Farmer's markets seem like such a virtuous way to do your weekly shopping, but when you're faced with giving up the all-in-one convenience of your regular grocery store run, is there truly a reason to swap air conditioning for strolling stand to stand in the great outdoors?
In short… yes.
New Jersey farmer's markets offer variety, quality and a bevy of other benefits that make digging through buckets of apples downright exciting.
Why Shop at a Farmer's Market?
With grocery stores on practically every corner, why make the effort to drive to a farmer's market, shop for perishables and, in some cases, pay more for the privilege?
Most produce you find in the grocery store has been picked unripe and shipped long distances. Before they're shipped, fruits and vegetables live for weeks or even months in cold-storage warehouses filled with gas designed to limit ripening and keep products from rotting. By contrast, farmer's markets feature produce that's often been picked within a day — some come off the vine that very morning. Taste a farmer's market tomato and grocery store tomato side by side — you'll notice the difference. Each day produce spends in storage means less flavor. View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Dover Farmers’ Market (@dovernjfarmersmarket) on Jul 11, 2018 at 11:52am PDT
Farmers generally don't have giant greenhouses and multiple third-party providers shipping in bananas and rhubarb 365 days a year. Instead, you get to choose from whatever is in season, enjoying maximum flavor with the added benefit of being exposed to things you might never try otherwise. View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Montclair NJ Farmers Market (@montclair_farmersmarket) on Jun 29, 2019 at 5:50am PDT
Expand Your Horizons
When you only eat what's in season, you're forced (albeit in a very nice way) to switch up your meal plan to incorporate new fruits and vegetables depending on the time of year. Commit to buying fresh veggies, and suddenly, you may find a delicious substitute for asparagus when you're craving pasta primavera in the middle of October. Rather than seeing that as a restriction, look at is as an opportunity. View this post on Instagram
#jerseyfresh #kohlrabi #montclair #farmersmarket #jerseyfreshlove #bestofnj #foodie #foodgasm #vegetables #foodiegram #shoplocal #foodography #igfood #montclairnj #montclairfarmersmarket #nj #njeats #nomnom foodporn
A post shared by Montclair Farmers Marker (@montclairnjfarmersmarket) on Nov 29, 2015 at 3:16am PST
Between harvesting, sorting, storage, shipping, stocking and all your fellow shoppers pawing through piles of peaches and potatoes looking for the perfect ones, there are a lot of hands touching your grocery store goodies before you bring them home.
Buying from the farmer's market not only limits the amount of handling your produce endures, it also limits the likelihood you'll get fruit that's bruised and battered.
This is a tricky one. Generally speaking, farmer's markets are considered more affordable because you're not paying a premium for shipping, storage, and all that grocery store overhead, but that's not always the case. Small farmers may not be able to compete with chain stores offering huge bulk discounts. Still, don't let the price tag fool you. What you save in cold, hard cash could translate to a deep dive in quality, too.
Connection with the Vendors
Buy from a farmer's market, and you're directly supporting small businesses. You're helping your neighbors maintain farms that may have been in their family for generations. There's also a rapport that exists between vendors and market goers. You may be able to meet non-food vendors, too. Farmer's markets sometimes let local business owners such as real estate agents or local New Jersey chiropractors set up shop to share their services.
Keep Your Money in Your Community
If you're going to spend money, why not use it to stimulate your local economy? Growers who sell their harvest locally create 13 full-time jobs for ever $1 million in revenue generated. Growers who don't sell locally only create three jobs for the same amount of revenue. Furthermore, farmer's markets keep triple the amount of revenue within the community compared to chain markets. That's a monumental difference.
Why is Buying Food From a Local Farmer's Market Considered to be More Sustainable?
In an age when sustainability is a major talking point and we're all more conscious of our carbon footprints than ever before, it only makes sense to try to buy locally. One Michigan State University study found that while locally grown Iowa produce traveled an average of just 56 miles from farm to market, conventionally grown food traveled almost 1,500 miles on average. That's nearly 30 times the wear and tear on our roads, gas usage, emissions, and overall environmental impact.
Additionally, farmer's market produce is more likely to be organic or at least labeled as chemical- and/or pesticide-free. Remember that getting certified as organic costs quite a bit of money, so asking how crops are tended and nurtured is just as important as looking for a fancy sticker.
How to Find a Farmer's Market in New Jersey
There are close to 150 farmer’s markets up and running in New Jersey, though that number is subject to change depending on a variety of factors. Those markets can be found in almost every country and corner of the state. Whether you're looking for purple cauliflower in Cape May or hoping to score a bag of peaches in Mercer, you can find a market located nearby.
Farmers Markets in Monmouth County
Sunset Ave at Main St
Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712
Open: Seasonally, Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Kennedy Park @ Cookman Ave and Grand Ave
Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712
Open: Summer season runs early June through late September, Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Fall season runs late September through Thanksgiving, Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
11 First Avenue
Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey 07716
Open: June through October, Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
101 Crawfords Corner Rd.
Holmdel, New Jersey 07733
Open: Summer season runs early May through late August, Wednesdays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Fall seasons runs mid-September through late November, Wednesdays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
1 East Main Street (in front of the Hall of Records)
Freehold, New Jersey 07728
Open: July through October, Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
90 Wilson Avenue
Manalapan, New Jersey 07726
Open: Year-round, rain or shine, Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
3710 Route 9
Freehold, New Jersey 07728
Open: Early June through mid-August, Tuesdays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
301 Shore Drive
Highland, New Jersey 07732
Open: July through October, Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. until vendors are sold out
Keyport Farmers Market
Fireman’s Parking Lot
West Front Street
Keyport, New Jersey 07735
Open: Early June through late October, Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Miller Preston Way (between Rite Aid and Manasquan Liquor)
Manasquan, New Jersey 08736
Open: Late June through late August, Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Middletown Farmers and Makers Market
Middletown Art Center
36 Church Street
Middletown, New Jersey 07748
Open: May through September, second and fourth Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Oceanport First Aid Building
2 Pemberton Ave
Oceanport, New Jersey 07757
Open: July through September, Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
1 Centennial Avenue
Long Branch, New Jersey 07740
Open: Summer season runs early June through late September, Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Fall season runs the month of October, Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
2 Bridge Avenue
Red Bank, New Jersey 07701
Open: Mother’s Day weekend though the week before Thanksgiving, Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Public Beach Parking Lot
1085 Ocean Avenue
Sea Bright, New Jersey 07760
Open: June through September, Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Brighton and Ocean Blvd.
Long Branch, New Jersey 07740
Open: Late June through November, Thursdays 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Farmers Markets in Ocean County
Municipal Parking Lot
Corner of Route 9 & East Bay Avenue
Barnegat, New Jersey 08005
Open: Late June through October, Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Bay Head Municipal Parking Lot
83 Bridge Avenue
Bay Head, New Jersey 08742
Open: June through September, Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
630 Atlantic City Blvd. (Rt. 9)
Bayville, New Jersey 08721
Open: Late May through early October, Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance to Island Beach State Park
Rt. 35 S.
Seaside Park, New Jersey 08752
Open: Mid-May through early October, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Winward Beach Park
265 Princeton Avenue
Brick, New Jersey 08724
Open: Mid-May through late September, Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
County Parking Garage Lawn
34 Hadley Avenue
Toms River, New Jersey 08753
Open: Late May through Thanksgiving, Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., plus a special market day the Monday before Thanksgiving
1 Wanamaker Municipal Complex
East End Avenue & Westray
Island Heights, New Jersey 08732
Open: Seasonally (summer through fall), Tuesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Seaside Park, Marina Lawn
J Street and Central Avenue
Seaside Park, New Jersey 08752
Open: Late May through early September, Mondays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
657 East Bay Avenue
Manahawkin, New Jersey 08050
Open: Mid-June through September, Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
713 Long Beach Blvd.
Surf City, New Jersey 08008
Open: Late June through late August, Mondays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Tips for Shopping Smart at Your Local New Jersey Farmer's Market
Get the most out of your farmer's market visits with these tips and tricks.
Go Early... or Maybe Late
You may have to rise and shine at dawn to be among the first to hit your local farmer's market, but skipping the extra sleep could pay off. Many of the best, most exotic or most special goodies are only available in limited quantities, and your fellow shoppers know that. Come late, and you risk losing out. Come early, and you could score that burrata you've been craving or snag one of only three bunches of Thai basil.
If you've never been and will never be a morning person or you're not on the lookout for a particular purchase, be one of the last people through the market. Farmers don't want to haul their produce home, and you may be able to take advantage of last-minute markdowns.
Once upon a time we could visit Frank the Butcher or Tanya the Greengrocer and get insider info on the latest cuts or what just came in from the garden. Not anymore. We take numbers at the meat counter and bag all our oranges ourselves. If we have a question, there's typically no one around to answer it.
The farmer's market is completely different. Most purveyors are eager to talk up their wares. In addition, the more you get to know these people the more likely they are to save you a pint of strawberries because they know you'll be by or recommend a new veggie they think you'll love.
Debit and credit cards are increasingly common at farmer's markets, but cash is still king. Flash a few dollar bills (small denominations are always welcome), and you not only make the vendors' lives easier, you're also more likely to score a deal. Haggling a $5 bag down to four bucks when you have exactly four singles is a savvy play; doing the same and then trying to swipe plastic may not be as well received.
Pack Your Own Reusable Bags
All that sustainability you're supporting tends to go out the window if you expect farmers to supply you with plastic bags for all your purchases. Keep a set of reusable shopping bags in your car — you can even get small, woven produce bags if you want to keep your fruit and veggies separate for the ride home.
Come for the Food, Stay for the Fun
Farmer's markets are all about community. Each market has its own spin on that theme, but many include live music, face painting, yoga on the lawn, library pop-ups, kids crafts, food trucks and other activities and attractions that turn the market into a full-fledged event. Bring your shopping bags, but leave enough time to participate in whatever else is going on. View this post on Instagram
A post shared by West Orange NJ Farmers Market (@wofarmersmarket) on Jun 29, 2019 at 9:02am PDT
Think Outside the Produce Box
Yes, you can buy incredible fruits and veggies at your local farmer's market, but that's often just the beginning. Today's markets have expanded to include everything from artisan pickles to goat cheese to eggs. You may find beeswax candles created by couples who have their own hives (hopefully they have creamy, floral raw honey, too!), baked goods just like grandma used to make and wildflowers just begging for a spot on your dining room table. View this post on Instagram
And the line up at the Burlington Market! @burlcofarmersmarket It’s nice and breezy inside the barn! Come get some spreads for 4th of July parties!! #burlingtoncountynj #moorestown #4thofjulyfood #southerncharm #njfarmersmarket
A post shared by Cheese Etc. & Gourmet Gifts (@cheese_etc) on Jun 29, 2019 at 6:48am PDT
Shop With an Open Mind
When you're stuck in a rut, the overwhelming glut of options at the grocery store rarely helps. It's far too easy to reach for your standby plastic-wrapped chicken and a bag of potatoes or grab a heat-and-serve meal. At a farmer's market, there's inspiration around every corner.
Feel Free to Make Special Requests
If you're preparing for your yearly jam-a-thon and need a few flats to get the job done, let your strawberry guy know. He may be able to bring a case or two just for you.
Keep an Eye Out for Workshops, Classes and Other Special Events
A farmer's market is a great place to learn. From composting how-tos to cooking demonstrations or expert instruction on growing herbs on your own patio, you can discover new ways to reduce your environmental impact and support healthy choices for years to come. Most farmer's markets have an info booth or website with a calendar that will alert you to upcoming events. Search for the market's social media accounts, too; sometimes you'll get a heads-up via Facebook or Instagram rather than in person.
A post shared by West Orange NJ Farmers Market (@wofarmersmarket) on Jun 17, 2019 at 12:05pm PDT
Know the Market's Rules on Pets
Some markets love having Fluffy and Fido along for the ride, but in many areas, there are health and safety regulations that limit what areas your pets can be in. After all, this is a foodie fest and not everyone wants dog hair near their edibles.
Eat Your Finds Quickly
Remember, farmer's market produce hasn't been gassed, waxed or otherwise weirdly preserved. That's wonderful in terms of flavor and quality, but it isn't so great if you're planning on holding onto your kumquats for a couple weeks. Buy only what you can use. The only thing sadder than missing the farmer's market altogether is buying something delicious and watching it rot on your countertop.