Dec 2, 2011
New Jersey farm market has had it all for 50 years

Rosie’s Farm Market sits just off Route 322 in the southern end of New Jersey near Mullica Hill. 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the market that started with Palma “Rosie” Sorbello in 1961.

In her native Italy, Rosie and her family sold produce in the streets. She came to this country and married farmer Michael Sorbello. After the birth of their third daughter, Lisa, Rosie started selling extra produce in their yard. As the family grew, so did the market.

Lisa, now Lisa Westermann, runs the market these days. They operate out of a five-bay garage that was built in 1988. They sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, shrubs and bedding plants. They grow everything but fruit on the family’s 60-acre farm, although they do bring in other local fruits, vegetables and plants.

“My mom used to say, ‘Rosie’s has it all,’ and that has become our motto,” Lisa said. “If we have a customer ask for something, we try to get it for them as long as it is possible.”

The standard rule for produce sold at Rosie’s is fairly simple. It has to be quality and it has to be fresh, Lisa said.

“Everything sold at Rosie’s is picked fresh every day.”

They rotate crops on their own land. This year it is different varieties of squash and zucchini, Lisa said.

They also rotate crops through the market, advertising what is in season and fresh that day.

“Today we had fresh cauliflower and broccoli,” Lisa said. “Tomorrow it might be something different. We have a lot of customers who come out to buy whatever is fresh. They check the signs.”

Mullica Hill started out as a small community but has grown rapidly as of late. The increase in population has had an effect on what customers want from the market.

“People used to come in just for things because it was cheaper than driving in to a bigger store,” Lisa said. ”Now the local people are coming in for fresh produce and for healthier eating habits.”

It also helps that the market sits right off a major travel corridor to Atlantic City to the east and beach-front property to the west. Stopping at the market has become a tradition for many families, Lisa said. People stop in and bring their kids. It becomes such a tradition that the kids come back when they are grown and are now bringing their kids.

That sense of family works well with Rosie’s. It is a family business in every way. Everyone who works there is a member of the family, be it a cousin, niece, nephew, etc. They have kept the décor of the market as Rosie originally intended. Pictures and poems from family members, as well as customers, decorate the walls, and one of Rosie’s favorite sayings is painted across the back wall.

“My mom used to say, ‘Do what makes your heart happy,’” Lisa said. “That’s a pretty good motto for this business.”

By Derrek Sigler, Associate Editor


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