The Local Harvest

THE LOCAL HARVEST   The Newsletter of Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA, January, 2018

APPLICATIONS COMING IN AT A BRISK RATE!  by Sherry Dudas 

It is reassuring and gratifying to be receiving more applications to date this year than last and we are looking forward to a fabulous season! We’re happy that our new Boxed Share locations in Bloomfield, Crosswicks, Ewing, Freehold Township, Flemington, Moorestown, Voorhees and Washington Township are contributing to our increase in memberships for 2018 and that we’ll be able to bring our healthy, affordable, nutrient-rich, 100% certified organic produce to a record number of communities this year!

For those of you who have already signed up for the 2018 season, we thank you and look forward to serving you again this spring!  If you have not signed up yet, the credit card and PDF applications are on our website.  Just click the links below to access the webpages, with links to the appropriate applications.

Pennington Application

Chesterfield Application

Boxed Share Application  

Corporate Boxed Share Application 

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WINTER FARM PROJECT WITH CONSERVATION VALUES IN MIND – Jim Kinsel 

So what are my staff and I doing during the winter "down-time", aside from all the obvious farm tasks like seed ordering and equipment repair?  Our "construction artist" Ray and staff have been braving the outbursts of frigid weather this winter to construct three new greenhouses at our "Wilson" farm* on Crosswicks-Ellisdale Road in Chesterfield. We bought these greenhouses “used” at farm auctions, where we then had to dismantle and move them into storage until now.   

The greenhouses have been designed with the following objectives in mind:

1) horticultural considerations such as maximizing sunlight and minimizing the effect of one house shading its neighbor;

2) elevated pads to maximize water drainage from precipitation to reduce the humidity in the houses which can promote disease; and

3) reduction of energy use by installing automated side and ridge venting.  You can see the ridge vent framework on the house, which is shown closest in the above photo.   

This is just one project we have underway or are planning to implement to reduce the farm's energy use to minimize our carbon footprint. 

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*We refer to this farm as the “Wilson Farm” in recognition of the previous owners, Robert and Priscilla Wilson, who bought the farm in 1946.  We bought the farm in late 2008, following Mr. Wilson’s passing the previous year.  In addition to Mr. Wilson receiving soil conservation awards in the 1960s, the Wilsons raised hens for egg production, which they sold both wholesale as well as directly to the public out of the basement of the house.  The Wilsons were responsible for preserving the farm in the 1990s with an agricultural easement at a time when it was not clear whether preserved farmland would ever have a resale value. Kudos to their courage! 

NEW ADDITIONS TO OUR FARM TEAM – Sherry Dudas 

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We’re pleased to announce that Emilyn Fox has been hired as one of our two Greenhouse Co-Managers! Emilyn is excited to be a Greenhouse Manager at our farm, as she enters her 6th farm season.  She went to the University of Vermont where her course work in environmental studies highlighted the importance of a strong and sustainable local food system.  After she graduated in 2011, she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. During her hike she stayed at a hiker hostel that also had a small organic farm.  The lifestyle she found there inspired her to stop talking about sustainable farming and actually do it.  When she finished the trail she interned at Farm and Wilderness in Vermont, apprenticed at Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Pennsylvania, and had been farming ever since at both Great Road Farm and Marchese Family Farm in Mercer County.  When she is not farming, she can be found hiking, cooking, traveling and spending time with friends and family. Emilyn hit the (frozen) ground running, and is helping Jim stock our new Chesterfield greenhouses with all the tools of the trade to get us ready for spring transplant production as well as treating some of our seed prior to seeding in transplant trays, in order to enhance their viability.  

Also new to our staff is Jimmy Katona, a Chesterfield youth who has been immersed in vegetable farming on his family’s fruit and vegetable farm his whole life. Jimmy has a lot of experience farming with tractors and will help out with critical tasks such as spring tillage and transplanting.  He’s already gaining some new skills, as he is part of our greenhouse installation construction crew. 

Both Emilyn and Allegra Ceci, our Chesterfield Farm Market Manager, are busy accepting applications and scheduling interviews for this year’s teams of interns and Chesterfield farm stand attendants.  We’re looking forward to recruiting a bevy of friendly, talented workers in both areas this season! 

CSA PROGRAM CHALLENGES IN A CHANGING MARKETPLACE – Sherry Dudas 

As leaders in the CSA movement in New Jersey (our CSA program has been in existence since 1991, making it the second oldest CSA program in NJ), we have been noting the movement’s evolution over time.  One of the more distressing national trends is the decline of participation in CSA programs by consumers who now favor purchasing food through meal kit delivery services.  In fact, I have had several conversations with various “eaters” this year over this purchasing trend and have been surprised by the ambiguous information used by meal kit services and relied upon by some consumers when purchasing from them. 

I would say the most common assumption consumers make about meal kit delivery services is that these companies are purchasing their produce from local farmers. However, careful examination of the websites of meal kit services do not, in fact, reveal a commitment to purchase from local growers.  When these services claim to source their ingredients from family farms, they are not representing that these farms are local, or that they are even American farms. These family farms could conceivably be located in Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada or even further away.  For consumers concerned about the “food miles” their produce has travelled, this may not be a sustainable way of purchasing produce after all. Also, many of these companies are not offering certified organic produce as components of their kits.   

The proliferation of meal kit services is taking a toll on small family farms throughout the nation, including ours. Finally, though, the media is beginning to report on this problem. Recently, Marketplace aired a story about the problem in California and last summer Small Farm Central reported on a trip one of their staffers took to CSA farms on the East Coast interviewing farmers, the majority of whom indicated that the CSA portion of their farm business was shrinking (I was one of the farmers interviewed as part of this project). This toll is not only being exacted upon CSA farmers, but friends of ours who sell at farmers’ markets are worrying about their long, slow decline in profitability as well. 

New Jersey was at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement when, in 1984, then-Secretary Art Brown created the popular Jersey Fresh marketing program, linking the importance of a diet high in the consumption of fresh, locally-grown, high-quality produce to consumer health.  Secretary Brown also wanted to stem the loss of New Jersey farms, since farmers were selling their land to developers when they began to see declines in profitability during the farm crises of the 70s and early 80s.   

Many farmers embraced the goals of the Jersey Fresh program, and began selling their produce directly to consumers through the creation of pick-your-own opportunities on their farms or offering their produce at weekly summer farmers’ markets.  Some built farm markets on their farms and, later, Community Supported Agriculture programs were offered. This required a transformation in the way New Jerseyans thought about produce purchases, opting to support their regional farmers and food networks, even though it may have been less convenient than shopping at their local grocery store. It’s time this commitment to supporting local agriculture is reaffirmed if we are to save it as anything beyond a niche market or private gardening for the 1%.  

As Wendell Berry has said, “Eating is an Agriculture Act”. Those of us who want to ensure the future for family farmers right in our own backyards must continue to support those farms with our food dollars.  Jim and I were lucky to be raised by mothers who not only gardened, but patronized all our regional farmers active in the Jersey Fresh program, allowing us to enjoy the sweetest of summer corn and watermelons, crops neither grew themselves.  That experience not only added to the joys of our respective childhoods spent living in what were then considered farm communities, but also influenced our later, separate decisions to become farmers.  It would be a shame to lose our collective agricultural heritage for the sake of fleeting convenience and food fads. 

Crosswicks Library to Host Honey Brook Organic Farm Talk!  

Meet Sherry Dudas of Honey Brook Organic Farm on February 1st at 7:00pm at Crosswicks Library, 483 Main Street, Crosswicks, NJ 08515. 

Come and learn about the history of Honey Brook Organic Farm (the oldest certified organic Community Supported Agriculture program in the Garden State) as well as the people who care for the land! We'll also discuss the rich history of farmland preservation in Chesterfield Twp., as well as healthy eating tips. Enjoy a food demonstration, where we will use heirloom dried beans, grown on our Chesterfield farm last summer! 

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