This article also published on Baristanet.com
The Montclair Farmers Market has a certain intangible quality. I might call it spirit, or maybe community, but je ne sais quoi seems more appropriate.
Each Saturday morning, New Jersey farmers and artisans of the highest quality and integrity set up tent in the Walnut Street Train Station Parking Lot. Soon, regular patrons swarm the space, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the quality of goods they are purchasing. At the risk of sounding slightly utopian, it’s is more than just a Farmer’s Market – - it’s a communal experience.
The Montclair Farmer’s Market was started in 1993 with five vendors. It was located downtown, and was developed to enhance the failing commercial activity. According to Steve Schuckman, chairperson of the Montclair Farmer’s Market, local merchants protested the market, fearing its presence would diminish local revenue. As the market grew, business owners soon realized, much to the contrary, that the Market had successfully stimulated downtown commerce. Ten years later, the downtown shop owners were sad to see the Market relocate to its current location due to the building of the Crescent Deck.
The market is now in it’s eighteenth season and hosts sixteen produce and specialty vendors. As a rule, Schuckman explains, the Market “does not allow merchants who have existing businesses into the market. The goal is to make the market supportive of New Jersey agriculture and aquaculture.” The one exception is the Montclair Bread Company, who is grandfathered into the market.
For some, the Market has become a town sounding board where local politicians, residents, business owners, and ahem, bloggers, arrive at the same time to meet, talk, argue, and eventually pick up some pristine produce. Councilman, Cary Africk had this to say about the nouveau “cooler.”
The great thing about the Farmer’s Market is that it gives me a good opportunity to talk to people. It’s “grass roots” at its best! I’ve been spending about two hours, most every Saturday there! I run into EVERYBODY and sometimes people are “lined up” waiting to talk and I LOVE it! Most everyone wants to talk about taxes but we also get a chance to talk about other issues affecting the town. I also get a chance to talk about my love for Farmer’s Markets, especially the organic vendors like Montclair Bread, the produce guy, and the new Vegan bakery. I also get a chance to complain about several things, such as the lack of “place of origin” on some of the produce, ’cause I know darn well that in April they’re not selling local NJ corn and tomatoes.
After editing this video I felt as if I had created a Montclair time capsule. I went home, scallops, pickles, and children in tow, feeling really good about the morning. Take a look:
If you haven’t made it down to the Market yet, it’s open through Thanksgiving, making available all of autumn’s bounty – sweet potatoes, squash, pies, and yes, even Turkeys from Vacchiano.
Next week I’ll be picking up some whipped honey for my figs. If you’re a regular at the Market, what are you buying? Which are your favorite vendors?