By Lauren Wanko
A truck full of Jersey Fresh blueberries arrives at Homestead Farm Market to meet customers’ growing demand for Garden State produce.
“We know the product is good and we know that it’s fresh,” said Doug McDowell of Lambertville.
“And they’ll stand behind the product that they sell,” added Kelly McDowell.
“We have a nine-acre farm, so we’re not large enough to produce and grow everything and then you have farmers and producers who are too small to be able to open up a store so it kinda marries the two together,” said Homestead Farm Market owner Debbie Closson.
The Lambertville business partners with more than 30 New Jersey farmers and local producers like O’Shea Bouquets. Owner Joanne O’Shea delivers fresh flowers three to four times a week in season.
“I’m local and I get to know the customers and the owners,” O’Shea said.
Everything from onions to squash to corn to potatoes is locally grown. Stockton resident Jack Fahy prefers the area’s smaller businesses to the big-box stores.
“First of all, the people who run our shops are our neighbors and everything’s very fresh,” Fahy said.
In a few weeks, Homestead Farm Market will celebrate 25 years in Lambertville. The Clossons say over the years their customer base has grown tremendously from a few folks daily to upwards of 200.
“People are becoming more and more aware of the dilemma with farming and farms are going away and anything they can do to support local everything, is a better thing,” Closson said.
As for the direct sales from farm operations, Al Murray, “The economic impact for community farmers markets along with all direct market in New Jersey accounts for approximately $33.3 million annually. It’s very big business. It’s a great opportunity for farmers to find additional markets for their produce, interact personally with customers, customers get an appreciation for a way of life in the rural areas.”
“Being able to partner with local producers is creating jobs, giving them an outlet for their product. It’s enabling them to keep their farm. It’s a domino effect,” said Closson.
After a long, cold winter and slow start to spring, Closson says this year’s growing season can be summed up in one word.
“Late,” she said. “Everything’s late but it’s catching up!”
Just in time too for summer picnics and barbeques.