Fork in the Road: By the Riverside
Of the three, Stockton, sitting just a short four miles above Lambertville on River Road/Route 29, has the strongest agrarian roots, dating back to when its farmers (along with others) supplied Washington’s army with food. Two of its native sons from the late 1800s, John Deats and Joseph Wilson, were their era’s rock star farmers: Deats invented the Deats plow and corn sheller; and Wilson, a hatchery farmer, was the first to ship day-old baby chicks. It’s only fitting, then, that the town boasts one of the state’s finest farmers’ markets: the Stockton Market.
Since its opening three years ago, the StocktonMarket has become my go-to farmers’ market. Rivaling New York City’s Greenmarkets and Philly’s ReadingTerminal, its vendors offer everything from freshly picked produce, artisan cheeses, chocolates, breads and baked goods to grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken, pork, lamb and eggs; from sushi-worthy seafood to naturally prepared foods and handcrafted items. Unlike its big-city counterparts, the Market’s vibe is neighborly, with many of the vendors on a first-name basis with customers.
It’s also a place where you can expect to run into friends or make new ones while swapping recipes in front of a vendor’s stand or sharing one of the market’s tables to enjoy lunch or dinner.
It’s also where you’ll find farmers listening to their culinary muse. For some, like Breanna Fulper, a fifth-generation farmer, that means having a vision that extends to agritourism for her family’s dairy farm, Fulper Farm in Lambertville, as well as creating yogurts and cheeses to sell. Then there’s Brenda Slack, fourth-generation farmer and owner of Milk House Farm Market, who’s finding new ways to extend the growing season for her greens and veggies. Some of the new farmer faces are from Gravity Hill, an organic family farm; Tullamore Farm, a mother-and-daughter duo raising grass-fed beef; and Joanna and Marc Michini of Purely Farm. The Michinis began adding artisan sausages to their roster of pasture-raised products last year. Try the cervellata, their take on a Calabrian delicacy, and Purple Rain, a mix of grated beets, French feta and pork that reverberates with a creaminess uncommon in sausage.
Because it’s indoors and year-round, the market gives farmers a steady venue for their products and customers steady access to their favorite vendors. An added plus is the proximity of vendors’ farms making it easy to stop by to see where and how your food is grown or produced. A visit to one never fails to drive home the long hours, love and passion that goes into each farmer’s leaf of lettuce, cut of meat or artisan cheese that I find waiting at the market for me each week. If you spot a tall blonde with a pixie haircut darting between vendors to lend a hand, you’ve found market manager Dawn Mcbeth.
Look also for her to create amuses-bouche as samples using vendors’ products. Recently she created a Turkish appetizer with Gravity Hill’s eggplant and Fulper’s Greek yogurt and tossed a mixed green salad to accompany an order ofMetropolitan Seafood’s popular Friday Night Fish Fry and Mighty Quinn BBQ’s brisket and burnt beans.
And I haven’t even told you about the other 16 vendors, including chocolatier Tom Sciascia of the Painted Truffle, who raises the bar when it comes to chocolates and French macarons. But you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.
Still the market’s reach doesn’t stop at its doors. It’s also a resource—and source—of inspiration for the town’s newest restaurant, Lilly’s Meals, as well as the Stockton Inn.
BY DIANA CERCONE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GLENN RACE