Marci Meyers enjoys fresh produce at Fiorentino’s Farm Market in Hammonton. “This is one of the best markets on the road. Period. I love getting vegetables and fruits here. The prices are good, the people are nice and it’s all good stuff here, New Jersey-grown. What more could you ask for?”

(Photo courtesy: THG/ Joseph F. Berenato)

HAMMONTON—Each summer, a common denominator with area residents—and Hammonton residents specifically—is a love for fresh produce.

Many agree that the best places to buy said produce, particularly that which is grown locally, are area farm markets.

At Pastore Orchards Inc. on the White Horse Pike, employee Robbie Kates said that business has been booming.

“The Fourth of July weekend was really busy. We had a lot of people and made out pretty well. People go crazy for the corn. People have been nonstop asking for the corn; people are coming in and we sold a lot of that during the Fourth of July weekend, too. That’s one of our most popular sellers,” Kates said.

Sandy Rogers shows the blueberries she purchased from Pastore Orchards. “I’ve been coming here for 30 years, probably; I used to come on the way down the shore with my parents when I was little. That’s why I come down. They have a great selection and I like the people.”

(Photo courtesy: THG/Joseph F. Berenato)

Kates said that other produce for which the market is known has started to arrive as well.

“Our peaches, we had one really cold night that wiped out our crop a little bit, so peaches are coming in pretty slowly. Other than that, things are going pretty well. Blueberries are coming in, finally … We have a new variety of blueberry out. We had Dukes for a while; Dukes are usually the first thing to come out but we have a new variety called Legacy,” he said.

Customer Sandy Rogers said that blueberries—or any other fruit she desires—play a large part in her trips to Pastore Orchards.

“I’ve been coming here for 30 years, probably; I used to come on the way down the shore with my parents when I was little. That’s why I come down. They have a great selection and I like the people,” she said.

Time and tradition play a large part in the patronage of many local farm markets.

Thelma Johnson and her daughter, Loretha, often visit Waretown Farms on the White Horse Pike.

“We were out for today, and we went to a few other spots. She said, ‘We have to go to Hammonton.’ We had to come here. This is her favorite spot,” Loretha Johnson said.

Originally from Chesilhurst, Thelma Johnson has moved to Camden but still makes the trip to Waretown for their produce.

Thelma and Loretha Johnson made the trip from Camden just to buy produce from Waretown Farms. “We were out for today, and we went to a few other spots. She said, ‘We have to go to Hammonton.’ We had to come here. This is her favorite spot,” Loretha Johnson said.

(Photo courtesy: THG/Joseph F. Berenato)

“That’s why I’m here. I found it and I like it, because they have what I like. The people are nice, the price is reasonable,” Thelma Johnson said.

Waretown owner Dennis Alfonso noted that farm markets are busier than usual throughout the region.

“I think all the road stands are busy, because people don’t want to go into Home Depot, they don’t want to go into ShopRite, so they prefer road stands outside. We’ve been a lot busier. This is our third year, and it really picked up big time. I talk to a lot of road stands, and they’re also busy,” Alfonso said.

Waretown Farms owner Dennis Alfonso shows off his Jersey tomato collection. “I think all the road stands are busy, because people don’t want to go into Home Depot, they don’t want to go into ShopRite, so they prefer road stands outside. We’ve been a lot busier. This is our third year, and it really picked up big time. I talk to a lot of road stands, and they’re also busy.”

(Photo courtesy: THG/Joseph F. Berenato)

Alfonso said that local produce has been the most popular with consumers.

“All the Jersey stuff right now: Jersey tomatoes, Jersey corn; the pickles are coming in right now, Jersey pickles. Jersey tomatoes are real popular now; we have them, but they’re still scarce yet,” he said.

Ron Fisher Sr., of Ron’s Gardens on 14th Street, noted a successful spring.

“This year’s going well. We had a real good spring, but planting season’s about done and it’s starting to back off a little bit,” Fisher said.

Employee Paige Beaudry agreed with Fisher.

“It’s been going really well. We’ve been really busy. People are more into buying flowers and doing this type of stuff,” she said.

Ron Fisher Sr. and Page Beaudry posed by the large array of flowers at Ron’s Gardens earlier this month. “People’s gardens get messed up and need replacement, and we’re here to help them.”

(Photo courtesy: THG/Joseph F. Berenato)

Fisher noted that, even though the initial planting season for flowers has passed, Ron’s Gardens still serves a need.

“People’s gardens get messed up and need replacement, and we’re here to help them,” he said.

At Fiorentino’s Farm Market on Rt. 73, manager Judy Wilson agreed that the plein air aspect of farm markets has been a particular draw this season.

“A lot of people come here because they feel safer. It’s outside, not like a big supermarket. The open air just makes them feel better … We carry milk, bread, butter, eggs and people don’t want to go to an indoor store for that kind of stuff, so I think that’s been a huge draw. Locals, of course, but far away, too; we’re getting people from places that we would have never gotten before. The word got out, I guess,” Wilson said.

Customer Marci Meyers said that the word about Fiorentino’s was right.

“This is one of the best markets on the road. Period. I love getting vegetables and fruits here. The prices are good, the people are nice and it’s all good stuff here, New Jersey-grown. What more could you ask for?” Meyers said.

Wilson said that customers actually have been asking for more, noting that they have noticed an uptick in the sale of non-traditional selections.

Judy Wilson of Fiorentino’s Farm Market stands near one of their surprisingly popular items: aloe leaves. “We’ve seen an increase in the unusual items. Maybe other markets don’t carry that kind of stuff…. We just started carrying aloe plant leaves, and it’s selling like crazy. It’s all anti-oxidant stuff and people have been buying like crazy.”

(Photo courtesy: THG/Joseph F. Berenato)

“We’ve seen an increase in the unusual items. Maybe other markets don’t carry that kind of stuff. Turmeric and tamarind, I’m selling a ton of that; ginger, too. People are making their own health food drinks to fight off illness. We just started carrying aloe plant leaves, and it’s selling like crazy. It’s all anti-oxidant stuff and people have been buying like crazy,” Wilson said.

At the Red Barn Café and Pie Shop, owner Evelyn Penza has yet to open the farm market portion at the front of her property, because the prices of local produce—while good for farmers—make it tough on the consumer.

“We’re serving breakfast, we’re serving brunch and we’re serving pies. We always sell pies. I’m not going to raise my prices and I’m not going to raise my lunch prices. I’m just going to stick it out,” Penza said.

In the meantime, Penza said that she will be putting the produce to good use.

“I’ll keep making fabulous omelets, asparagus, spinach and feta omelets, at the good old Red Barn. The people keep coming back. They love ricotta pies. We put fresh peaches, fresh blueberries on top, and that’s how produce serves me: when I serve it on a pie,” Penza said.

Delaney Lapollo of Mr. Green Jeans on Rt. 73 said that as of mid-July, local produce is still scarce.

“We’re constantly getting new produce in—more and more Jersey stuff is coming out—which is mostly late July. A lot of people misunderstand that; they think it’s the beginning of July, but it’s normally at the end of July,” Lapollo said.

Debbie Matise said she and her husband, Joe, often visit Mr. Green Jeans specifically for their Jersey produce.

“We’re actually from South Philly. I have family that lives around here, and I like their produce, especially the tomatoes,” Matise said.

Lapollo said that Jersey corn arrived recently, and another staple—blueberries—has been selling well.

“It’s Hammonton; everyone comes in for blueberries. For a while we had organic blueberries from Rosedale Farms, and the farm we have now is very popular. Everyone comes in to buy blueberries,” Lapollo said.

Delaney Lapollo stands amidst Mr. Green Jeans’ flower selection. “The flowers are great. Spring was absolutely packed here. There was a while where people were parking on Rt. 73 because of how busy it was here. We were pretty sold out of stuff for a while because of how many people were coming in. It was great.”

(Photo courtesy: THG/Joseph F. Berenato)

One of the most popular sellers, Lapollo said, has been Mr. Green Jeans’ selection of flowers.

“The flowers are great. Spring was absolutely packed here. There was a while where people were parking on Rt. 73 because of how busy it was here. We were pretty sold out of stuff for a while because of how many people were coming in. It was great,” she said.

There is also Glossy Fruit Farm Market on Route 206. Owned by members of the Rizzotte Family, the stand features the latest in Jersey Fresh produce and other fresh produce and some specialty items.

Glossy Fruit Farms’ roadside market, located on Route 206, is a popular destination for both locals and out-of-town visitors to stop and sample some of the finest fruits and vegetables Hammonton has to offer.

“I just love coming in here. It’s good quality food; it’s great. The quality of the vegetables is great,” Northfield resident Nicholas Hillyer, a longtime patron of Glossy Fruit Farms, told The Gazette in 2019.

Freshness is especially important in the seafood industry, but it can sometimes be difficult to find in certain inland regions. Fortunately for Hammonton’s residents, fresh and local seafood can be purchased daily at Captain Nick’s Seafood and Produce, located at The Green Thumb Garden Center on South White Horse Pike).

Even smaller stands have seen an increase in activity, including 206 Farm Market. The market, which mostly sells peaches, blueberries and blueberry plants, has been busier than usual as of late.

“We get a lot of traffic at the road market, and I’m just a small farmer,” owner Thomas Monzo said.

Another small market is Fairacres Organic Produce on Elmwood Road in Mullica.  Their cart is replenished throughout the day and offers what has been picked fresh.

This story was produced in collaboration with CivicStory and the New Jersey Sustainability Reporting project. It was originally reported by Joseph F. Berenato for The Hammonton Gazette, and may be re-distributed through the Creative Commons License, with attribution.

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