OCEAN CITY — It’s 4 a.m. on Wednesday in Woodstown, Salem County, 50 miles and a world away from the city’s beaches. But Martie Buzby and her husband, Eric, are up and working, filling a truck with produce.
Summer for most people means beaches, the Boardwalk and rides, but for the Buzbys, who operate A.T. Buzby Farm, it means business from the three weekly farmers markets it sells at.
Buzby, her daughter Anna Buzby, 12, and Buzby’s grandfather-in-law, Jim Daily, 80, drive the truck with the produce down to Ocean City. Farmworker sisters Inga-Liese Hantho, 18, and Annika Hantho, 16, both of Salem County, follow in a minivan.
Mom swears she does not drag her preteen daughter out of bed in the middle of the night to come to the farmers market.
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“She enjoys doing it,” said Buzby, who added Anna sleeps in the truck on the way down.
They start their drive to Ocean City while it is still dark.
“I am not a natural early riser, but I wake up excited. It’s so fun. We are setting up, and by 7:30 a.m., there are people there,” said Buzby, who looks forward to the farmers market to the point where she sometimes has trouble falling asleep the night before at 9:30 p.m.
They ride for 90 minutes to travel 50 miles one way in a truck packed with 625 pounds of tomatoes, 200 cantaloupes, 60 watermelons and 3,000 ears of corn — their signature item.
The five of them are already sweating in their red-and-white cotton company T-shirts and jeans before they sell any produce.
Upon arrival at the Ocean City Tabernacle, they have to unload tons of fruits and vegetables, set up seven tables for selling and erect the white tents that keep them and their customers in the shade or protected from rain.
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Buzby spends more than five hours on her feet at the farmers market, but she would be doing the same thing at the farm without the friendly faces of customers to greet her.
“Several customers we see every single week,” Buzby said. “The locals down there, I mean we have a lot of vacationers, but locals down there are very faithful.”
The ability to eat and drink has to be capitalized on during stolen moments when not attending to customers between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
On the ride back to Woodstown, Buzby may read a book to relax, calculate the remaining inventory or talk to Daily. Her daughter is usually preoccupied with playing the video game “Minecraft.”
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The crew is back at the farm at 2:30 or 3 p.m. For Buzby, just doing the farmers market is an 11½-hour day, and that’s not counting if work needs to be done on the farm.
Buzby Farm also participates in farmers markets once a week in Collingswood, Camden County, and at Second and Market streets in Philadelphia, but its appearance in Cape May County makes for the longest drive.
“We love the Ocean City Farmers Market. It’s worth it. It’s worth the time,” said Buzby, who as the farmers market manager may not even appear at the other markets. “We do well there. ... I try to go to Ocean City because it’s our busiest.”