In many ways, the Hamilton Park Farmer’s Market that opened its season again on April 16 is a field of dreams.
Vendors from near and far come to sell their wares to a friendly audience. Some vendors are well established business people, others use this as a platform for some future business venture.
The farmer’s market is run by the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association and has expanded its number of vendors to 22 this year.
“We’ve increased it every year, but this year there are more than before,” said Jan Nordland, who, as marketing director, was honored by the Jersey City Police Department’s Eastern District Representative Dena Lionakis for her commitment and dedication to the market.
“She’s awesome,” Lionakis said. She was joined by Mayor Steven Fulop, Council President Rolando Lavarro and others in honoring her.
The Hamilton Park Farmers’ Market, located in Hamilton Park around the gazebo, operates every Wednesday, 3 to 7:30 p.m., April 16 to Dec. 17.
“We started with four vendors.” – Jan Nordland
Each week, the market will also sponsor a children’s activity group on the platform of the gazebo, and a children’s story-telling group on the lawn. This will include free demonstrations for children by the Liberty Science Center, and occasional live music performances.
Jersey City has a rich history of farmer’s markets
Although the Hamilton Park Farmer’s Market was started in 2005, the history of farmer’s markets in Jersey City can be traced back to a man named Peter Henderson, who rented a farm in Jersey City Heights in 1847 and transported many of his products to the downtown area.
“He would take back manure from this part of the city,” said Alfred Esposito, of Popular Wood Farm of Port Muray, New Jersey.
Henderson published a book about his farming techniques that Esposito later found at a book sale and became a kind of bible for farmers, since Henderson used many techniques that have only come in vogue today. With a background in ornamental planting, Henderson was hired by Cornelius Van Vorst to landscape the newly created Van Vorst Park. He would later be hired by John B. Coles to landscape Hamilton Park as well.
While things have changed, Esposito said, such as the use of motorized equipment on farms rather than horse drawn, a number of the techniques Henderson used are still in use today.
Esposito, who has been coming to the Hamilton Park for three years, but has been involved in farmers’ markets for about six, has a similar history. He started out with a background in horticulture, started an ornamental shrub and plant business, and then evolved into selling farm products when people came up the drive to his house asking for produce. Early on, he participated in farmer’s markets closer to home, but was invited here, and said urban customers here are very receptive. He offers a variety of produce and cut flowers, but also CSA (community supported agriculture) that allows customers to buy shares and get a portion of the produce. He uses no chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, and expects to get his official state organic growing certification in June.
He participates in the Grove Street Farmer’s Market and others, but has resisted the Jersey City Heights market because it operates on Sundays.
A varied brew of vendors
Tyrone Green, of Hoboken, started his “Dark Side of the Mu, Meat Emporium” truck after Hurricane Sandy flooded out Hoboken. With a career at that point in finance, he thought a food truck like this would be a fun way to make a living.
“It is fun, but it’s also a lot of work,” he said.
He specializes in yak, alligator, kangaroo, and other exotic meats. Yes, and he also offers more conventional burgers and such.
He designed his own truck but coming up with a name was difficult, he said.
Mary Streubel, of Mable and Betty’s, named her business after her grandmother and great grandmother, people whose eastern European roots inspired her recipes.
“I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen,” said Streubel, who currently lives in Jersey City and also plans to sell her baked goods at the Van Vorst Farmer’s Market and the Riverview Park Farmer’s Market. This is her first year selling at these events. She said she would like to make her living out of it.
Although she bakes other items, she really likes baking what she calls “Old Bohemian” items that may take an acquired taste, using ingredients like sauerkraut. She gave out samples to let people get used to the idea.
Emma Taylor, whose company name “Milk Sugar Love” pretty much defines the ingredients she puts into her homemade ice cream, started last year and has already rented a space nearby for a full-time store. A resident of Jersey City, Taylor offers unique combination of flavors that can’t be found in any store brands.
Dale Davis has been with the Farmer’s Market since its inception. His farm, Stony Hill Gardens of Chester, is a throwback to the era that helped give New Jersey its nickname as The Garden State. While he offers a variety of flowers and vegetables to start off this relatively cold season, he said sweet corn and Jersey tomatoes are the most popular sellers. He started out at a farmer’s market at Pavonia Newport that eventually faded away, but is a mainstay at a number of Jersey City farmer’s markets.
Aaron Daniels of Newark is new to the farmer’s market this year. The founder of Jersey Buzz, he started out keeping bees in his house, and offers a stunning variety of honey products. He said he has done business in Hoboken at various events.
Many of the vendors are well established names in Hudson County, such as Hoboken Farms, Cocca Bakery, Mod Cup, Brooklyn Naturals.
Nordland, who is being credited for the market’s recent successes, said word is spreading about the market and part of its attraction is the park itself, which has been upgraded over the last decade to become a very user-friendly place.
“We started with four vendors,” she said. “We had ten in 2012, 15 last year, and this year we have 22.”
That’s in addition to children’s groups such as Three Little Birds doing group crafts, the local troop of Girl Scouts selling cookies, and Jersey City Families doing story time on the lawn. The market, Nordland said, has become a family event.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.