In its sixth year, the Hoboken's Farmers' Market has showed a successful synergy between rural New Jersey farmers and urban Hoboken folk. By selling directly to the consumers, growers can eliminate the reliance on the middleman, thus capturing at a greater share the consumers' food dollars. For Hoboken residents, the lure of lower prices, increased freshness and a comfortable social atmosphere is hard to resist.
John Melicks, of Melicks' Town Farm of Califon, N.J., has been making the trip to Hoboken since the market's inception on First Street in 1997.
"It's always good and busy here," said Melicks Tuesday. "We're able to do more business in five hours here than we do in an entire day [at the market in Califon]."
He added that one of the biggest advantages of the Farmers' Market is that shoppers can buy the freshest product possible. "Freshness as well as a good variety are really the key," he said as he pointed to his freshly picked fruits, flowers, and produce. Melicks' stand has a growing reputation for its selection of fresh and juicy peaches.
According to Melick, most of the items at his stand were picked within the last 24 hours and much of it was harvested earlier in the day.
"We start to think about want we what to take the night before," Melick said. "We get up early [to pick what we are going to take] and have the truck full and ready to go by noon."
The Hoboken Farmers' Market is one of 35 urban markets operating in New Jersey and is co-sponsored by the city of Hoboken. The city's Environmental Committee first started the market in 1997 and the committee's chairman, 5th Ward Councilman Michael Cricco, spearheaded its inception. Located on Newark Street between River and Hudson streets and one block from the PATH, the market operates from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through October.
The market's patrons said Tuesday that freshness, convenience, and selection are reasons that they shop at the market.
"It's a great alternative to going to the supermarket," said Hobokenite Margaret Simpson as she held a bag full of blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sunflowers. "You never know how fresh the produce is at the store. For all I know, it could be days or even a week old. You can just look at the color of the tomatoes here and know that it's fresh."
Local resident Susan Marks said that the market is a welcome change of pace. "It's a treat being able to have fresh peaches on random Tuesday," said Marks, who bough a basket of peaches. "It's not something that we normally get, living in such an urban environment. I always look forward to it."
Melicks said he looks forward to coming across the different type of customer that he sees in Hoboken.
"There [are] a lot of singles and young couples that are looking for fruits and vegetables for that night's dinner or for the next day or two," he said. According to him, that is quite the change from his rural market, where families are shopping for food for the entire next week.
All of the produce sold at the market is grown in New Jersey. Agriculture is a big business in the Garden State. Last year alone, agriculture had a $62.5 billion impact on the state's economy. It is the state's third largest industry behind pharmaceuticals and tourism.
New Jersey's agricultural industry has maintained a strong and adaptive character. With nursery and greenhouse production topping the list of New Jersey's agricultural products, the state ranks third in the Northeast in production, and annually ranks in the top 10 nationally.
Free vouchers for seniors
Monday, Mayor David Roberts announced that the city has received senior citizen vouchers for Jersey Fresh Produce is to be used at the Hoboken Farmers' Market. Eligible seniors can receive up to $20 in vouchers.
"The vouchers are an important means which allow our seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income, to participate in the popular summertime market," said Roberts Monday. "Our Farmers' Market is very popular with residents because of the wide variety of produce and baked goods offered."
The vouchers are available through the Hoboken senior citizens' office, 124 Grand St., on a first come, first serve basis. To be eligible, Hoboken seniors need to provide their Medicare or PAAD identification.