The farmers’ market will be open Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., an extra half hour to ensure that shoppers can make it to the market after work. The market, which will be in the municipal parking lot on Raritan Avenue between Second and Third avenues, will be open through Nov. 19.
In addition to the longer hours, Main Street Highland Park (MSHP), the sponsor of the market, will offer more features.
“We’re excited. We’re doing more cooking demonstrations and having music more often,” said James McCrone, executive director of MSHP, which works to promote the businesses along Raritan Avenue. “We’re also reaching out to a broader community. We’re advertising in Chinese and Spanish journals.”
While there will be new additions for the shoppers, the farmers will see a change in the way their goods are advertised. MSHP is bringing attention to certified farmers in the market. The New Jersey farmers’ market Council of Farmers and Communities (NJCFC) issues the certification for farmers and those who sell other goods to ensure that the produce or goods that are advertised as locally grown, truly are.
“People want local, fresh produce and they need to be able to verify its provenance. A number of farmers have stopped getting certified and there’s concern over where it’s (produce) coming from,” McCrone said.
The NJCFC, which is a non-profit organization that began in 1992 to assist the development and on-going network of community farmers’ markets and farmers throughout northern and central New Jersey, will inspect and certify farmers’ produce and goods. The certification costs $300 a year for produce farmers and $150 for bread makers and dairy farmers.
Highland Park is joining a national trend in making sure its farmers are certified. The Farmers Market Coalition, a national group based in Martinsburg, W. Va. recently put together a task force to come up with an official definition for a farmers’ market. There are about 5,300 farmers’ markets across the United States, nearly double the number 10 years ago.
Three years ago, a fifth-generation vegetable and livestock farmer from Grady, Ark., quit the Little Rock River Market and launched a rival “source-verified” market because he grew tired of competing with farmers selling non-local food. The farmer said a reseller brought strawberries from California and repackaged them in green cartons with Arkansas-grown labels and a rock-bottom price.
A 2006 survey of farmers’ markets conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 63% of markets stipulate “vendors can sell only products they produced themselves.”
“The farmers who participate in our farmers’ market aren’t doing anything nefarious. It’s a way to ensure that it’s working for the farmers and consumers together,” McCrone said. “It’s a level playing field of information.”
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