Bordentown City Farmers Market Manager Hillery Lamb and Co-Manager Sruti Desai didn’t know what to expect when they held the market’s first Sunday gathering of the season at the Carslake Community Center on June 7.
Questions still remained about how many people from the Bordentown area and nearby communities would come out to the market amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In record setting fashion, Lamb and Desai saw the market have its best opening day with over 500 people attending to support local farmers and vendors on hand.
“We definitely had a lot of success with the market on our first Sunday,” Lamb said. “Five hundred people is the most the market has ever had. People were happy to be out of their house and be around people in the community that they haven’t seen in awhile. It was great to see them come out and support our local farmers and local businesses.”
The great success of opening day comes after months of planning were cut down into a few weeks of hard work for Lamb and Desai because of COVID-19.
Both managers worked with Bordentown City Commissioners and the Department of Public Works to create a safe and functional space to hold the market, while also putting COVID-19 safety guidelines in place.
Only 20 people are allowed in the market at a time and social distancing is encouraged, Desai said. Everyone at the market has to wear a mask and bring their own shopping bags.
People who purchased any food or drink items were directed to take it to go and are not allowed to eat or drink anything on site.
Other restrictions include the farmers market not being able to hold yoga classes, free workshops or live music this season.
Lamb says she hopes as restrictions are lifted that people will be able to sit and gather at the market.
The market will run every Sunday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Sept 27.
Around 14-16 vendors are expected to be on hand each Sunday and will vary depending if they stay for a month or come every other week, said Lamb.
The market had 16 vendors on hand for opening day. Despite losing a few vendors due to the pandemic, Lamb said the market has kept round 23-24 vendors for the season.
A big focus for Lamb and Desai was doing a better job in promoting the farmers market and attracting more vendors.
Desai headed up the initiative, working hard in cross promoting with vendors and other organizations in the Bordentown community through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, she said. She would also connect with apartment complexes around the Bordentown area and use their services to help promote the farmer’s market to their residents.
Vendor outreach and creating partnerships helped the farmers market develop a strong following on social media, Desai said.
“Our audience has grown a lot through social media,” she said. “Cross-promoting with different vendors has gotten more eyes on our fliers and has gotten more vendors to reach out to us.”
Desai said it was around last November when she began contacting vendors and that helped her keep in contact with them during the course of the pandemic to see what their status would be for the season.
Desai is also working on launching a website for the farmers market soon, she added.
Being eco-friendly was another important category that Lamb and Desai added in their search for vendors. Lamb believes the farmers market can help people learn about sustainable products that are being produced by their local farmers and how it can help them live a healthy lifestyle.
“We want to increase the awareness of sustainable living,” Lamb said. “The fresh produce that our local farmers can provide to the community is great for their health. It supports our local farmers.”
The online platform MarketSpread is another new tool that Lamb and Desai are using this year for vendors to submit applications and documentation online. They have also worked with Bordentown City Chief Finance Officer Richard Wright to create an online portal for vendors to submit their market fees.
This is the second year that Lamb and Desai have worked together to head the farmers market. The two took over the duties in 2019 from previous managers Matthew and Danielle McElmoyl who own the local restaurant Oliver A Bistro.
In their first year together, Lamb and Desai moved the farmers market from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning.
The main goal for the duo going into this year was to revive the market and really reset the focus on connecting the community with local farmers and vendors, they said.
In Desai’s mind, the strong turnout on Sunday shows that people are itching to get out of their homes, to see their friends and neighbors in the community, and support to their local economy.
Desai stated as well that she has been told by local farmers and vendors that they are experiencing a surge in business like they have never seen before.
“We have collectively built a great farmers market,” Desai said. “We have built up a strong following of people in the community that are engaged in what we are doing and that will stick with us for the whole season.”
Lamb is hopeful that the market will help provide local farmers and small businesses more business going forward and she anticipates it getting stronger as the summer goes on.
She also hopes that the farmers market will be able to get back to the way it was last year as a place for people in the community to gather for a nice and enjoyable Sunday morning.
“A farmers market is where people can get groceries for the week and gather with other people from the community,” Lamb said. “It’s a good way for them to support their local farmers and local businesses. It’s a nice way for them to relax, talk to people, drink some coffee, and enjoy a nice Sunday morning.”