Rutgers Gardens Keeps It Local With Farmers Market
By Julia Motis
New Brunswick, NJ – Behind a wall of glass jars of a wide variety of colors sits Kim Osterhoudt as she displays her handmade Jams by Kim in every flavor spanning from strawberry to marmalade to peach habanero. At another table, Robin Black, bundled up in the cold, shows off buckets of fresh fall produce with apples and squashes of every sort. Despite the cold, the energy is high as everyone mills around selling their wares or shopping for their favorite products.
Local business owners and farmers from all over the state come to sell
produce and other goods at the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market on Ryders Lane every Friday May through November. It is sponsored by The Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Not only does the market offer a variety of seasonal produce, but also it has vendors who sell soaps, honey, breads, pastries, and more.
According to Local Harvest, buying locally is a great way to get fresh seasonal produce directly from the people who produce them, giving the producers a direct profit rather than a cut from a supermarket. Local producers also tend to employ greener practices than large industrial farms to avoid making a huge carbon footprint. At the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, all of the products offered are locally produced.
“The importance is supporting the farmers who are actually still farming,” Osterhoudt said. “We are the Garden State, so as much as possible, I want to use what’s local.”
Osterhoudt makes jams in an assortment of flavors at a commercial kitchen. While she sells her jams at various farmers’ markets, including the Rutgers Gardens market on a weekly basis, she also usues the produce featured in the markets to make her jams in order to give back to the local vendors.
She comes to the farmers markets to sell her products, but she stays for the atmosphere of the market.
“I love being at the markets because you meet the best people, it’s great conversation, and then I get to talk about my products and sell them,” said Osterhoudt. “I let people taste them and get feedback from my customers. It’s fabulous.”
Black, a representative who sells produce Stults Farm in nearby Cranbury,
is also very passionate about her selling experience and what she does for the local farming community.
“I believe in what I sell, it’s great produce,” Black said. “I love being outdoors and the camaraderie of all the vendors here.”
Black explained that she is a friend of the Stults family, and that they have been farming and selling with the same practices for over one hundred years. She says they grow all their produce organically and are very clean and meticulous about what they do. She says they truly care about what they produce.
Large factory farms tend to implement “monoculture,” focusing on producing one crop in mass amounts, according to Union of Concerned Scientists. Growing only one crop requires various chemicals, including synthetic fertilizers to replenish depleted nutrients, due to overuse of the land, and pesticides to keep away insects that are attracted to the large open fields. The chemicals run off in rainwater into nearby water sources and pollute them. Industrial farms also create a lot of airborne pollution with emissions from their farming machines and vehicles to transport the food across the country.
Alternatively, small farms often grow their produce organically without harmful chemicals. Local foods are also more sustainable, meaning they require less energy to be transported and create fewer emissions because they are sold close to where they are grown.
These practices are often what draw in customers, like Katie Shah, to buy from small local farms as opposed to large industrial farms. Shah goes to the market weekly to purchase fresh produce and organic grass-fed meats because she is a new mother and finds it important to eat as healthy as possible while breastfeeding.
“I like going because I’m getting a great product while supporting local farmers and other small businesses,” said Shah. “I’m a faithful patron because when I buy from the farm market, I know exactly where my food is coming from.”
For more information and news about the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market, check out its official website.