Asbury Fresh Farmers and Makers Market growing steadily
ASBURY PARK — With a welcome and support from officials in the city of Asbury Park, the Asbury Fresh Farmers and Makers Market has grown quickly.
Now in its ninth year, it remains well-trafficked.
It doesn’t hurt that Asbury Fresh co-founders are part of a digital and software agency and another business that provides office space to creative types just a few blocks down Cookman Avenue from Kennedy Park.
Due to precautions for COVID-19, the number of vendors in Kennedy Park has been trimmed this year, explained co-founder Bret Morgan.
Asbury Fresh is held Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and runs until the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, Morgan added.
He and his partners Danny Croak, Cara Kent and Olivia Frassinelli are all part of the Asbury Fresh team.
“It began because there wasn’t anything in downtown Asbury Park, and as they were adding housing, we thought this would be helpful in creating a more walkable downtown,” Morgan said.
“The first year we had four or five vendors, the second year we had 10 or 12, and by the third year we had 25 vendors,” Morgan said.
At one point, Asbury Fresh Farmers and Makers market was up to 70 vendors, he said, but after the park was reconfigured, they kept it limited to 55 vendors.
It’s easy for smaller growers with Internet access to sign up for a booth, he said.
“We do a lot of digital marketing and online media and all that really helps in attracting people from outside the area,”
Food and farm vendors during the summer included Mighty Sprout Microgreens, Vegan Treats, Fairgrown Farm, Rolling Hills Farm, Pickle Licious, Shore Sauce, Black Duck Taco, AU Honey, Naked Gem Studios, Ashley’s Handmade Designs and Mother Nature’s Beauty.
“A lot of the vendors here will work out of and sell at the market the first couple of years and the market serves as a business incubator to test market products,” Morgan said. In some cases, it had lead to some vendors opening small shops on or near Cookman Avenue.
Morgan grew up in Haddon Township near Cherry Hill and attended Montclair State University.
He ran a music club on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair for seven years before discovering Asbury Park in 2004.
Even now, he said the city is still enjoying an arts and business renaissance.
“I got down here and was impressed with the spirit down here, it was a true playground for entrepreneurs.”
Since his arena of expertise is in digital marketing, he got the market up to speed in a matter of three seasons, attracting people from well beyond Monmouth County.
“If you looked at any farmers’ market website back then — it’s what we do — at that time, they were all pretty horrible. So we had a good website from the start.”
For the last few summers, he and his Asbury Fresh team also brought musical groups into Kennedy Park, and that helped bring in more people.
This year is different because of COVID-19, he said, as are the number of vendors allowed into limited space in Kennedy Park, but the word is out about Asbury Fresh Farmers and Makers Market.
“We had some musicians scheduled here, and it draws people in, but we’re trying to find that balance. We want people to come in and shop but also want to encourage them to spend the rest of the day here on Cookman Avenue,” Morgan said.
The Asbury Fresh team also runs another outdoor market at the former Bell Labs headquarters in Holmdel.
“We like to mix in farmers, local handmade artisans, small batch makers, we’re strict in terms of what we allow, we want people who make their own things and share them here,” he said, “we don’t want people buying and reselling things.”
Morgan said their success starts with good people being involved as volunteers and vendors.
“We have a very good team of people who help with the crea4tion and curating the culture in the community and help with the overall aesthetic,” Morgan said. “And once you have that defined, it’s something that people want to support and there is always something unique and different from week to week here.”
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