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The Shopper News, January 19, 2000

HH Farmers Market
offers a fresh start for boro

By Stefanie Kastrinsky, Correspondent

Hasbrouck Heights -- Are you ready for the summer, and all of that fresh, Jersey produce? It’s yours for the picking at the first annual Hasbrouck Heights Farmers Market, to be held every summer Tuesday after July 4 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the corner of the Boulevard and Washington Place (between the Bergen Commercial Bank and Corpus Christi Church).

The idea for the Farmers Market was but a blip on the radar screen of the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce a year and a half ago. The chamber first contemplated the notion of introducing one as it researched ways to revitalize the borough’s business district, particularly on the Boulevard, the borough’s main thorough-fare. According to Vince Kane, the president of Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce, the Boulevard businesses have been stagnant over the last few years. "We see business activity during sidewalk sales, but not much on a daily basis," he said.

Analyzing how other area towns have dealt with similar business issues, the chamber noted the rise and success of other municipalities’ Farmers Markets. After listening to a Rutherford resident claim that his town’s Farmers Market was the best thing that had been done to improve the local business district, the chamber decided to do all it could to make the Hasbrouck Heights Farmers Market a reality. "That just lit the light bulb," said Tom Meli, the Farmers Market program coordinator and Hasbrouck Heights resident.

As Meli further explained, the Farmers Market will not only bring traffic into the borough’s business commnunity at virtually no cost, but it also helps New Jersey farmers. With the rising cost of land, the agricultural business in New Jersey has been diminishing. That is why the New Jersey Council of Farmers and Communities (NJCFC), the grassroots, not-for-profit organization that assists the municipalities that host these markets (with the aid and sponsorship of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s "Jersey Fresh" program and the U.S.Department of Agriculture), has insisted that everything sold at a Farmers Market be "Jersey Fresh" -- grown in, and by, New Jersey farmers. By enforcing this guideline with two market inspections a season, the NJCPC tries to ensure that more farmers stay in New Jersey, and that they are able to sell their produce at reasonable prices. "It’s a win-win across the board... for the state, the community, the farmers, and consumers," said Meli.

In preparation for the upcoming event, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber or Comnmerce has been making posters and advertisements and will be supplying burlap bags to senior citizens -- something that the town of Verona introduced at its Farmers Market -- to entice these residents to visit the market and do some shopping. The chamber plans on announcing the start of the Farmers Market at the 4th of July fireworks.

Although it will start out as a small market, with only three farmers initially, Meli insists that it will not be hard to encourage more to enter the market. "Once we get things going, there is no downside. Our location on the Boulevard and population are a huge plus. We will not only get people from Hasbrouck Heights, but from Hackensack, Lodi, Wood-Ridge, and maybe a few other neighboring towns. My biggest concern is if we can handle the amount of people who will come," he said.

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