Name: Ralph Ciallella
Farmers Market/Location: Haddonfield Farmers Market/Haddonfield, NJ
Specialty: We are a weekly farmers market in Haddonfield, NJ. We have a variety of growers who bring fresh produce, artisan food vendors, and craftsmen who attend the market on Saturdays from May to October (8:30 am - 1 pm).
What problem does your farmers market solve?: We bring activity to the downtown on a Saturday morning, get local farmers and their products to area families, and provide a community space to hang out, shop, listen to great local music, and learn more about area agriculture.
What makes your farmers market unique?: We offer a space each week for one of the downtown businesses to set up a table and have folks learn more about their store. The town library comes once a month to feature books and programs and help residents sign up for their library card. We create events, like the scarecrow building activity for families at the Downtown Haddonfield Fall Festival. This has been a town tradition for years, and we were able to help keep it going when another organization was unable to. We also are a great fit for a new culinary business. Our market is just the right size for someone who is trying out a new idea and wants to see if it has legs.
What’s your story?: Our town had seen the success of another local town's market and was interested in starting one too. We began 12 years ago as a small market located at the PATCO commuter train lot in town. We moved to another space in town for a few years, and then had the opportunity to be front and center in Kings Court, in the middle of town 6 years ago. That was the best move we could have made. In our current location, we are visible to drivers going through town, families walking and biking with their little ones, and we maintain a healthy PR and social media presence to gain new customers. Kings Court has a lovely gazebo that serves as our stage for our musical acts and is a natural spot for folks to gather and have breakfast at the tables and chairs. We have between 5-7 produce vendors each week who bring Jersey Fresh produce to the market. We have artisan bakers, fresh smoothies, homemade soaps, handmade arts and crafts, local honey, locally roasted coffee, area restaurants with a market set up, Italian specialty foods, and artisanal cheeses and desserts.
One piece of advice you have food entrepreneurs: Create your product, market your product, get to know your customers on a personal level, and persevere through the initial start up. We often see companies have a great idea, but because the first couple of weeks are difficult, they are apt to throw in the towel. The ones that we have seen be successful have grit, are personable, and, of course, have a great product that fills a need.
What do you wish you had known before you started your farmers market?: We wish we had had the right location from the start. It's a big difference in getting folks to know you exist and making the spot a destination.
What’s your greatest challenge for your farmers market and how are you overcoming it?: For us, it is another market on the same day as ours. We have come to not treat it as a direct competitor because the personality of the markets are different. By handling our marketing and retaining quality vendors, we have made our own identity. The musical acts we have are ones that we have worked with for years and folks seek out to come, hang out, and listen to on a mellow Saturday morning. So we have been able to differentiate ourselves.
What are you most proud of about your farmers market?: We are really proud of the way we bring the downtown to life on Saturday mornings and utilize the natural beauty of the space and setting we are in. Haddonfield is a family town, and we provide a space for you to get to know your neighbors, find great food for your family, and make new friends.
What do you love most about working with food entrepreneurs? We love to eat! Ha! In all seriousness, we love the energy of the vendors and customers. Every year, we have a brand new vendor come to us to start out. We love to help nurture their business, watch them grow and be successful, and provide a sustainable atmosphere for them to thrive.
Please provide in additional information that you would like to share. We are always thinking of ideas for events and happenings for the town. We have hosted a Outdoor Sculpture and Art Tour in conjunction with the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We provide yoga classes for young families, we have had chili and pie contests. And the Camden County Master Gardeners come a few times a year to bring education and knowledge to our community. We thrive on the variety and offering something new for folks in town. It keeps the farmers’ market interesting, and keeps people coming each week.
For more information on the Haddonfield Farmers Market and to learn how to become a vendor, visit haddonfieldfarmersmarket.org.
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