Can’t make it to the farm this weekend for fresh vegetables? You’re in luck. The farm is coming to you.
Every Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon, Troy Towers in Union City hosts a farmer’s market for the public. For the third year in a row, seasonal items are available, now supplemented with a selection of baked goods, jars and jellies, and even fresh flowers.
“We just wanted to provide a vehicle for our residents and the surrounding community to be able to buy locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Troy Towers board member Mary Jed.
The market is run by Country Stand Farm from Warren County, New Jersey. Owner Walt Zyck runs farmer’s markets in seven locations throughout Jersey, including Hoboken. Items change over the course of the summer depending on what’s in season, including sweet corn, pumpkins, peas, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, and squash.
“We grow a wide variety,” said Zyck. “Probably 14 varieties of tomato, eight to 10 varieties of peppers.”
They have a permanent farm stand in Washington, N.J., with a bakery on the premises. “We bake our own pies and bring them to Troy Towers,” said Zyck. They also sell brownies and homemade chips. “Plus we bring a large variety of jams and jellies, maybe 40 or 50.”
The jams and jellies aren’t made in-house, but are purchased from Pennsylvania Dutch bottlers. “We do a large business with the Amish,” explained Zyck, who has been slowly expanding his offerings in Union City. “We even brought furniture up last year. If they want something, we’ll bring it up to them. We’re flexible.”
“It turned out so well that they asked if they could sell Christmas trees this past year, and we did,” said Jed.
New guys on the block
Jed launched the farmer’s market in 2012 with one farmer every other weekend. Last year she expanded by contacting the New Jersey Farm Bureau, which put her in touch with Zyck.
Moving to a regular weekly schedule, they developed a clientele from the neighborhood. Country Stand employees Tom Shameneck and Valerie Nelson are returning this year to run the Troy Towers market.
“Everyone comes to meet Tom and Valerie,” said Jed. “They’re the reason it’s so successful.”
“Tom is like the mayor up there,” agreed Zyck
With nearly 70 acres of crops, Country Stand grows most of the produce they sell. As members of the Farm Bureau, they are inspected regularly. “You’re allowed to buy like 25 percent” from other farms, according to Zyck, “but it’s got to be from Jersey. And with us being from Warren County, there’s a lot of big vegetable farmers and we all know one another.”
Although the permanent farm stand is their main business, Country Stand began branching out into farmer’s markets about four years ago. “We’re kind of like the new guys on the block,” said Zyck. “It’s definitely the way things are going, these green markets in the local towns. People are liking it.”
Troy Towers is the smallest market they run, consisting of a tent with numerous tables and a selection of baskets.
One thing Zyck discovered over time was that customers in more urban areas had different tastes. “We’re bringing things that we normally wouldn’t grow for the farm stand, but if you’re in the city you need to be more diverse,” he said. “We grow things to sell in some of the other markets – ethnic items like bok choy – that nobody in Warren County would be interested in. Spanish items, bitter melon. In Warren County they don’t even know what that is, but it sells really well for us.”
And then there are the staples. “It’s the basics wherever we go, the corn and tomatoes. I pride myself on my sweet corn. We grow it super sweet. It’s a pain in the neck to grow, but it’s something you won’t find in ShopRite,” he said.
The market takes place from 9 a.m. to noon every Sunday in the north parking lot of Troy Towers.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.