Tons of tomatoes, piles of potatoes, oodles of cukes, and bales of blueberries signal summer, and the bounty of the season was evident everywhere on the tables of the vendors who offered their produce for sale at yesterday’s farmer’s market at the Parker Press Park.
It was the first sale day of the season for the farmer’s market this summer, and as one buyer sighed as she smelled a sun-ripened tomato, “This is as close to fresh as you can get without digging up a garden in the backyard.”
A seller from Norz Hill Farm smiled in agreement with a “Jersey Fresh” sign near the tomatoes. “Picked today,” she noted, in case anyone could possibly miss the perfection of the produce piled high.
“Don’t forget the eggs,” she said, pointing to the Hillsborough-based farm’s selection of free range eggs.
A bunch of exchange students from Slovakia were working the tables at the Alstede Farm booth.
Business was a little slow, said Martin, the keeper of the cash register who came with the produce from the farm in Chester. “It picks up when the train stops,” he said, noting the elevated train station right behind the park which routinely deposited commuters at the Woodbridge depot.
Men with briefcases and women in business suits had made their way down the train station stairs to do their marketing at the fresh produce stands in the park.
Annalin Demit of Avenel checked out the cucumbers. “I shop at Wegman’s. The prices here aren’t that much different,” she said. “But you can’t beat how fresh everything is.”
“This corn is amazing,” said Lisa Price, who said she became addicted to farm-fresh corn last year when she first patronized the farmer’s market. “It’s just great that you don’t have to drive to a farm to get things that taste this fresh.”
It wasn’t just weary New York commuters who were buying up the veggies. The market opens around 3 in the afternoon, and continues on to 8:30 pm. That means it overlapped a free concert being held in the corner of the small park.
“We get a lot of people who come in for the concert early, and while they’re waiting, they buy our produce,” Martin said.
Another stand offered fresh lemonade for the thirsty, while yet another was selling all varieties of kosher pickles.
“I’m from Woodbridge; the pickles are from the Lower East Side in New York,” said Steve Jaker, of the source of his eponymous pickle pavilion.
Jaker has been hawking his pickles since 2007, when he gave up a career as an engineer to something he found more fulfilling.
He got his start selling his pickles at the Parker Press when he found out Larry McCullough, a township employee involved in the farmer’s market deployment, was looking for a pickle purveyor.
“It was a perfect fit,” he said.
Since he began selling pickles, Jaker expanded his repertoire to include hot pickles and the innovative “pickle on a stick,” which one young mother bought for her toddler who cooed in anticipation of the dill treat.
Jane, a resident of East Brunswick, traveled to the park for the concert and the half sour pickles. “I got the small container,” she said, nodding to her husband.
“I like the sour ones, he doesn’t,” she said as she forked over $4 for her pickles of choice.
“The half sour pickles are our compromise.”