West Windsor continues to draw recognition from the state for its green footprint, and now its green thumb is getting attention as well. Sustainable Jersey’s 22 statewide task forces selected the West Windsor Farmers’ Market, along with Collingswood, as exemplary models for other municipalities and regions to follow.
Winnie Fatton, program manager at the Institute for Sustainability Planning and Governance, explained West Windsor’s appeal from Sustainable Jersey’s perspective.
“Our role is promoting the idea and educating municipalities on the process and whether they should have a farmers’ market. Using West Windsor’s example we will talk about the work that a municipality has to do to run a farmers’ market,” Fatton said.
The market will host a Sustainable Jersey workshop on Saturday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to noon. Council member Diane Ciccone will lead a tour of the market at 10 followed by a lesson on how the market was set up from co-founder Beth Feehan.
At 10:30 farm and non-farm vendor representatives will briefly speak about their experiences. At 10:45 Market Manager Chris Cirkus will explain financial and management considerations, including how vendors are selected, maintained, or let go, and how special events are organized.
Sustainable Jersey representatives will be on hand for the tour and meet vendors. Bill Walker of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture will speak on making a farmers’ market more accessible to the public. Information on selecting locations, obtaining financing, and the use of mass transit will be touched on.
At 11:15 Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and Community Development Director Pat Ward will discuss municipal support for the farmers’ market. Says Hsueh: “The farmers’ market was one of the prophecies I made the first time I ran for mayor in 2001. I promised that would be one thing to get accomplished, along with the arts center,” he said.
Hsueh says that through the farmers’ market West Windsor has the unique ability to celebrate its history while boosting local business. “We were a very traditional agricultural community, then as time went on there was an influx from the high-tech industry, research, and business. With the farmers’ market people will not forget about our roots,” Hsueh said. “We still have five farming families living in West Windsor. They have continued their practice generation after generation, and I want to make sure we keep them in this community.”
South Sophomore Stresses Composting
One West Windsor teen has been able to use the farmers’ market as a platform for promoting community and individual goals. Dhara Mehta, who recently started her sophomore year at High School South, is an advocate for composting who wants West Windsor to work toward producing less solid waste.
Last year Mehta began researching environmentally-conscious ideas to fit her Girl Scouts’ gold award project. When she looked into composting she took a scientific approach to setting her objectives. Mehta decided to create a poster board to help her present the information to her friends, fellow Girl Scouts, and the public. Ever since, she has been a regular at West Windsor Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. When passers-by approach her table, Mehta enjoys telling them about composting and how they can help the environment. But recently she’s spread the word in every way possible.
Mehta spoke at the August 11 Environmental Commission meeting, where she was advised by chairman Michael Hornsby to continue her efforts and help the commission and the township work toward obtaining new Sustainable Jersey credits and possibly a new grant.
With the Girl Scouts Mehta completed her prerequisite to work toward a Gold Award. The subject she used was self-conservation, which led to her research on composting. These days the student and aspiring science professional informally offers teaching and consulting services. Mehta helps members of the community make composting bins, on occasion going over to neighbors’ houses to help build one or demonstrate the composting process.
“Ten people have contacted me and they wanted to make bins, so I have given each them guidelines. I also made a bin for the Princeton YMCA and I hosted three one-hour-long sessions for kids ages 5 to 12,” she said.
Mehta plans on working with Windsor Montessori School, where the school’s administration has been inspired to teach composting to young children. The school is making plans to purchase an earth machine and make composting part of the curriculum.
Mehta said her project has received so much feedback that she had to set up a specific E-mail address for composting questions and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mehta was born in Mumbai, India, and spent her early childhood there. Five years ago the family moved from India to West Windsor, and Mehta began fifth grade at Grover Middle School. Kiran Mehta, a homemaker, met her husband, Dhiren, while the two were at college in India. Dhiren Mehta currently works for Infosys Limited (formerly Infosys Technologies).
Mehta’s other favorite activity is dance. She has danced to Bollywood-hip hop sounds and is learning classical Indian dance now.
Mehta may be following a similar path to her older sister, Janvi, a 2010 High School South graduate who is majoring in pharmacy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
This school year Mehta is taking chemistry and is off to a fast start since there appears to be a strong connection between her schoolwork and her Girl Scout project. Along with chemistry Mehta enjoys studying the environment. She says if she doesn’t take up environmental science as a college major, she will definitely pursue it as a minor.
“Composting is related to biology and chemistry, so learning more about the basis of it will help me explain composting to people I approach,” she says.