NEWTON, NJ - Spring Street in Newton was bustling this past Saturday, with people converging on the Winter Farmers' Market.
In previous weeks, the recovery from Hurricane Sandy, followed by the holidays, and then the rash of winter weather, diminished some of the foot traffic.
However on Saturday, there was a steady stream of regulars who made their weekly stop to the market, as well as to the other Spring Street merchants, while taking in the warmer temperatures that blanketed the area over the weekend.
"Our clientele likes to support 'independent,'" said Eric Derby, a board member of the Foodshed Alliance, which describes itself on its website as "a grassroots, non-profit devoted to promoting sustainable farming and locally grown, fresh, healthy food in northwestern New Jersey."
The Winter Farmers' Market had been housed last year at Newton High School, until the group lost its variance to continue the market there.
Next, the Springboard Shoppes in Newton headed up by founder/manager Jonathan Andrews, stepped in, and offered space to the group for their vendors.
"The Springboard Shoppes is a wonderful location," said Derby. "As opposed to a shopping mall, I love the downtown. It's community-oriented."
What can those who seek out the merchants expect to find when they make their way to the Winter Farmers' Market?
Derby said the vendors can vary from week to week, although there are some mainstays that customers can expect to see weekly, and stop by for their special items week after week.
From meat to produce to breads to coffee to specialty gourmet items, there is something for everyone at the Newton Winter Farmers' Market.
The Pear Tree Pantry was one of the vendors at the market this past week, which is known for specializing in scones.
"The chef is from Liverpool [England]," said Rob Cadigan, who manned the booth.
One of Saturday's offerings was Belgian Chocolate. Cadigan said when blueberries are in season, they often make it into scones. One of the most popular varieties, he said, is cranberry orange, which is accented with dried cranberries, and orange zest.
"They're [the scones] are always baked fresh the morning of the market, and the ingredients are organic whenever possible," said Cadigan.
Silver Birch Kitchens, with the motto, "Simple Food, Done Right," was also there. Operated by Mark and Jessica Geanoules, Mark Geanoules, who talked with The Alternative Press, said, "Everything is 'scratch made.'"
As for the selection, he described it as, "A little bit of everything."
The menu boasted pasta to pork to chicken to vegetable dishes, with many items made with local ingredients.
Part of Silver Birch Kitchens' offerings, in addition to take away entrées that clients of the farmers' market could take home that day, is their "chef service," where locals could have restaurant-quality custom meals, delivered to their doors.
And Geanoules said the best part of all, is the affordability.
Hannelie Rheeder of Cherutabis Farm had "naturally raised food," including some exotic types of meat, sold frozen and ready to be carried home.
"These are things you won't find at the store," said Rheeder.
Some of her items for sale included free-range chicken and duck eggs (she sold out by noon of her 25 dozen eggs), duck, rabbit, guinea fowl, and stewing hens (hens over the age of two, that have dwindled in their egg production).
Rheeder said people are often curious about her out-of-the-ordinary offerings, such as the rabbit and guinea fowl, decide to try, and come back again requesting the items.
A few customers come back weekly for supplies to make meat pies, sometimes using a combination of meats. For example, a duck and chicken pie, or a rabbit and chicken pie, or a guinea fowl and chicken pie, are some of the creations.
Pat Kelly of Glenmalure Farm, like Rheeder, also came to the market from Branchville, offering beef, lamb, pork, and chicken for sale.
"We're a grass-fed operation," explained Kelly of his meats. "All of our animals are outside."
Kelly and his customer Wendy Miller, a weekly shopper from Sparta, discussed the difference between the quality of the meats available from a farmer like Kelly, versus what is sold in supermarkets. Additionally, the two discussed what they know about some livestock raised specifically for foods, and sold to the food giants. Most, they said, are not able to roam free, and are also fed substandard items.
"I'm not much of a meat eater," said Miller. "Before I got to know people at the farm markets, I was vegetarian."
She requested a pork chop from Kelly, which unlike what is found in the supermarket, was individually frozen in its own pack, and extremely thick.
"If you eat food from here, you need a quarter of the amount," said Miller.
Kelly said, in addition to the usual meat items people find in the store, he also sells the "parts," such as organ meats, which some may like to eat. He said some clients come weekly for tripe to purchase for their dogs, and tell Kelly their dogs have healthier coats as a result.
"It's very good for their dog," he said.
Fresh produce was also on hand at the market, with Race Farm of Blairstown in attendance.
"We're a fruit and vegetable farm," said Doug Race.
He said the farm offers a variety of apples, root vegetables, carrots, beets, Brussel Sprouts, and more.
"We're still picking Brussel Sprouts and Kale from the fields," he said.
The Brussel Sprouts, still on their stalks, were a popular item. As Race Farm was packing up for the day, two customers stopped back for Brussel Sprouts, clearing them out entirely.
"We have our own cider," said Race.
The farm also sells baked goods, and other items, including soups.
Apple Ridge Farm sells hydroponic produce, pastured poultry, and on Saturday, specialized in their organic breaks, including Ciabatta, Semolina, Olive, and Seeded Sourdough.
"We had seven varieties today," said Lanore Woodruff.
Woodruff said baking day takes about 15 hours, and the breads are cooked on a wood-fired stone oven.
"We had about 50 here today," said Woodruff.
Woodruff said Apple Ridge Farm uses only organic King Arthur Flour from Vermont.
A loaf averaged about $6 to $7, which Woodruff pointed out a person may pay about $4 for a lesser-quality loaf of bread found in the supermarket.
"Another $2 and it's real bread," Woodruff said. "They [Apple Ridge Farms breads] have a really nicer crust, and inside it's soft."
Fresh bread, biscotti, and pasta were on the menu at Maria's Gourmet Edibles of Sparta. Tom Aquilino, who was representing the vendor said, "It's been busy today, I sold out of everything."
On the Maria's Biscotti website, it depicts the range of biscotti, "sweet" (traditional to "creamsicle" to varieties with chocolate to fig and pistachio, and orange cranberry), and "savory" (from almond to cheddar walnut to "Mexicali Blue" (with blueberries), to pesto pinenut, sun-dried tomato, and olive), as well as the items boxed up for gifts.
The group is also visible at the Ramsey, N.J., and Easton, Pa., winter markets.
Lou Tommaso was at the market with Pittenger Farm, another cornerstone of the market.
"We raise our own meats," Tommaso said.
Their brochure described their beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey as "pastured, naturally raised, locally produced. Jersey born...Jersey fed. Hormones, antibiotics or steroids are never given to our animals."
The farm had items for sale including types of steaks (Filet Mignon, London Broil, and Porterhouse among them), turkey (ground into hot dogs and sausages from Waterwheel Farm turkeys), pork (ribs, chops, ham, ground, and more), lamb, chicken, and specialty items (sausages, beef jerky, kielbasa, and more).
The farm also sold items from other local vendors: Springhouse Creamery Cheese, DanaRay Farm Goat Milk Soap, Flower Creek Items (jams, jellies, and pickles), and Life Be Good Apiary honeys.
Many customers were walking around the market with cups of coffee, the rich aroma floating on the air from their cups. This came from Coffee Coops, and Donald Danart Cooper, who brought coffees from his "roastery" in White Township, N.J.
Cooper described himself as the owner of the establishment, as well as an artist.
"It's [the coffee] in support of my art gallery, and music," he said. "Primarily, I am an artist."
He said there are bluegrass jams at his location each Thursday night, and occasional open mic events. All coffees are roasted onsite, are organic, and come from locations around the world.
Enjoy these vendors, and others, every Saturday through May from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Newton Winter Farmers' Market.
Learn more at the Foodshed Alliance website about the Farm to Fork Celebration, scheduled on Sunday, January 27, beginning at 4 p.m., at Andre's Restaurant in Newton, and featuring the culinary creations of seven well-known area chefs, all to benefit the Foodshed Alliance.
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