Union Market’s ‘Fresh Fridays’ Focus Is on Authenticity

May 29, 2018
Photo by: Lizzy Beyer

Customers bustled their way through The Union Market and Gallery in Tuckerton during its weekly “Fresh Friday,” where visitors can take their pick from an array of fruits, vegetables, homemade foods and a variety of organic products. The Union Market has teamed up with several local vendors in the Long Beach Island region to put together a weekly farmers market, inspired by what they saw as a void in the area.

“The idea was brought to us by Chris Adams (Sassafras Hill Farm manager), who came to us in the winter with the concept,” said part-owner Erin Buterick. “It very much stemmed from the fact that there was a need in Tuckerton, and we wanted to be the first to fill it.”

Several tables and tents set up outside the market offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and different homemade items. The environment is very laid back – live music plays, and the inside of the market features coffee and lunch items. Even for customers who are not looking to buy anything, the market can be a cool place just to hang out and browse.

Although the market primarily offers locally grown and harvested produce, there are many other unusual items, such as Barnegat resident Lizzy Beyer’s homemade sunscreen. Her company, Current All Natural, offers an all-natural zinc surf paste with no parabens, sulfates or oxybenzone.

“I spent the winter in Puerto Rico, and I did farmers markets there and was successful, but people had no problem walking right past your table,” Beyer said. “At Fresh Friday, the setting is more intimate, so when people come, they normally talk to every vendor, allowing me to educate them on my product.”

Beyer studied at the College of Charleston, where she double-majored in biology and international studies and environmental studies. There, she began doing research on the impacts of sunscreen on the environment. She found most sunscreen brands contain chemicals that are harmful to marine life and the human body.

“There was a study done that showed adolescent males with higher levels of oxybenzone had lower levels of testosterone compared to those with lower oxybenzone levels,” she said. “And Hawaii just recently banned all sunscreens from being sold in stores that contained the chemical.”

Beyer is passionate about warning people of the hidden dangers of ingredients used in some cosmetics and that just because something says “organic” on the label does not always mean it’s true. “Fresh Friday is really great because there is a lot of one-on-one conversation where I can assure people that they are getting an all-natural product that is not harmful,” she said.

To take part in Fresh Friday, vendors must produce 100 percent of whatever they are selling; that way, customers are sure they are getting the freshest and most authentic product. The Union Market strives for a genuine experience and an honest market for consumers.

Buterick said the confirmed vendors are Sassafras Hill Farm of Barnegat, Ron’s Seafood of Viking Village, Black Eyed Susans of Harvey Cedars, Kraken’s Kitchen of Beach Haven, and B&B Farms of Galloway.

Adams pointed out that in the LBI region, no farmers markets operate outside of the summer season (July through September), “yet, as a farmer, we grow produce from about April through January.” Through the new effort, The Union Market helps local farmers sell their crops and gives the community the ability to have fresher produce for more of the year.

The Union Market and Gallery is located at the Tuckerton Seaport and will host Fresh Friday each week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through June 29. Live acoustic bands, game nights, campfire nights and other fun events are planned throughout the summer. Head over to their Facebook page at The Union Market & Gallery to stay up to date on coming events.

— Johnny McGinley

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