SUMMIT, NJ - With summer come many pleasant things. Hot days and cool nights. Family barbeques and ice cream sundaes. Relaxation at the beach and thrills at the amusement park. In summer, children do not have to go to school, families will go on vacation, and anyone can make memories that will last a lifetime. It certainly is a special season for all, but Summit residents have something particularly worthwhile to look forward to each summer – the return of the

The Summit Farmers Market, presented by Summit Downtown, began its 19th year on May 13, and it will be held through November 18. Shoppers are invited to visit the market, located in the Park & Shop Lot #2 on the corner of Maple Street and DeForest Avenue, every Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. to purchase some of New Jersey’s freshest foods and other goods from local businesses. This year 27 merchants will be present, selling fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, baked goods, prepared meals, and numerous other wares.

“It’s the best place to be on Sunday mornings,” said Marin Mixon, executive director of Summit Downtown. “It offers an alternative for people to get fresh food, and it augments what we have in our downtown and around our community. It’s a gathering place for people to meet and greet and enjoy the outdoors.”

The Summit Farmers Market would be nothing without its featured farms, all of which must be based in New Jersey, Mixon said. One such farm is Race Farms, which has been a part of the market for over a decade, according to fourth-generation farmer Jordan Race. Comparing it to a regular food store, Race said the Farmers' Market is superior due to the high quality of its products.

“The produce is definitely fresher,” she said. “We try to pick it either the day before [the market] or the morning of … so it comes straight from the field to the truck to the table.”

While freshness is enough of a draw, Mario Bochna of Stefan’s Specialty Foods pointed out another reason why the market is unique – the wide range of its merchandise.

“You’re going to find some nice, different foods that you won’t find in supermarkets,” he said. “You find ethnic foods such as ours, artesian-type foods … that aren’t commercially made. All our stuff is handmade – we only produce whatever we can sell at the farmers markets.”

As a signature community event, the market indeed is a major opportunity for small businesses to promote their products and build a clientele in the Summit area.

“It brings everyone together, and everyone gets to sample what [businesses] have to offer,” said Adele DiBiase of Vita Organic Foods, which chose the market to debut its new food line. “We get to reach the community. That’s how you grow.”

With all of the shoppers and farmers it attracts, the market is also a tremendous opportunity to help those in need. G.I.F.T. (Give It Fresh Today) is a new initiative for the market that asks shoppers to buy additional food or bring in extra home-grown produce and donate it to the organization, which will then give it to S.H.I.P. (Summit Helping Its People) and St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen to feed the hungry.

“This is a chance to give [the hungry] the opportunity to eat fresh produce,” said David Foregger of G.I.F.T. “It’s also really good because it’s encouraging people to give a little extra to the local businesses.”

The Summit Farmers' Market, with all that it has to offer, often sees many of the same customers returning year after year. Sally Allen is one such long-time shopper, and it is because of her experience that perhaps gives her an understanding of why the market is so successful.

“If you put a priority on doing something environmentally responsible, this is the place to shop,” said Allen. “If you put a priority on that warm feeling of knowing where your food’s coming from, this is the place to shop. Obviously, if you put a priority on freshness and taste, there’s no place better.”

Summer is here and for Summit residents so is the Farmers Market, the only place where one can buy fresh foods, help the less fortunate, and contribute to the community. It is a seasonal tradition that many people hope will never end.