Food & Drink

Shortage of Farmers Forces Somerville Farmer’s Market to Close

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Credits: Rod Hirsch/Tapinto file photo
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SOMERVILLE, NJ  - The Somerville Farmers Market, scheduled to resume operations on Grove Street for its ninth season June 7, will not open this year.

“You need more than one farmer to operate a legitimate farmers’ market,” said Jay Scott, who is the head of the eight-member volunteer committee that operates the market.

Scott distributed an e-mail over the weekend announcing the news:

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“The Somerville Farmers Market Committee has decided to cancel the 2018 season of the Somerville Farmers Market.

“They have not been able to sign up enough vendors to make the Market a financial success for those vendors who have signed up.

“The Committee has enjoyed operating a Market for the past 8 years and serving the Somerville area.”

The organization’s Facebook page has yet to be updated, with a notice that the weekly market would be opening on June 7 and remain open on Thursdays from  11 a.m.-4 p.m. through Aug. 30.

The Country Stand Farm from Hunterdon County planned to return this year as they have since the start of the Somerville Farmers’ Market, but they were the only one, according to Scott.

Two farms from last year, Dogwood Farm and Norz Farm in Hillsborough -had informed the committee they would not be returning this year; other farms the committee had lined up also pulled out of verbal commitments, as did some vendors, according to Scott.

As of Saturday, the committee had fewer than 10 vendors, including the farm, lined up for 2018.

“We needed to find at least one more farmer,” he said.

“That would have made it economical for all the vendors but you have to have enough vendors to make the people come ,” he said.

Most of the weekday, afternoon customers at the Farmers’ Market were Somerset County employees, who work in several buildings clustered on Grove Street and the immediate area.

“They come to eat lunch, but we just didn’t have the vendors.

“With just a couple of vendors and one farmer, we just didn’t see a way to make it a success  for 3 months, so rather than start up we just cut it off and decided not to open up,” he added.

Scott also suggested that competing farmers’ markets at Duke Farms in Hillsborough and at the Bridgewater Library, both open on Sundays, probably contributed to the demise of the Somerville operation.

“They both seem to be doing pretty well; that could have affected us as well,” he said.

The season is short for farmers to make money, and they will go where the crowds are larger, explained Somerville restaurateur Rick St. Pierre, one of the market’s big supporters.

“What was a promising start just went away,” St. Pierre said. “There are not enough days in the week for farmers to do what they do.

“It’s very disappointing,” he added.

The market had operated on Division Street for several years but shut down in 2016, reopening on Grove Street last year where it had originally started nine years ago.

The season started strong, but ran into problems mid- to late summer as the number of vendors dwindled, and part-time help became hard to find for those farmers and vendors who remained.

Scott said the committee will continue to work with  the Somerville Alliance for Food Education, a non-profit organization incorporated last year to initiate other food-related programs throughout the year. They will be busy during the Thanksgiving season and will continue to work on behalf of families in need, according to Scott.

“We don’t know whether we will regroup,” Scott said, looking ahead to 2019. “If we can get some key vendors, we would consider it.”

The weekly Farmers Market at Duke Farms returned on Sunday, May 6, with more than two dozen vendors  and is open throughout the summer from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. every week, rain or shine.

The market will close for the season Oct. 28.

Vendors are set up in the parking area adjacent to the Duke Farms Visitors Center, 1112 Dukes Parkway West.

The Bridgewater Farmers' Market opens June 10 in the parking lot at the Bridgewater Library, 1 Vogt Drive, and will remain open every Sunday through Oct. 21 from 11 a.m.-3 p..m.

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