NOW & THEN
In February, 1993, local resident Gray Russell went in front of the Montclair Township Council to propose the creation of a farmers’ market in the downtown business district. The economic benefits of bringing shoppers into the downtown business district on Saturdays in the summer months were highlighted, and the Council responded positively to the proposal. At the time there were only three farmers’ markets in all of northern New Jersey.
Russell then organized a support coalition including Deputy Mayor Alison Barnet, Councilman Don Zeif, business representatives Ed Remsen, Kate McDonough and Linda Kimler, Township Planner Karen Kadus, non-profit Director Frank Renny, Cornucopia activist Fred Chichester, and a committed group of residents; together they founded the Montclair Farmers’ Market, now in its 27th season.
There are currently over one hundred such markets around the state.
Many of our vendors sell at other farmers’ markets throughout this region; they often tell us that the Montclair Farmers’ Market is one of, if not the busiest, most exciting, and most successful markets in the state.
In the market’s earliest years, the role of Market Manager was filled by local businessman and community volunteer Ed Ferdon, who helped to promote and champion it – including driving the Farmers’ Market “woody wagon” in the local 4th of July Parade. After a positive first year, the operation of the Market was handed over to the Montclair Economic Development Coalition, our town’s equivalent of a Chamber of Commerce. They oversaw the Market for about a dozen years, until the MEDC disbanded. Township Arborist Steve Schuckman, one of the market’s early organizers, became the Chair of the Montclair Farmers’ Market Board of Trustees, responsible for assuring the smooth operation of the market.
All of our familiar farmers will return again this season, with produce usually picked within 24 hours. Plus, this year’s market boasts more than a dozen delicious food artisans, such as our local organic Bread Company, a cheese maker, a seafood fishmonger, a vintner, a beekeeping apiary with honey and hive products (including wax candles), a condiments purveyor, two producers of locally-grown range-fed meats, a pesto maker, a pickler, and a pastry baker. No candlestick maker, though, because this authentic farmers’ market only sells fresh produce, specialty foods, and farm flowers, most of which are grown or prepared right here in the Garden State.
There is no financial burden to the Township, since the growers and food vendors pay an annual registration fee to cover all costs, including insurance, advertising, and paying a Market Manager who is present weekly. The market has become a very popular Saturday morning meeting place for hundreds of residents, visitors, families and friends, who enjoy not only the healthy, tasty food, but also the tangible sense of community due to the presence of the farmers, the chef-prepared food tastings, non-profit information tables, and musical entertainment.
The Montclair Farmer’s Market attracts hundreds of shoppers to our commercial districts every Saturday for six full months, especially during the typically quieter summer season (our region’s prime growing period). Even in the off season, a few of the growers and several of the specialty food vendors return every Saturday for the winter market; unless there’s a storm, fresh local food can now be found here, year round.