I rounded out the last of three Tour de Farm NJ cycling trips this past weekend. I can't believe how nice the weather was! Upper 70 degrees, sunny with a light breeze. For all three trips, the weather was picture-perfect.
This time, we cycled from farm to farm in Warren County, NJ. Despite the 38 miles of pedaling, I felt great and got a chance to chat with the farmers a bit more on this trip. My key takeaway from this and the other two trips: "Farming is a tough way to make a buck" (to quote one of the farmers I spoke with). These farmers are truly passionate about what they do and it's what makes all of that work fulfilling (but not easy).
Next up, Genesis Farm, which runs as a CSG (Community Supported Garden). We spoke with a really lovely woman who is one of three who run the farm (I hope she'll forgive me for not remembering her name). Mr. Wine Box Gardener and I got a great reality check from her. We would love to start a "big garden/small farm" for ourselves in "semi-retirement" - mostly to satisfy my need to grow things and also to have honestly-grown and fresh food for ourselves that we can cook with all year round. I would consider this dream a hobby, not a career in agriculture, where we need to be profitable. But....we dream of having enough space to have solar panels to power/pay for our electrical needs and space where we could host bee colonies, have a greenhouse, and more. So, we just need to be realistic about what we're going to want to actually do when the time comes.
On we went to a completely different type of farm, The LL Pittenger Farm. I don't eat meat myself, but I am interested in how animal farmers raise their animals. It's in all of our best interests to care about the treatment of the animals people eat. They raise sheep, chicken & Berkshire pigs there, (which are known more for their quality than their size). One of the owners of the farm actually gave up an autobody/collision business to come farm here (the farm has been in his wife's family since the 1930's). He really gave me insight into how hard it is, not only to run a farm, but to do things like events and farmers market gigs - it's a lot of effort that goes into these things. It makes me appreciate them even more.
We ventured on to Circle Brook Farm. They had AMAZING produce. The size of these Jersey tomatoes was OUT OF THIS WORLD, and the garlic they had hanging in the barn....plentiful. It was at this moment (and at Genesis Farm) that I really was sad that we can't cook a whole lot during our kitchen renovation.... That, and the fact that I already am growing some of the things that looked really appetizing on their stand, made it hard to buy much to bring home.
We ended our trip at Long Meadow Farm in Hope, NJ, where it was like the Garden of Eden. These apples were so amazingly fresh and delicious, we couldn't help bring a bag of these home. I believe we got mostly Gala apples, but they had about 7 or 8 varieties in a pick your own fashion.
I don't know if any of my posts of the Tour de Farm NJ, whether this one, or the Sussex County or Hunterdon County have inspired you to think about doing one or all of them next year, but I hope you at least took away an appreciation for these farms, their hard work and great outcomes they bring to us at Farmers Markets and stores. I see how hard the farming life is. I don't envy the hard work, but I do envy the satisfaction they seem to get from doing something worthwhile.
Know before you go:
- Take lots of water with you and refill your bottles or your CamelBak along the way at the farms. They were generous in letting people refill their water, which was nice.
- Take cash - most of the farms don't take credit cards.
- Put the telephone number you'll get in the confirmation/reminder emails into your cell phone. If you need assistance, you can call the number and they'll come get you or assist as needed.
- Bring a portable charger for your phone if you think you'll run out of juice.
- Bring a cooler in your car for taking farm goods home with you - put some ice/ice pack in there to keep them cool if it's a long ride home.
I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).
I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)
This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.
In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself.
With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix DMC-ZS15 compact camera.)
I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.
Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!