By Donald Wittkowski
Cathy Jann had a few plastic bags stuffed with goodies she picked up at the market Tuesday.
“Let’s see,” Jann said, while rummaging through the bags. “I’ve got some corn, broccoli, cantaloupe, honey, squash, romaine lettuce …”
Her voice trailed off as she tried to remember whether she had bought any other fruits or vegetables.
The fact that Jann had stocked up on produce for the week was hardly unusual, but where she purchased it may have surprised some people.
Just steps away from its beaches, Sea Isle City has opened a Farmers Market in Excursion Park at the ocean end of John F. Kennedy Boulevard. In other words, a little bit of country has arrived in this bustling vacation destination.
“It’s wonderful,” said Jann, a Sea Isle summer resident who lives in Merion Station, Pa. “I don’t have to go to the grocery store. Everything is fresh and the prices are reasonable.”
An annual tradition, the Farmers Market opened Tuesday for the summer, offering residents and tourists alike the freshest fruits and vegetables at roadside-stand prices. It will be open every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Aug. 30 at Excursion Park.
Sponsored by the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization, the market also includes other local vendors selling everything from crafts to candles and baked goods to doggie treats.
“We have a selection of vendors returning to our Farmers Market this year and there are some new ones, too,” said Christopher Glancey, president of the Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to offer visitors a wide variety of items to shop each week, and we feel we have a great lineup for 2016.”
Throughout summer, Excursion Park will be transformed into a family-friendly entertainment hotspot sponsored by local businesses.
Family Fun Night every Friday is a new event starting June 24. Free to the public, it will feature different themes and runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Aug. 26.
The Farmers Market and Family Fun Night give Sea Isle two tourist attractions for both the daytime and nighttime crowds. The market proves popular every year. On Tuesday, the grounds of Excursion Park were crowded with shoppers browsing through the vendors’ tents.
Jann, the customer who filled her bags with produce, said she enjoys the social aspects of the market as much as the selection of fruits and vegetables. She spent part of Tuesday chatting with farmers Doris and Dean Monteleone.
“Everyone is so friendly,” Jann said.
The Monteleones are farmers in Vineland. They have been selling their fruits and vegetables at the market for years, long enough to have built up a loyal following of local customers, Doris Monteleone said.
“They really like the local stuff,” she said. “We try to provide them with a variety of everything.”
Operating a fruit and vegetable stand in a beachfront location on hot, sunny days poses some challenges to the farmers, so they have devised their own tricks to keep everything fresh.
Doris Monteleone stressed that her produce is always kept under the tent awnings to protect it from the sun’s damaging heat. She also noted that her husband invented a spray device that keeps things crisp with squirts of cold water.
“We’re anal about keeping everything fresh,” she said.
Sandy and Al Izzi, farmers in neighboring Ocean View, rely on plenty of ice to protect their produce. The Izzis have been coming to the market every year.
Sandy Izzi said “99 percent” of what they sell is grown on their farm. Apples, oranges, lemons and limes were the exceptions Tuesday.
“We have a lot of loyal people who come here every year,” Sandy Izzi said. “It’s nice to offer them fresh produce at reasonable prices.”
One customer, Susan Leider, of Woodbine, is a regular at the market every year. She wishes it would be open more than once a week.
Leider stopped at the Izzis’ tent Tuesday during a beach outing. Among other things, she bought tomatoes, cherries, strawberries and onions.
“Now, I don’t have to do any more shopping. I can go home,” Leider said, hoisting her bags.