By Connor Smith
Fresh produce is one commodity not often associated with college campuses. That’s a stigma Leslie Summiel Jr. of 31 & Main Farmers Market in Campus Town hopes to end.
“31 & Main Farmers Market is moving with the trend of local, farm-fresh produce and making that type of produce accessible to regular people, especially the college students and the Ewing Township community,” Summiel said.
Tucked between Pennington Road and the Campus Town parking lot, the 31 & Main Farmers Market is a refreshing departure from the College’s everyday monotony. The bluegrass sounds of banjos plucking and neighbors conversing on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. will lead you right to the College’s new market.
Farmers from Pineland Farms, Z Farms, Cherry Grove Farms and Fulper Farms gather weekly in colorful tents with fresh produce and dairy products. Additional vendors are sure to show, as this week featured Cathee’s Creations Jewelry, Spencer’s Savings Bank and CindiHale Ceramic Art.
According to Rowena Gross of Pineland Farms, business has increased steadily since the market’s launch in June.
“There’s a really great community,” Gross said. “I was surprised when the students first started coming. I was expecting to sell them watermelon and apples, but they’re buying vegetables. A lot of them are cooking and buying veggies.”
The market wouldn’t be complete without its grassroots musicians. Each week features a different local artist. Heather Robbins and Mike Aucott of the group “Kingston Ridge” were the entertainment on Sunday, Sept. 11. To add to the sense of community, Aucott is an adjunct professor at the College, while Robbins directs choirs and teaches singing off campus.
“There are a lot of young folks that are interested in this. We like to play some of the old toons and do justice to them,” Aucott said.
Robbins joked that the duo is currently touring local farmers markets. “We kind of like the farmers market circuit,” Robbins said.
The market caters to both students and Ewing residents. Summiel believes the grassroots charm will help the business — not just the produce — grow organically.
“We wanted to get some staple farms that can withstand the risk of a start-up market,” Summiel said. “The vendors we selected also mutually selected us in wanting to commit to this venture. They have the resources and the experience. I think the farms that we decided to work with (were) a great choice.”
According to patrons, Summiel has a blueprint for success.
“I love the site and I love the entertainment,” said Bruce Waltuck, a first-time customer. “A couple of the vendors are folks we’re already familiar with, so I hope that this will be a successful market.”
Waltuck’s wife, Susie Waltuck, only wished that there was a baked good vendor.
“I personally would like to add another vendor, if they could,” she said. “Someone that does breads or bakery stuff — the sweet stuff. I miss when you go to the farmer’s market and you can get something like that.”
Meanwhile, many students embraced the healthy nature of the marketplace. Senior psychology major Rachel Turan was happy to finally have a fresh alternative to the usual Sodexo offerings.
“They have a good selection of awesome produce,” Turan said. “Buying your own vegetables and produce and making your own food is 100 percent better (than processed foods). It’s better for you, you know what’s in it and there’s something really nice about knowing what goes into the food you’re eating.”
Summiel hopes more students will echo Turan’s enthusiasm. Although the market was built to withstand the unstable nature of start-ups, he believes the project can have a wonderful impact on the students and Ewing, N.J., residents alike.
“We’re trying to get people to think health-conscious and connect the farms to the community,” Summiel said. “Everybody’s coming out. It’s just a great opportunity for the local college and the Ewing Township community to have access to great, high-quality farm products.”
Whether you’re looking to shop for fresh produce or take in the rural atmosphere, the 31 & Main Farmers Market is a welcome addition to a developing Campus Town center.