August 17, 2022

This is Prime Time for Produce At Local Farmers Markets

RIPE AND READY: Heirloom tomatoes are among the fruits and vegetables currently at their best in area farmers markets.

By Anne Levin

Despite the low levels of rainfall this summer in central New Jersey, the tomatoes, corn, zucchini, and other locally grown crops are doing just fine. Last week, which was National Farmers Market Week, tables at area farmers markets were piled high with produce. The bounty continues through fall, but peak time is now.

“The lack of rain has significantly helped some crops,” said Chris Cirkus, manager of the West Windsor Community Farmers Market, held Saturdays in the Vaughn Drive lot of Princeton Junction train station. “And mid-August is when every single thing is in season. It is the best time of the year.”

The 19-year-old West Windsor market is among several in the area. It is open, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays through November 19. “Each market is different,” said Cirkus, who previously managed the Trenton Farmers Market. “Every one has its own feel. This is a once-a-week market, a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to support farmers, create a community space, and foster health and wellness. It’s the real thing.”

According to the website, studies show that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Locally grown food purchased soon after harvest retains its nutrients and tastes better. Eating local is better for the environment.

“When your food doesn’t travel long distances, you’re promoting better air quality and reducing pollution,” the site reads. Local food also preserves open space. “Open farming lands will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.”

The parking lot at the Dinky train station hosts the Princeton Farmers Market on Thursdays, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November 17. Originally at Hinds Plaza outside Princeton Public Library, then moved to the Franklin Avenue parking lot during the pandemic before being relocated to the train station, the market sells produce from such area farms as Terhune Orchards, Cherry Grove Organic Farm, and Chickadee Creek Farm. Additional stands sell specialty mushrooms, soups, pickles, Mediterranean delicacies, artisan breads, flowers, granola, specialty olive oil, and more.

Easily recognized by “Dvoor Bros.” painted on the roof of a horse barn at the Flemington traffic circle (111 Mine Street), the Hunterdon Land Trust’s Dvoor Farm market is held on Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., through November 20. Organic produce, meats, breads, cheese, honey, baked goods, and eggs are among the offerings. The market also holds programs exploring Hunterdon County history, and yoga at 9 a.m. in the wagon house.

The Trenton Farmers Market could be considered the granddaddy of them all. A farmer-owned cooperative since 1939, it has been on Spruce Street in Lawrence Township since 1948. The market is open Wednesdays-Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer months. Saturdays draw the most vendors and the biggest crowds. The seven farms selling produce are the main draw, but the market is also known for its Polish deli, barbecue stand, Amish market, baked goods, specialty tea shop, and various clothing, jewelry, soaps, and other items.

“For anybody who hasn’t been to a farmers market this season, right now is the perfect opportunity to check one out, because everything is in,” said Cirkus. Of the West Windsor site, she added, “It’s not just a market. It’s an event. It’s where people spend their Saturday mornings because of the energy around it.”