Farm fresh at your table

New farmers markets add healthy options to local fare

Nowadays residents of North Hudson can hardly toss a tomato without hitting a farmers market. New markets have cropped up in Union City and North Bergen, joining existing ones in neighboring communities, and many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to purchase fresh, locally grown produce and other edibles.
The most recent to launch was the market in James J. Braddock North Hudson Park in North Bergen, just off the traffic circle on Riverview Drive. Open every Sunday from 9 to 2 through Aug. 30, the market was so popular on its first day, June 7, that many items were sold out by noon.
“I always wanted to bring more things into the park,” said Anthony Vainieri, who was elected Hudson County Freeholder last year, taking office in January. “Everyone was saying the park is so beautiful and so underutilized. This was one of my visions.”
In collaboration with North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Hudson County Executive Thomas DeGise, he engaged the Washington Park Association of Hudson County, Inc., (WPA) to make the market happen.
“We were very skeptical about being able to get a farmer this late in the game because these farmers are always booked by January if not the year prior,” said WPA President Nick Caballero. Nonetheless they reached out to Nolasco Farms, with whom they had worked before on community supported agriculture projects in Jersey City, where residents paid farmers seed money up front at the beginning of the season and then received produce deliveries as crops became available.

“What we ended up doing was bringing something that the communities were so hungry to get.” –Nick Caballero
Located in Andover, N.J., Nolasco Farms is a family business that operates farmers markets in New York but none in the Garden State. Until now.
“It’s a phenomenal success,” said Caballero happily on the first day of the market. “At 9 a.m. we had people just swarming.”
“Today we brought tomatoes, asparagus, beets, spring onions, spring garlic, kale, collard greens,” said Richard Nolasco, manning the stand with his brother Julian. The Nolascos were surprised by how popular the stand was, and how quickly things sold out. “Next time we’ll come more prepared with double the things, if not triple.”
As the season progresses and new produce becomes ripe they will expand their offerings.
Volunteers from the North Bergen High School Environmental Club help set up and break down the market each week. “The North Bergen Key Club is involved, and North Bergen Health Corps,” said Environmental Science and Biology Teacher Dana Hojnowski. “These are all related clubs and this is a great opportunity for the high school kids to get volunteer hours.”
“I’m getting some stuff for both my flower garden and my vegetable garden,” said shopper Mary Ann Strandell, an artist and part-time art professor. “I jog in this park almost every day and I saw this so I went home, got out of my jogging clothes, and brought my car over because I knew I’m going to buy some stuff.”
In addition to the fresh produce, other stands include Ethiopian Wild Coffee, Ewiasi Products selling jewelry and skincare items, and Lizzmonade selling artisanal lemonade and other drinks.
Fernando del Campo visited the market with his wife Norah and grandson Jordan Bonilla, 7. They bought vegetables and honey, as well as organic lip balm and other items.
“I’m used to seeing this in Manhattan,” said Fernando. “They have this in Hoboken but for us to go from here to Hoboken and find a parking space, we’ll get frustrated and come back. Here I can walk. I live six blocks away. This is long overdue.”
Playing nearby, Jordan was asked if he was having fun at the market. “Yes,” he said. “But I’m having more fun with my grandparents.”

Ellsworth Park market, Union City

The WPA is also responsible for the new farmers market at Ellsworth Park in Union City, held from 3 to 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday from June 3 to Sept. 30.
“Its takes place on the street at 24th and Palisade Avenue, not exactly in the park,” said Breanna Robles, who manages both markets for the WPA. “The shoppers walk on the sidewalk and shop.”
“The WPA met with Mayor [Brian] Stack in February,” said Caballero. “He was very excited. He said he has wanted to do one in Ellsworth Park for awhile.”
Stack wanted the market to take place on Saturday but this late in the season all the farms were booked.
“Weekends are always busy days for markets,” said Robles. “It was easier to get vendors to join us if we chose a weekday.”
“You need a good farmer to be the anchor,” stressed Caballero. So they arranged for Nolasco Farms to come during the week. “It’s an alternative option for people who go out of town during the weekend.”
The weekly event was heavily marketed on social media and through ads and flyers, and Stack arranged for a jazz trio on opening day.
In addition to the same vendors as Braddock Park, the Ellsworth Park market features Hoboken Farms baked goods, Gourmet Nuts & Dried Fruit, Bloombury Square skincare products on alternate weeks, and Nature’s Own eggs, honey, bacon, and produce.
They also feature Dark Side of the Moo and El Chilango Taqueria food trucks.
“When you look at the West Coast and New York City they usually have food trucks,” said Robles, who is studying city planning at Rutgers University. “They’re becoming more integrated in the movement toward fresh food and produce.”
“What we ended up doing was bringing something that the communities were so hungry to get,” said Caballero.

Troy Towers market, Union City

Union City already had a market in place next to the Troy Towers condominium. Established four years ago, it has been run for the past three years by Country Farms, from Warren County.
“At first people thought it was only exclusive to Troy Towers,” said Mary Jed, the board member at the building who created and coordinates the market. “We said no. People come now from the whole area. I knew that unless everybody supported it, Troy Towers was never going to be able to support it alone.”
Initially run biweekly, it is now a weekly event every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“This is a Jersey Council market,” said Tom Shamenek, who mans the stand each week. “If it’s part of a Jersey Council market you can only have Jersey Product. “Some of it’s coming up from South Jersey. Beets, peppers, eggplants. We grow all of this stuff [at Country Farms], it’s just that some of our stuff isn’t ready yet. But it’s all Jersey grown.”
In addition to produce, the market sells other natural items like syrups and honeys, as well as homemade pies and cookies. “Donna, the owner’s wife, bakes them in our bakery,” said Shamenek.
“I love the cookies,” said Alicia Oceana, who lives across the street from Troy Towers. “We try to come every Sunday. My mom and I are big fans of their blueberry pound cake. My mom tells me, ‘They’re here! They’re here!’ Because all the good stuff sells out quick.”
“I come every Sunday because I live right here,” said Troy Towers resident Susan Limbright. “It’s great because I don’t drive, so it’s much easier. Even the eggs are better here.”
With a limited selection this early in the year, regular customers are waiting for the summer specialties to arrive. “The melons and everything come out during the season,” said Limbright. “The peaches are fantastic. The corn is fantastic. The apples, honey crisp apples, they’re enormous.”
“I really like his corn salsa,” said Troy Towers residents Deeksha Chadha. “I usually get some of the baked goods. And fresh mozzarella. It’s so good. I always get that. Honestly I saw fresh mozzarella somewhere yesterday but I didn’t buy it. Because you see it in a shop or a grocery store and you think maybe it’s days old. Here I know.”
“There’s a man who makes it right in our kitchen,” said Shamenek. “He uses those real big vats. Saturdays he makes it for Sunday, Fridays he makes it for Saturday. We have people that tell us it’s as good as what you get in Hoboken.”

Donnelly Memorial Park market, West New York

Not to be left out, West New York launched their farmers market on June 6. Running on Saturdays from 8:30 to 2:30 through Oct. 31, it takes place at Donnelly Memorial Park, 60th Street and Boulevard East.
This is the second year for the West New York market. “Last year we did Thursdays,” said Cesar Aguirre, a Public Affairs and Recreation Department employee who oversees the market. “We wanted to do a weekend this time.”
Vendors include two farms. Country Stand, the Troy Towers supplier, is joined by Donaldson Farms. “Right now they have lots of greens,” said Aguirre. “Lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, onions. And lots of desserts, pies, cookies. Once the weather gets better there will be more options.”
The market caters largely to the local community. “Most people in West New York don’t drive so they can walk,” said Aguirre. “Once school is done in a few weeks we expect more parents with their kids. It should pick up at the end of June, beginning of July.”
There are several farmers markets in other nearby towns on different days of the week, including in Hoboken and Jersey City.

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Braddock Park Art Festival to take over the park on June 14

“Next week is the big one, the arts fair,” said Freeholder Anthony Vainieri at the launch of the Braddock Park farmers market on June 7. “It’s an sponsored by Guttenberg Arts. They’ve got artists coming in from all over the place.”
The first annual Braddock Park Arts Festival will take place between the Lake House (Interpretive Center) and the street circle on Riverside Drive in Braddock Park on Sunday, June 14 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dozens of activities are planned for the day.
The Lake House is the focal point of the festival. The artist market will set up in tents following the lake’s walking path, displaying high quality art and craft works from many local artists, galleries, and organizations. Also lining the path from the Lake House to Riverside Drive will be art technique demonstrations, community projects, and artist installations. Food Truck Row will be located around the street circle on Riverside Drive.
“Just for one week the farmers market will move across the street,” said Vainieri.
Throughout the park will be artist installations, creating a pop-up sculpture garden featuring works by internationally known artists. In Graffiti Alley, artists will create graffiti-style murals on 8’x8’ panels of plywood. Visitors are encouraged to pick up a brush and paint on an 8’x8’ community mural, as well as participate in the art-making demonstrations that are fun and fit for all ages.
Guinness Book of World Record holding artist Steve McKenzie and the Rainbow squadron will introduce the public to large scale printmaking by creating a 50’x4’ community steamroller mono print. Visitors are invited to watch as additional 4’x8’ woodcuts by other artists are inked and printed with the steamroller. These larger than life mono prints and woodcuts will be hung between the trees and change the park into a temporary gallery creating a beautiful series of images for all to enjoy.
Braddock Park art festival’s artist market will feature artists Drive by Press, Killer Acid, Carrier Pigeon, The Raven Gallery, Manual Arsenio Alvarez’s “M A Saint” presented by his family, Compafoto, Dave Dziemian, Manhattan Graphics Center, Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, Totemic 17, Caricatures by Michael Graessle, Guttenberg Arts / Bulls Ferry Pottery, Michal Brodka, Ami Ishida, WordPower Art by Connie Reynolds, Vanessa Sortorrio / EternalGlyphics, Suchitra Sirdesai / Toru Izumida, Ninetta Nappi, Erasmo Jorge Gomez, and Ray Arcadio.
Art demonstrations and community projects to be featured in the festival include Combat Paper NJ’s papermaking demo, a monoprint demo with Bruce Waldmen and Susan Rostow, a drypoint etching demonstration with Christina Pumo, a DIY silkscreen T-shirt table with PushPull Printshop, a DIY ceramic tile community project with FPOAFM Nomadic Studios, a Montclair Art Museum mobile art truck, and a community steamroller monoprint with Steve McKenzie & Rainbow Squadron, steamroller woodcuts by local artists.
The Unfalling of Our Parts by Christina Pumo, Inflatable Sphere by Cannonball Press, and Graffiti Alley featuring Matt Ellis, Dan Bortz, and Ray Arcadio will also be on display at the festival as art installations.
The first annual Braddock Park Art Festival is sponsored by Hudson County Executive Thomas A. DeGise, Anthony Vainieri and The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, The Hudson County Division of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development, Hudson County Division of Parks, and is hosted by Guttenberg Arts.
For further information visit the Guttenberg Arts website at or their Twitter account at @guttenbergarts.
This event is free and open to the public. The rain date is Aug. 23.

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