Newark farmers’ market celebrates opening weekend
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Patrick Galloway reached down to grab his notebook, which he used to keep track of the amount of people at Newark Natural Foods’ farmers’ market. Every half an hour, Galloway roamed the market to best capture the size of the crowd, which came out last Sunday to engage with a local community of farmers and vendors. An assortment of produce and poultry, eggs and sirloin cuts were all on sale to the public.
By midday, the market had seen 664 people, according to Galloway’s best estimates. As one of the co-managers of Newark Natural Foods Co-op, which organized the event, he advertised the farmers’ market to the community. On the market’s inaugural weekend, despite an overcast sky and unpredictable pattern of rain, Galloway’s efforts paid off.
“The average market for last year was right around 600 people,” he said. “We are already at that point, and we should be growing.”
Now in its 12th year of operation, the farmers’ market has served as a liaison between locally grown food and a group of conscious eaters and curious consumers. Nearly 20 vendors dotted the parking lot outside the co-op, and a continuous crowd of patrons found themselves immersed in the sights and smells of heirloom tomatoes and mustard greens, to name a few.
Galloway, who has been employed by the co-op since March, said Newark’s farmers’ market, along with the nationwide, burgeoning number markets popping up, has more to offer than the food.
“One of the coolest things about farmers markets is, first off, knowing where you food comes from, being able to see the producers and farmers face-to-face,” he said. “All of times, you don’t see where you food comes from. You don’t know what’s in it.”
In 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that since 2008, the number of farmers’ market in its registry increased 76 percent, boasting 8,268 markets across the country. The nearly 80 percent jumps came at a time of national debate over the health and safety of the food we eat.
Many of these farmers’ markets purport supporting a local network of growers and raisers, and yet what the word ‘local’ means is still up to debate. While the USDA does not provide a definition of how many miles of separation from a farmers’ market constitutes a local farm, Galloway said that farmers within a 50 mile radius of Newark are brought into sell their goods.
One of those farms is Whimsical Farms, approximately 12 miles south of the market grounds. Michelle France has been working on the farm for three years, helping raise cattle, chickens, sheep and pigs with antibiotic, non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) feed. She stressed the importance of keeping these common fixtures in animal feed out of her farm’s.
“We’re not trying to produce what I call factory animals, where they get really big really quickly,” she said. “It doesn’t produce good tasting meat. Since working here and eating out products, I can’t really eat grocery store pork anymore. It tastes like water.”
The market has proved beneficial for Whimsical Farms. France said she has seen a good response from customers despite their meats and eggs being sold above normal retail value. However, she insisted that customers paying $5 for a dozen eggs are indeed supporting cage-free, well-nourished chickens and a farm that values this ethic.
Across from Whimsical Farms’ stand, Crisp & Co. was selling something different than the rest of the vendors: artisan pickles. What started out as a gift to a friend became a company that now provides to 21 states and the District of Columbia, reaching as far west as California.
Jon Scott met the owner of Crisp & Co. while working on an organic farm. Now in his third year of employment with the company, Scott and his co-workers have observed a spike in popularity that corresponded to the recent purchase of a 5,000-square-foot warehouse space. With the space, the company will expand on an already popular brand. But they don’t forget their roots: They began selling to the public in 2013, and its first wholesale buyer was Newark Natural Foods.
The importance of Newark’s market does not go overlooked by Scott. Having been a farmer, he understands how supporting local food systems, supported by local communities, can economically benefit the farmers. And not only that, Scott believes there is a human benefit to them as well.
“I think it ties people together,” he said. “It keeps us all a little bit together, if you will.”