetables, flowers or whatever else caught their eye.
The market of course had the typical farm stands filled with corn, cantaloupe, yellow squash, blueberries, peaches, garlic and kale, but more and more farmers’ markets around the Jersey Shore are starting to spice up their neighborhood bazaars with a unique variety of vendors.
The Barnegat Farmers’ Market had a little bit of everything for residents to try –from pickles to pierogis to pound cake – wedged nicely in front of the Barnegat Food Pantry & Thrift Shop.
Daisy Smith and Jaconda Bell of Momma’s Home Made were dishing out samples of their scratch made apple sauce, apple garlic hot wing sauce and sweet potato syrup, which they told market-goers to drizzle on anything from salmon to apples to sweet potatoes themselves. The mother -daughter team has been selling their sweet goods at farmers’ markets all across the shore, including the Brick Farmers’ Market at Windward Beach Park every Saturday.
Another popular vendor was Steve’s Pound Cakes, named after Steve Aquilino of Ocean Gate. His all natural, hand-made buttery cakes come in varieties of lemon vanilla, brown sugar cinnamon, old-fashioned chocolate, pumpkin bread, coconut and plain, as well as his “secret weapon,” a cream cheese pastry cake with a sugary walnut topping named Girl Food, a creation he said increased his sales by 30 percent. It also comes in a chocolate version, appropriately named Dirty Girl.
Barnegat’s Recreation Director Jeanne Broadbent said the reason there’s so many non-farmer vendors around is because the farmers asked for it. She said there was a big push for farmers’ markets around nine years ago. But as time went on and surrounding communities like Lacey and Stafford joined in, they became less unique, and more hooks were needed to draw people back into their charm.
Sensing the stagnancy, two years ago the farmers came to her and said they wanted more people to come, but that they didn’t necessarily want to compete with any more farmers. They asked her to look for other, more specialty vendors, such as crafters and people selling products like candles, honey and coffee.
“If it’s inclement weather or hot, they can always come to get fresh produce, but the coffee guy might not be there,” she said.
Additions like food trucks help as well. Oss Ome Bowls dished out Acai fruit bowls and smoothies, while Dags Dippers served up French toast skewers, chocolate covered strawberries and grilled pineapple. Truck owners are often trying to get the word out about their businesses as well, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Broadbent said 13 vendors are signed up for the farmers’ market this year, a total that includes only four farms. One was absent for opening day, Eckert’s, which she said mostly grows corn, and will be around starting the first week in July.
The Barnegat Farmers’ Market runs until October 26, rain or shine, Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Municipal Parking Lot. A special Thanksgiving Farmers’ Market will also take place on November 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Vendors can still sign up – farms or specialty – by calling or emailing Jeanne Broadbent at Barnegat Township Recreation at 609-698-0080, ext. 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.