By Tim Gleeson, summer intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing
On a Friday afternoon in the typical summer months, producers from around New Jersey emerge to showcase their products at the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, which actually has an expanded season starting in May and extending into November.
Established in 2008, the market commenced operations with 12 vendors that included Fruitwood Farms, pickle distributor Picklelicious, and cheese connoisseurs Valley Sheppard Creamery. Today, Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market has expanded to 35 merchants, including newcomer Hot Sauce 4 Good, based out of East Millstone, NJ, and which is dedicated to ‘changing the world one bottle at a time’ by donating a portion of its proceeds to charitable organizations fighting food insecurity.
Located off Ryders Lane in New Brunswick, vendors at the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market operate out of a tent-like setting, proudly boasting a range of products that allow customers the opportunity to purchase fresh produce and/or prepared foods. From an array of wines and jams on display to exotic mushrooms and artisan cheeses, there are various products tailored to suit even the pickiest of customers.
Now in its ninth year of operation, the market has established a strong community presence. As Chickadee Creek Farm worker Thomas Lewin states, it’s the atmosphere and a sense of community that most excite him about the market.
“It’s just a great place to spend your Fridays,” Lewin says. “The opportunity to work outdoors alongside other people with the same interests really makes for a fun time!”
Lewin, like many other vendors, compliments the hands-on, outdoorsy type-work as the reason he was initially drawn to the agricultural industry. A New Jersey native, he spends four days a week at the Pennington, NJ, fields “prepping, harvesting, and washing” produce for the Chickadee Creek Farm organization, a certified organic operation headed by Jessica Niederer, winner of New Jersey’s 2016 Outstanding Young Farmer award presented by the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture.
As many market sellers will explain, local organic products are far superior to the mass-produced items found on various supermarket shelves.
“Everything you see here is grown on the farm. It has been freshly harvested in an organic setting,” says Lewin. “Small organic farms are the most sustainable way that vegetables could be produced, and, I think that it is important that people have access to these vegetables.”
The Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, located at 112 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick, operates every Friday from 11 a.m.-5p.m. through November 18 this year. Additional information is available on the Rutgers Gardens website.