SOUTH ORANGE, NJ –New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher, Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett and U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Patricia Dombroski marked Farmers Market Week on Wednesday, August 5 with a visit to the South Orange Farmers Market in South Orange.
Governor Chris Christie proclaimed August 2 through 8, 2015 as Farmers Market Week in New Jersey and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, likewise, proclaimed the week National Farmers Market Week to remind consumers to visit these markets this summer and fall.
“With an abundance of Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables available right now, farmers markets are some of the best places to find just-picked produce and meet the farmer who grew it,” said Secretary Fisher. “Farmers markets like the South Orange market also are important sources of income for our farmers and help sustain our state’s agriculture industry.”
There are 147 community farmers markets in the state. Farmers who attend these markets sell produce they’ve picked at the peak of ripeness within 24 hours of sale to ensure the best taste and highest quality. Many of the farmers accept WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers and SNAP food stamp electronic benefit cards. These US Department of Agriculture-sponsored programs provide purchasing assistance to those in need.
“Farmers markets play an important role in providing access to healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables, and that is especially important to clients of USDA nutrition assistance programs,” said Dombroski. “Here in New Jersey nearly 50,000 low-income seniors and more than 42,000 WIC participants bought fresh produce directly from farmers through the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs.”
“The New Jersey Department of Health works to promote farmers markets through its WIC and Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition program, which distributes vouchers for fruits and vegetables to low-income women and children up to 5 years old and low-income senior citizens,” said Acting Commissioner Bennett. “We encourage more people this year to take advantage of this program that provides access to nutritious, locally-grown fruits and vegetables that help them lead a healthier life.”
The South Orange Farmers Market is in its 24th year and operates on Sloan Avenue across from the train station on Wednesdays from 2 to 7 p.m. through October 28. They have about 14 farmers and vendors selling New Jersey produce, pasta, cheese, nuts and mushrooms.
“The market was started because the community saw a need for fresh local produce and food and believed that a Farmers Market here could be sustainable, especially given the proximity to our main train station,” said Bob Zuckerman, Executive Director of the South Orange Village Center Alliance. “Our farmers market plays an instrumental role in our Village Center, bringing people downtown who love to shop for fresh local produce and other delicacies while enjoying the company of their friends and neighbors.”
Eating Jersey Fresh fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products can go a long way to improving overall health. Eating locally also is a good choice for protecting our environment by reducing the miles a meal travels between farm and fork, lessening fuel consumption. In addition, choosing locally grown products helps keep New Jersey farmers on their land, preserving the Garden State’s quality of life.