NOFA-NJ answers call for rescue
RARITAN TOWNSHIP — Raritan Township’s Lenape Park has a new use this winter.
When the Hunterdon Land Trust decided to take a hiatus from sponsoring the winter market at the Dvoor Farm in Flemington, it left eight vendors without a Sunday market.
The Land Trust is searching for a new executive director and also doing some work on its property, Director of Administrative and Social Affairs Laura Orbine explained, leaving it a bit understaffed for a winter market.
“So we took a break,” she said, noting the summer market will open in May.
In the interim the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey stepped in to try to find them a replacement site nearby.
Devin Cornia, executive director of NOFA-NJ, said his first thought was Mine Brook Park in Raritan because of its proximity to the land trust and its pavilion, but township officials thought parking might be insufficient for the market and other common activities there and suggested Lenape Park which turned out to be a great place.
“It’s spacious and beautiful with lots of trees and a real community vibe,” Cornia said.
He credits Hunterdon County Commissioner Zachary Rich for getting in touch with the township committee about relocating the market. In response to his memo, the committee put NOFA on the agenda of their next meeting.
“They are very pro-farm,” Cornia said, noting that is especially true of Mayor Robyn Fatooh who grew up on a farm in the Midwest that her family still operates.
He said Township Administrator Karen Gilbert, Township Clerk Lisa Fania and Jon Webb of the township parks and recreation department were all very helpful getting the new market set up for its Sunday, Jan. 8, opening. “They didn’t make us feel we were a nuisance, coming to them with questions,” he said.
The county health department also helped the market get going, Cornia said. It will run the first and third Sunday of each month, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April.
“We are encouraging our shoppers to go to Lenape Park,” Orbine said.
Cornia said the fact that all of the vendors at the new location were from the Hunterdon Land Trust market probably made it easier for the township to act quickly. He would like to see more farmers join, he added.
The vendors participating are Comeback Farm of Asbury, Two Barn Farm of Franklin Township and Burek by Zeni, plus two Pennsylvania farms: Purely Farm of Ottsville and Apple Ridge Farm of Saylorsburg. Two former Hunterdon Land Trust participates didn’t return: Gorgeous Goats of Stockton and Neshanic Station Apiaries of Branchburg.
Cornia said NOFA-NJ’s role is exactly what the organization is here for.
“Our mission is to make sure local food systems thrive and survive,” he said. Adding part of that mission is to increase the market for local food.
“One place NOFA can excel is farm to consumer events. Farmers need someone to help them out.”