By Ron Leir
The Kearny Farmers’ Market, sponsored by the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone program, made its return appearance last Thursday, June 19, with several of the familiar vendors but with one new wrinkle … a new location.
Now the vendors are setting up their booths on Garfield Ave., between Kearny Ave. and Chestnut St., on the north side of the Kearny Public Library. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.
On June 10, the mayor and Town Council introduced an ordinance prohibiting parking on both sides of Garfield, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Oct. 31, when the market season ends.
Mayor Alberto Santos said the town decided to end its agreement with Mandee Shops that permitted vendors to sell their products from part of the store’s Kearny Ave. parking lot after the business owner and town officials couldn’t come to terms on certain proposed improvements desired by the owner to the private lot.
For its first two years, the market set up in front of Town Hall; then it moved to the Mandee lot. Under a lease agreement, Kearny compensated Mandee a certain amount each year for the right to locate the market there. Last year, that amount was $1,010. Each year, the town reimburses Mandee a portion of the taxes on the lot in return for the town collecting parking revenues. Last year, Mandee received $26,645, including the aforementioned $1,010, according to town fiscal records.
Locating the market next to the library has its benefits, suggested Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, a member of the UEZ board. “With the anticipated opening of the children’s reading garden on the south side of the library, the library director [Josh Humphrey] can have events there to coordinate with our market day,” she said. “So the two things will have a nice flow.”
On its first day, the market had a nice flow going, with a slow but steady stream of residents checking out the variety of produce offered by three vendors: Alstede Farms of Chester, Union Hill Farms of Denville and John and Roxanne “Cookie” Abramo of Garfield.
“It’s our second year here,” said John Abramo, as he and Roxanne lined up their wares, a variety of breads from South Hackensack’s Central Bakery and cookies from Luna Rose Bakery in Staten Island, N.Y.
Sometime soon, J&R will have muffins and fruit pies to supplement their current offerings, he said.
“I was trying to get into this Farmers’ Market for years,” Abramo said. “I like the feel of it. I want to compliment Kearny customers. When you sell to them, it’s like they know you for 10 years. They’re very friendly to deal with.”
During the summer season, the “Cookie’’ team has a busy road schedule: Tuesdays finds the couple in Hasbrouck Heights; on Fridays, they’re in Englewood; Sundays, it’s Fort Lee; and now, Thursdays, they’re in Kearny.
“I like to branch out,” Abramo said. “We’re a bakery on wheels.”
It’s the 21st year on the road for the couple. “It’s fun,” Abramo said. “We have loyalty to the people who support us.”
A loyal participant in Kearny’s market is Union Hill Farms, represented by Jeff O’Hara and his son Michael. “We’ve been here since the beginning, eight years ago,” said Jeff, bringing fruits and vegetables grown on the vendor’s Denville farm and flowers.
“Kearny’s a nice town to do business in,” O’Hara said.
They also do business in other communities: Father and son truck out to Hoboken on Tuesdays and to Morristown and Denville on Sundays.
Union Hill has been hauling its home-grown goods for the past three decades.
“We’re part of the New Jersey Market Council of Farmers and Communities, which oversees 30 markets throughout the state,” O’Hara said.
According to its website, the NJCFC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and grow a network of community farmers’ markets and farmers throughout northern and central New Jersey, thereby promoting economic stimuli for many downtown business districts while providing farmers a place to sell their produce while giving residents access to the best of “Jersey Fresh.”
Alstede Farms was offering residents a wide selection of fruits and organic vegetables.
One customer asked if the market was furnishing supplies of free shopping bags and McCurrie assured her that those bags were on order and should be available shortly.