SPARTA, NJ – Even though they could not anticipate the summer’s back-to-back heat waves, the organizers of the Sparta Farmers’ Market set up areas for both customers, and their canine companions to get a cold drink.
“We added the café this year,” owner and manager Ben Delcoro said.
The cold drinks were simply fruit and water for a healthy and cool treat.
“We have a display so people know what’s in each drink,” he said.
At the Doggy Café, the drink is cold water, but there are dog biscuits available, too.
“A lot of markets don’t welcome dogs,” Delcoro said, “but our thing is community. People want to bring their dogs and socialize.”
The market also features cooking demonstrations and live music and an area for flyers and brochures.
“We created an LLC,” Delcoro said. “And we run it as a non-profit, using the vendor fees to run it.”
All of the staff are volunteers, including Delcoro’s sons, Brendan and Anthony, who run errands and set up flyers.
Delcoro was a professional chef for 16 years. He grew up on a small family farm in Morris County and saw so many farms bought up. Now he is determined to save farms and farmers in Sussex County.
“We sought out the best quality in Sussex County," he said.
Farms represented include Kittatinny Mountain Farm in Wantage, Churutabis Farm in Branchville, Ventimiglia Vineyards in Wantage, Eden Farms Greenhouses in West Milford, Fresh as it Gets Gardens in Wantage and Everlasting Gardens and Mosfund Farms both in Branchville.
Highland Valley Apiaries bring bees and honey.
The cheese from Springhouse Creamery in Fredon is made on the farm from milk from their own Jersey cows. Vegetables and herbs in the cheese are also from the farm. Springhouse cheese is also sold at the Sussex Fairgrounds farmers market, and through George’s Wine Gallery in downtown Branchville, and at George’s booths at the West Milford and Hopatcong farmers markets.
Cheese is also sold at the self-serve shop on the farm, which is about a half mile off of Route 94 behind the Fredon School.
Alpacas also make an appearance at the market when it is cool enough, but fiber is always there.
Harry Mack, a shipping supervisor at a manufacturing plant and New Jersey forest fighter is just starting out in the alpaca business, but he is learning every aspect, using a knitting machine at the market. His young son has also learned to spin.
Mack does not shear his own animals.
"The animal and the fiber are worth too much to take the chance,” he said.
His business is called Awesome Alpacas, but the animals board at Hidden Pastures Alpaca Farm and Fiber Shop until he gets his own farm up and running. Mack lives in Dingman's Ferry, Pa., and has been in the alpaca business for only about 18 months.
He decided he wanted his children to grow up in a farm atmosphere and “a lot of livestock requires more capital than I have.” Not only that, his family wasn’t “keen on raising livestock for food.”
“Alpacas require less care than some,” he said, “they are really self-sufficient and not too land intensive.”
The Sparta Farmers’ Market is every Saturday in the upper parking lot of the municipal building.
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