By Jillian Risberg
“The Y was thrilled to receive a $20,000 grant from Atlantic Health System as part of the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network so we could help bring the market to fruition,” says executive director, Laura Tiedge.
“In addition, we are currently working on a guide to the Wayne Township park system to help increase access to physical activity and green spaces,” Tiedge says.
According to Tim Roetman, parks and recreation director, the market was something they decided to pursue in 2017.
“I think it’s a really good thing for the community,” says market manager, Jill Goordman. “We’re trying to make it more than just a farmer’s market although the farmers and bringing fresh produce to the community is our number one priority.”
If you want to go — the market will be open every Saturday (except Labor Day) June 1 through Oct. 19, from 10am to 1pm.
“The parking lot for the municipal building (475 Valley Road) is quite big so we do have ample parking to accommodate everybody,” Roetman says.
The Y has every intention of making the market a long-term success for Wayne and the Passaic County community at large.
Goordman, a yoga teacher at the Y for more than 10 years and an active part of the Wayne community, jumped at the chance to take the helm of the market.
“For most of the time I’ve been in Caldwell (where she lives) I’ve always gone to the Montclair Famers Market, so I was really excited when I saw that the YMCA was going to start one in Wayne. I raised my hand and it worked out to be a good fit.”
And the farmer’s market is close to Goordman’s heart, since the Ohio native still has some dear friends who are farmers.
She says Caldwell has CSA (community supported agriculture) and it is her understanding that Wayne has one too in Packanack Lake.
“You buy a share of a farmer’s produce,” the market manager says. “You pay x amount of dollars for the entire season — and they bring a weekly share of the produce to you.”
She says people typically load up on the vendors — but her focus has been the farmers.
In terms of vendors, Roetman says it’s fluctuated a little bit each week. They started with 13 on the first week, and now they are up to more than 20.
You can find a little bit of everything there.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables to locally grown honey, fresh farm eggs, there’s a maple syrup vendor, natural nut vendor, we have a couple of vendors selling beauty products such as homemade soaps and candles,” the director says.
Another vendor is selling hand-carved wood products, and don’t forget to visit the food vendors; Corbett’s Cookie Bar, Cactus Pete’s Beef Jerky, Picklelicious (Teaneck).
“And we’ll have a pottery vendor, Rimi Studios (Washington, NJ) that’ll be attending,” Roetman says.
Jim Rimi has been showing his artistic pieces at farmer’s markets for a decade and he only has favorable things to say about the new Wayne market.
“Great market, people are great — Jill does an awesome job, really good feel,” Rimi says. “It’s a nice, fun atmosphere, everybody’s really cool, vendors are all good.”
The artist says his first time out at this market there was a good response to his functional handmade pottery and fine art photography.
“A real welcoming crowd,” Rimi says of the Wayne Township residents.
And for those who haven’t seen his pottery and other creations yet, the artist recommends everyone come down to the farmer’s market when you have a moment and check out his work.
According to Roetman, market pricing varies depending on the product but he says it’s definitely on par with other markets of similar nature.
The vendors come from all around the region – not just Wayne.
“To be honest, it would be impossible to run the market just trying to get Wayne vendors,” the director says.
There aren’t that many active farmers left in Passaic County and Wayne actually has two.
“We bring Hazelman Farms, an egg farmer out of West Milford and also Humor Me Farms, which is an Alpaca and angora rabbit farmer (Newfoundland, NJ),” Goordman says. “They were two of our first people to sign on board because they were so excited to have something in their own county.”
There could be any number of reasons why the farmer’s markets are lacking in Passaic County but it’s hard to pin down.
“I really am not clear as to why.” the market manager says. “Either there’s not a community desire for it, there isn’t community space for it or maybe there just isn’t anybody in those communities looking for it or organizing it within the communities.”
According to Roetman, so far the reaction to having a farmer’s market in town has been positive.
“This week was exceptionally busy; the last couple of weeks have been a little less busy than the first week, but that’s to be expected. It’s kind of settled into a very nice consistent crowd throughout the course of the market,” he says.
And there’s different forms of entertainment weekly to keep the market exciting and encourage return patrons.
“Jill’s got music some weeks; there’s been vendors like a bounce house the first week, a balloon maker the second week so they have some different stuff.”
Goordman echoed that sentiment, saying they’ve had magic shows and many musical acts planned.
“The Y was recently awarded another small grant to underwrite some entertainment from Farm Credit East, which supports local agriculture,” she says.
One weekend there’s going to be a Touch-a-Truck and another weekend ‘Christmas in July.’
“We’re really trying to make an event every Saturday that people can come to with their families, relatives and friends” says the market manager. “In addition, they get the opportunity to get some fresh, local produce and artisanal products made by people from the area.”
Nothing could be better than that vision, the Y’s organizing committee believed.
“Tim Roetman and Rosemary Acampora, the Health and Human Services Director, in conjunction with Cathy Scutti, of the Y — she’s our fitness & wellness director — worked together to set (the market) up,” Goordman says.
They went to multiple farmer’s market meetings, reached out to other farmer market managers, began compiling lists of farmers and vendors in the area.
“And they really started it,” the market manager says. “Came up with the idea; where was it going to be and what are we going to fill the spaces with and how are we going to go about this.”
Then in late March 2019 they brought Jill on board to recruit all the farmers, set up the vendors and run the maintenance of it every week.
“The YMCA is technically the grant holder,” Roetman says. “It’s Jill’s responsibility to interact with the vendors, oversee the market on the weekends, and do all the publicity for the market.”
The best part is bringing folks together.
“It’s really nice to just be able to see the community have a place to congregate,” Roetman says. For people to see old friends — but also to be able to pick up healthy, fresh vegetables and fruits.”
According to Goordman, she’s looking for the farmer’s market to move forward.
Whether it’s the egg guy, meat farmer, micro greens farmer, orchard farmer, produce farmer, alpaca and angora farmers — mushroom farmer, along with the bee keeper and maple syrup harvester, the market manager wants you to connect with the people who grow your food.
Farmer John Schweiniger, of New Jersey Mushrooms (Hawthorne) primarily serves the restaurant community selling directly to chefs.
“Wayne is the first market I started with and I really started because Rocky Hazelman, the president of the Passaic County Board of Agriculture asked me if I would be interested,” Schweiniger says.
According to the mushroom farmer, he considered doing markets but says he doesn’t have a huge farm with a lot of employees so it was tough to commit a full day when he has other responsibilities.
“With the Wayne market only being a three-hour market, I was able to work out my production issues around that,” Schweiniger says. “The folks in Wayne seem highly receptive to taking advantage of the local food producers that they might not otherwise have been aware of in their own county.”
And so far, the farmer says the response to his mushrooms has been very good. People have been very open to the concept of welcoming these good fungi into their kitchens.
“I wasn’t sure how much volume I would push out and what varieties people would want,” Schweiniger says. “I didn’t know if they would want something that they’re familiar with or if they’d want something more exotic.”
Turns out for him, the things they weren’t as familiar with were the things that piqued their interest and sold out most quickly.
“Mostly sold out the first market I did,” he says. “I brought a lot of Shiitake mushrooms, which are more typical and familiar to folks. I think that was the only one I had any material leftovers of.”
Schweiniger says people don’t seem to understand that not all mushrooms are grown in soil or on dirt or in compost.
“My farm is strictly a woodland mushroom farm,” he says. “They come much cleaner. A lot of the compost based farms they’ll use chicken manures and things like that. You certainly want to at least brush them off and definitely want to make sure you cook them well to get rid of any pathogens. That’s not going to be an issue with the type of mushrooms I grow.”
According to Schweiniger, there’s many more health properties with mushrooms that are grown on wood.
Depending upon which strain of mushroom it is there’s a whole slew of information on what benefits they provide.
“I try to educate the public a little bit about that as they come up if they ask questions,” he says. “The only thing I think that some people are a little unfamiliar with is how to prepare some of the more exotic strains of mushrooms they haven’t seen. They’re not the typical cap and stem type mushroom.”
There are things like Lions Mane, it’s literally called a pom pom.
“It looks like a big white puffball,” Schweiniger says. “People don’t know exactly what to do with it so you have to give them a little tutorial on how it’s best prepared, what it’s taste and flavor profiles would be like and what they should expect from texture perspective.”
The mushroom farmer says he is planning on being at the Wayne market every Saturday going forward and looks forward to sharing his knowledge of these toadstools — as we sometimes call them.
It’s a lovely time of year to connect with nature, the local bounty and your Wayne neighbors; and Goordman sees the market’s potential.
“It’s easy to have a big opening day and a great couple of opening weeks because it’s new and the community’s excited about it,” she says. “But we’re really trying to make it a community event because we’d like these farmers to be supported every week.”
And they’re happy to work with the folks who make the pickles, cookies, brownies and those kinds of products.
“To keep people coming in to support the farmers,” Goordman says. “Because for me, that’s what it’s about. For our market, it’s farmers first.”