Green

Duke Farms Begins to Nurture and Grow Farm to Table Market

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Young lambs born at Dogwood Farms, Hillsborough, keep the grass trimmed at the Farm to Table Market Thursday at Duke Farms. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Vendors served free samples of their products at the Farm to Table Market. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Kim Osterhoudt helps a customer select fresh, homemade jams. She started her business in 2009 when she left the corporate world. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Duke Farms handed out insulated carrying bags for visitors to bring home their purchases.  Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Thursday's opening of the Farm to Table Market at Duke Farms drew hundreds of visitors. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Dogwood Farms, located in Hillsborough, was selling turnips, radishes, greens and homemade salsa. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Mike Catania, president of Duke Farms, reflected on Thursday’s opening of the Farm to Table Market, a showcase for local farmers and other vendors that specialize in organic, locally grown, homemade products.

“I thought that for our first day, it was incredibly successful; our vendors seemed to do well, the weather couldn’t have been better, we had a lot of local people from Somerville, Raritan and Hillsborough, a great turnout, we were really pleased,” he said.

And it’s only going to get better.

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Just like a seed planted in nutrient-rich soil, Catania promises the Farm to Table Market will grow in popularity and will quickly establish itself as one of New Jersey’s “go-to” farmers’ markets.

This is the third year for the Farm to Table Market; Catania expects to get a significant boost in visitors because the Somerville Farmers’ Market held Thursdays for several years on the Division Street pedestrian mall, has closed down.

Many of the vendors that had set up in Somerville have found a new home at Duke Farms.

Held on Sundays the previous two years, Catania switched to Thursdays to fill the void left by the closing of the Somerville farmers’ market -  and to avoid the competition from other events held Sundays.

“We were delighted to get a lot of people from Somerville, we want to be the market for Somerville as well as Hillsborough,” Catania said.

“These markets become a part of the local community, local food, local farmers supporting the local economies, it’s really a good dynamic. We wanted to step in and fill that role,” Catania added. “Somerville is certainly close enough, so people can come here.”

An added plus are the additional opportunities available at Duke Farms,  a non-profit center dedicated to sustainability, stewardship, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and ecological restoration located on 2,742 acres along Route 206, less than a five-minute drive from downtown Somerville.

Rapidly becoming an international destination for tourists, Duke Farms attracted over 500,000 people last year to its bike paths, trails and ecological programs.

A visitors’ center with a café and educational displays, bike paths, walking trails and other special events scheduled throughout the summer enable visitors to spend the day and take in all that the grounds have to offer, Catania said.

More than one dozen vendors were on hand for the first day; still early in the growing season, there wasn’t as much fresh produce as there will be in the coming weeks, but there was still plenty to be had – radishes, turnips and greens grown in Hillsborough; homemade cheeses and salsa; a selection of pickled products swimming in brine, from olives to artichokes; a selection of wines from grapes grown in New Jersey, knitted products from an Alpaca farm, dozens of fruity and spicy homemade jams  and more.

“We’ll continue to grow it, we’re talking to additional vendors that will come in with a wider array of products,” Catania said. “I guess we’ll line up additional music and other entertainment, take a look at the hours, see if 3-8 p.m. makes sense, talk to the vendors and continue to tweak things so that we’re able to serve the community and vendors,” he added.

The Farm to Table Market is open every Thursday through Nov. 17 from 3-8 p.m. It is located at the Farm Barn Orientation Center, 1112 Duke Parkway West in Hillsborough. Call (908) 722-3700, ext. 4 for further information.

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