“I’ve been in the culinary field for 20 years. I’ve worked for food companies, food magazines, and I’m currently working as a freelancer and a culinary consultant,” said Lauren Dellabella, the Bayonne farmers’ market manager. “I really believe in getting back to local foods and teaching people what foods are really good for you, and supporting local businesses and local farmers.”
The farmers market is open every Tuesday from 2 to 7 p.m. in the parking lot near the city’s mini-golf course between 23rd and 24th Streets on Del Monte Drive, and is scheduled to run through Oct. 30. Fresh produce is provided by two farms, Iona Hills Farm from Hackettstown and Ort’s Farm from Long Valley.
“We have about 12 assorted vendors and we’re affiliated with Jersey Fresh, which is part of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. So we’re a member of Jersey Fresh and all of the vendors are members of Jersey Fresh,” Dellabella said.
According to the state’s Department of Agriculture, New Jersey farmers grow some of the best produce in the country. But these often do not get into local grocery stores and restaurants, and New Jersey has been trying to make these more accessible through a program called “Jersey Fresh,” which was initiated by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture in 1984 and has since gained momentum as farmers and communities like Bayonne get involved.
This differs from the program that ran in Bayonne a few years ago on the front lawn of City Hall.
“That actually was a grant through the high school for business students. So it was more like a business plan. They would go and get produce from the farmers and bring it back and sell it. It was more about running a business, where this is a full-fledged farmers’ market,” Dellabella said. “The farmers are coming right here. The vendors are coming right here. We have people making prepared foods, baked goods, and baked organic products. We’ve gone from five vendors the first week to 12 vendors in just four weeks.”
What surprised her?
“The enthusiasm from the Bayonne residents, the excitement and the outpouring of people who are coming back every week,” she said.
She said she started planning this back in April, but had some logistical problems, so the market didn’t open until July. It was originally proposed for a lot at the site of former Irwins, but a development proposal for the lot forced them to find a new location.
“But to have grown to what we have in four weeks is amazing,” she said. “Especially because I didn’t know anything about the day to day running of a farmer’s market. But we have a great array of vendors who are very helpful. They’re like a community. They helped hook me up with other vendors. Helped me learn what I needed to know about how to make the market successful. By their standards, we’re successful, not just by mine. They have the expertise because they’re out in this world.”
Did she learn something she didn’t know from her previous experiences?
“I didn’t necessarily learn anything culinary, but I’m learning a different aspect of the business,” she said. “This whole farmers’ market trend is just so huge. And it’s not just these little stands any more; it is a huge business that’s out there. There is this whole community in farmer’s markets, vendors and market managers. It is a growing business model, not just a little farm stand.”
“I’ve always gone to farmers’ markets; I’ve done so before we started this one.” – Lauren Dellabella
“These are almost like events now, and I’m looking to add. They have musicians, they have children’s activities, they involve other city organizations,” Dellabella said. “And I’m eventually planning to add all those things.”
She noted that because this is the first year, the venture can’t expand by leaps and bounds just yet. “I feel like this is our learning year and we’ll do what we can do this year. Next year we’ll come out with a full fledged plan for the market.”
Dellabella said the farm market has had strong support from the city and that she has been working with Terrence Malloy and Megan Januska from the Special Improvement District, Gary Chmilewski from public works.
“Steve Gallo and Mayor Smith have been completely supportive and instrumental in helping me make this happen,” she said. “When you asked me who helped me with the market, I neglected to mention my husband, Michael Dellabella. He helps every week with set-up and break down and supports the time that I devote to the market. I’ve always gone to farmers markets, I’ve done so before we started this one, and I’m convinced we have the best vendors right here.”
These vendors include Lizzmonade from Hudson County; Paolo’s Kitchen from New Providence; Baker’s Bounty from in Linden; Hoboken Farms from Hoboken; Gourmet Nuts and Dried Fruits from East Hanover; Dr. Pickle from Paterson; City-Girls Food; Made with Love; and Kettle Corn.
Amanda, the sales clerk at the Hoboken Farms tent, said the group has been around for more than 25 years, operating out of a warehouse. They recently opened their first store in Summit.
“Although they’re a farm, they don’t have produce. They have what they grow in Hoboken. They have fresh breads, mozzarella, and other prepared foods,” Dellabella said.
Mayor Mark Smith said he is very happy with the results and will support continuing the program.
“We got a lot of calls about it,” he said. “We haven’t received one complaint. People love it. There’s a great selection.”