What makes a farmers market stand out? There are more factors at hand than people may consider. Its location, its schedule, the amount of vendors, the quality of vendors—even the ratio of vendors is crucial. Do people want more farm stand options, or more retail?
Hillery Lamb is looking at this very problem as if it were a scientific equation. After previously working for former managers and local restaurateurs Matt and Danielle McElmoyl, the five-year Bordentown resident is looking to balance new scales in her first season as manager of the Bordentown Farmer’s Market when it returns to the Carslake Community Center on Sunday morning, June 2.
And yes, that’s a new time, old space. Moving to a Sunday morning start time will be Lamb’s first of a series of changes intended to turn the weekly market into an event embedded in its community. Part of that is adding a weekend attraction, which naturally leads buyers at the market to downtown Bordentown.
“When you think about farmers markets, you want to wake up on Sunday mornings, stroll around, and get your stuff,” she explained. “I think it’d be great to have people come up and be able to enjoy a cup of coffee, relax, and get their produce for the week.”
After speculation of a change in location throughout the offseason, though, Lamb said the market will remain at Carslake for the time being. The final decision was only made recently, as Lamb realized she would already be juggling a few other additions and variables in her first year.
Though the market’s lineup is still not official, Lamb anticipated they will regularly host about three or four farmers, two or three food trucks, about three baked goods vendors, a couple novelty vendors and craft tables each, a honey vendor and a florist. She added a seafood vendor onto her wish list, as well. The planned lineup, which could fluctuate week-by-week, is a revision from Lamb’s original plan of adding about another half-dozen farm stands.
She reconsidered the idea when speaking with West Windsor Community Farmers Market manager Chris Cirkus after getting the job.
“You want the farmers to do well,” Lamb said. “I originally thought to move it to 8 farmers, but she suggested keeping it small so they could still make good money.”
It wasn’t the only inspiration—or input—to come from neighboring farmer’s markets. Lamb is fixed on larger markets such as those in West Windsor, Trenton, Burlington County, and Collingswood. Though the Bordentown market will continue on at Carslake, Lamb would likely have to move it to reach bigger and better goals.
“They all provide an awesome template for the possibilities of a market, and it gives you something to strive for,” she said. “The goals for this year were to get a lot of vendors and make it a place you want to be.”
Over the past few months, Lamb has been looking into means by which she can garner help for the Bordentown market. She came across a series of grants from the United States Department of Agriculture which, in turn for her team designating a space for the farmers market, would indicate is as a more defined staple in the community. That would mean the addition of community classes like cooking, and the opportunity for people to rent the space out for events. The idea of her managing a farmers market that could double as a wedding venue made Lamb laugh, but is possible all the same.
With just a little more than a month until the season begins, Lamb is optimistic. She currently has about 18 pending vendor applications, a log of advice from fellow market managers and the McElmoyls, and overwhelming support from her town. She credited committees such as the Bordentown City’s Green Team for being instrumental in helping her create an “artisanal appeal” for the market while maintaining a waste-friendly infrastructure.
“Mayor Lynch and the commissioners embraced all my new ideas,” Lamb said. “Aside from asking what I needed or adding minimal input, they really allowed me to change some things without resistance.”
And there’s sure to be even more changes to come. From helping make burritos for the McElmoyl’s stand to now running the show, Lamb has a lot of ideas to make the Bordentown Farmers Market an event. But she also has questions to answer still—about the vendors, the schedule, the location, a little bit of everything.
“With science projects, you change one variable at a time, and you figure out what’s the best combination,” she said.