June 12, 2022
HIGHTSTOWN, NJ – Farmers are gearing up and improvements have been made at the historic Tri-County farmers’ cooperative and auction market on Route 33. First opened in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, in recent years, the market has opened itself up to the public and a variety of restaurant and catering hall owners from around New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
Farmer George Asprocolas of Asprocolas Acres in Millstone is president of the vegetable and fruit growers’ cooperative. Each week, three days during the week, at the height of the season, farmers bring their extra produce to Tri-County’s loading docks and walk-in refrigerators, to sell at wholesale prices. The market is open Wednesdays in June, depending on the weather and availability of cool weather crops like asparagus, peas, strawberries and a variety of lettuces.
“We had some paving of our parking lots done last season, and we also put a new roof on our extra storage building,” Asprocolas said, “we have two contractors who will add garage doors to our open loading dock building. Much of the funding for the improvements at this historic marketplace came from grants from the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA.]
“Every year it varies a little bit, but we usually have between 45 and 60 participating farmers in the cooperative,” Asprocolas said, adding customers can check in with the cooperative’s website to see available produce.Tri-County’s loading docks also host farmers from as far away as Swedesboro and Vineland, Vernon in Sussex County and even a few Amish farmers from Lancaster, Pa. “We regularly get participating farmers from a wide range of areas,” he said.
While farmers who wholesale their excess produce at Tri-County all season long pay annual membership dues, what’s most remarkable about the operation are the low buyer’s fees. Customers such as churches or schools, can come in and buy in wholesale quantities for a $2 fee. Customers get to “know their farmer” and support local farms by purchasing Jersey Fresh products. For more information, updated produce lists and instructions on how to order online or via phone, refer to our website:
Facebook: Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market
Hours of Operation
April – May: Wednesdays: 5:30PM – 9:00 PM
June – October” Mondays: 5:30PM – 9:00 PM Wednesdays: 5:30PM – 9:00 PM Fridays: 5:30PM – 9:00 PM
619 Route 33 West
Hightstown, NJ 08520
Just picked produce on the way to the market.
TRI-COUNTY COOPERATIVE MARKET HISTORY
* The non-profit, tax-exempt Section 521 Tri-County Cooperative Market was founded in 1933 by a group of farmers from Mercer, Monmouth and Middlesex counties at the height of the Great Depression.
*What began as a wholesale-only market has recently opened its doors and loading bays to restaurant owners, chefs, caterers and members of the general public who wish to take advantage of wholesale prices.
*Products from up to 50+ farmers – from all over the Garden State — are available during the growing season.
*The Tri-County Auction Market Association owns just under five acres of land off Route 33 in Hightstown. The land was purchased for $1 from farmers Bertha and James Taylor on Aug. 18, 1937.
*Veteran third and fourth generation farmers recall how farm trucks would be lined up all the way to Route 130 in the 1960’s and 70’s during operating hours at the market, before a lot of precious, fertile farmland in central New Jersey – some of the most fertile farmland in the United States — was sold off to developers for housing and office parks.
*Farmers pay a nominal fee at the start of each growing season to belong to Tri-County Farmers Cooperative Market, and Future Farmers of America, [FFA] members, benefit from free membership in this unique, tax-exempt, Section 521 farmer-owned facility.
*There are no membership fees for buyers. This means a family of five or several neighbors buying together can come in during market hours and order a bushel of corn
–about 64 ears — at $14 to $16.
*With a redesigned website, www.tricountycoop.net, transactions between buyers and sellers are conducted much more easily. Restaurant chefs and suppliers can place
orders via the website. Farmers who operate their own retail stands can order produce they don’t grow from other farmers.
*The Tri-County Market remains a farmer-run, farmer-owned tax-exempt cooperative with four officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, and five general members.
*Restaurant owners come from as far away as Connecticut to purchase “Jersey Fresh” produce at the market’s official seasonal hours from”5:30 until the last farmer leaves” on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. People from the restaurant industry can also pick up and order produce on Tuesdays and Thursdays by calling to make an appointment.
*With a large walk-in refrigeration area on site, patrons of the Tri-County Cooperative Market [who understand the seasonal nature of fruits and vegetables,] can order any of the following products at wholesale prices.
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