Kevin Riordan: Farmers market aims to grow a downtown in Voorhees

Jaconda Bell sells Momma's Home Made applesauce made by her mother, Daisy Smith.
Jaconda Bell sells Momma's Home Made applesauce made by her mother, Daisy Smith. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 06, 2012

In Voorhees, a suburb once defined by agriculture, a weekly farmers market may help put a new downtown on the map.

A dozen area vendors began selling fresh fruit, produce, and other products outside the Voorhees Town Center on May 19 and will continue every Saturday, from 8 a.m. until noon, through Oct. 27.

"Cities really came about because farmers needed to come to a place where they could barter or trade their goods," said Joseph F. Coradino, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. "Farmers were historically fundamental to creating a downtown."

PREIT bought the moribund Echelon Mall in 2003 and began transforming it into an $83 million mix of retail, residences, and offices in 2008. The downsized mall still echoes with empty stores, but restaurants are opening along a handsome new boulevard of shops and residences.

And if what I experienced during my visit Saturday was any indication, the farmers market is off to a healthy start.

Consider: Without planning to, I ended up taking home bread, blueberries, cheese, veggies, and applesauce, all produced within an hour's distance of where I bought them.

Were I more gastronomically adventurous, I might be dining this week on some Jersey Fresh yak burgers as well.

"Yak is awesome," said R.J. Serridge, an enthusiastic sales representative for WoodsEdge Wools Farm in Hunterdon County.

Before I could demur, he pulled several "yaktastic" cuts, all frozen and shrink-wrapped, from a plastic cooler.

"Yak is sweeter than beef, and it's really good for you," Serridge said. "The family-sized rib steaks are great on the grill."

I took his word for it, but eagerly tasted a sample of Momma's Home Made apple-garlic hot sauce. The tangy stuff is created by Daisy ("Momma") Smith, 70, and her children, William White and Jaconda Bell, in the commercial kitchen of Bethany Baptist Church, in Gibbsboro.

"The applesauce is something our mother fed us all our lives," said Jaconda. "It's all natural. We don't use any additives, preservatives, or dyes. We use local farms for our apples, and we do everything in small batches. The apples are hand-peeled, cut, and cored."

Customers lined up to sample the sauces from little paper cups.

"I like to try different things, and I like to help the little guy," said Shariff Barron, a truck driver who lives in Voorhees and brought his daughter, Maria, 6, to the market.

Momma's Home Made sells at several other farmers markets, including in Stone Harbor; Momma herself was selling at the Cape May Ferry on Saturday.

"Farmers markets are very important to our business, because we meet people from all over," Jaconda said. "It gives you more exposure, which is what you need when you're starting out.

"So far this market has been phenomenal," she added. "We're getting a great response."

Michael Scappa was selling fresh pasta, cheeses, and "crab gravy" at the Talluto's tent. Voorhees marks the first farmers market location for the business, which is in Washington Township.

"We put off farmers markets and put it off until finally we thought, why not try it?" Scappa said. "It has been very, very good so far. We're very happy."

The sole downside, he added, is "this is the first year. Other farmers markets already have the reputation."

That should come in time, according to Coradino. He grew up in South Philly near Lanci's Bakery, which recently reopened and also has an outpost at the farmers market.

"We wanted to create something a little more special," Coradino said. "We expect it to do well.

"One of the things we're considering, as the market starts to get some legs to it, is a more permanent structure. It would be like the Ardmore [Pa.] farmers market, but with more of a connection to the outside."

Despite the difficulties of trying to create downtowns in the suburbs - the Main Street development, also in the township, comes to mind - Coradino was bullish about the Voorhees Town Center.

"We are creating a place people will gravitate to," he said. "A farmers market is part of that."

Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at

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