By Amanda Vuocolo
Grocery stores have made fruits and vegetables readily available to the masses thanks to advances in shipping and farm technology. Unfortunately, the resulting produce is often bland and treated with pesticides. Between pesticide runoff and the exhaust from trucks used to transport the goods, supermarket produce also takes a toll on the environment.
The cost to grow, treat and transport this produce drives up prices. While this is inconvenient for the average consumer, shoppers in low-income areas like Trenton often cannot find stores with fresh fruits and vegetables because the high prices reduce demand.
But the solution is a century-old tradition that happens to take place just 10 minutes away from the College.
The Trenton Farmers Market is the one-stop shop for delicious fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods, jewelry and more. And best of all, it’s locally grown, green and affordable.
This Trenton tradition began in the early 1900s when farmers statewide would gather along what is now Route 29 to sell produce. Eventually, these farmers formed a co-op and purchased land in neighboring Lawrence Township to establish what is now the official Trenton Farmers Market.
This rich history of home-grown food is present in the market today. Most of the farms selling at the market have Garden State roots.
Take Pineland Farms – the founders sold their famous blueberries on the Trenton waterfront. Judy DeFiccio, one of many people working the busy stand, had a lot to say about her family history.
“It’s like I was born here,” she said. DeFiccio’s parents, both children of farmers, met and married in the ’50s and combined their farms to create what is now Pineland Farms.
Another vendor with a long family history is Cedarville Farms, whose 130 acres of farmland have been yielding fruits and vegetables for four generations.
Cedarville Farms’s Justin Vanhandel has been selling his family’s produce at the market since he was 15 years old.
“My great-grandma even comes to visit sometimes,” he said.
And the Amish Country Store is as historical as New Jersey itself. Amos Smucker, the owner of the store, says that he can trace his family back to settlements in the 15th century. The Amish tradition lives on at the market where Smucker stocks goods from four Amish and Mennonite families from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Though Smucker works with families in Pennsylvania, he hires all kinds of people to work in the store in the market, and many of them are Trenton locals. Smucker even refers to one of his longtime employees as his “Italian-Amish mamma.”
According to Smucker, the Trenton Farmers Market is successful because “everyone brings their own ethnic food from different places.”
History is alive and well at the Trenton Farmers Market, but the market has embraced modernity. Many vendors are aware of the food desert plaguing the Trenton community and are happy to give back. According to Judy DeFiccio, “everyone’s trying to fill that role.”
A longtime tradition in a modern world, the Trenton Farmers Market is an unassuming paradise full of delicious food and warm faces. The market is located on 960 Spruce St. in Lawrence Township and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.