Opening of Sparta Farmers Market

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:40

SPARTA — The spotty rain and cool temperatures did not keep people from checking out opening day at the Sparta Farmers Market last Saturday. With 11 vendors in attendance and a constant stream of visitors in and out, co-founder Ben Del Coro was more than pleased. “It’s going great for the opening day. The first week is all about learning the set-up, and it all went extremely well today.” The extra three weeks of winter-like weather has delayed most of the produce, but Del Coro is optimistic and is adding five more vendors over the next few weeks. “Because we are featuring Sussex County producers only, this growing zone differs from South Jersey. We are a little delayed but anticipate the large anchor produce like corn, peppers, eggplant in mid-June provided we get good weather,” said Del Coro. But there was plenty to shop for with a variety of vendors showcasing their home-grown goods. Jenna Myrick of Digging Earth in Hampton Township is in her second year of business and has a three-acre farm where she grows herbs, heirloom tomatoes, pepper plant and other seed sources. “I think this is fabulous for opening day. Set-up was smooth, and they have done an awesome job of promoting this,” said Myrick. Kittatinny Mountain Farms represented by Danielle Szepi and David Zelov hopes to bring in some beans next week, but in the interim showcased a variety of annuals and perennial plants from Fair Acres Farms in Sussex. Not everything available at the new market is plant-like. Churutabis Farm of Branchville raises eggs, goats, chickens, ducks and guinea fowl for upscale restaurants in New York City. Del Coro, who is a corporate chef and national sales director for Fossil Farms, a farm-raised game and natural meat company, did a cooking demonstration using a specially cultivated Rouen duck. The crowd grew as he explained just how special the bird is, “This is a rare heritage breed of duck that was produced for Tom Colicchio of Craft Restaurant in New York City and his television show Top Chef. It took 16 weeks to raise. We are bringing world class products to the Sparta Farmers Market.” And along with the duck, people enjoyed a wine tasting from Ventimiglia Vineyard in Wantage. Owner Gene Ventimiglia opened his winery in 2008. “We are a farm winery using mostly New Jersey fruits. We do European style wines. I do a lot of farmers markets, and we are excited about being here,” said Ventimiglia. Colleen Harshaw and her daughter Rebekah, who purchased two pepper plants, moved to Sparta six weeks ago from Ohio. “We belonged to a CSA (community supported agriculture) in Ohio and are very eager to find local produce here,” said Harshaw. “It’s amazing and about time,” said attendee Laura Newgard of the Sparta Environmental Commission. “When you eat good, you feel good,” added Brian Trautz, owner of Sparta’s White Oak Center for Natural Health. Mitch Morrison, a 21-year resident of Sussex County who co-founded the Sparta Farmers Market with Del Coro, came up with the idea for the market about a year ago. “Ben is the farmer-face guy who knows about the food, and I am the marketing guy,” said Morrison. Morrison shared his philosophy about the market. “We have to change ourselves and the way we are living economically and environmentally and for our health. This is an opportunity to connect farmers who are not used to marketing with sales, and the bigger picture is community.” Based on first-day reactions and turn-out, Spartans are welcoming the market with open arms. Sparta Farmers Market at 65 Main Street is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through the fall.