Farm Calls: Contemplating Hops

Northeast SARE USDA summer farm tour in Rhode IslandForestry Specialist Mark Vodak was recently “talking shop” with a friend who happens to be a berry farmer. His friend is contemplating a new venture this season – growing hops.

Hop, Humulus lupulus L., is an essential ingredient contributing to beer aroma & flavor and, is of interest in biomedical research.
Their conversation brings up some common questions about growing an alternative crop like hops in New Jersey:

  • Who do I talk to about growing hops?
  • What’s going on with hops in the region?
  • What do I need to know starting out when growing hops in New Jersey?

[Read more…]

Cherry Grove Farm Offers a Unique Opportunity

On our Sustaining Farming on the Urban Fringe website we talk a lot about the difficulty new and would-be farmers have learning farm practices and generating cash for a grubstake that would allow them to take the plunge into their small farm dream. Finding internships or job opportunities that offer a combination of sustainable farming skills along with a chance to hone the “people skills” needed for a successful agritourism venture are fairly uncommon in New Jersey.

Cherry Grove Farm is presently offering this type of opportunity. We support our state’s mission to encourage new and beginning farmers, organic and traditional, by showcasing opportunities as they become available. If you own a farm that is able to provide this kind of experience, share it on Sustaining Farming on the Urban Fringe.
[Read more…]

Improving Quality & Competitiveness of Jersey Tomatoes

This month in the Sustaining Farming on the Urban Fringe Newsletter:

GrapeTomatoToday’s market for shipped market tomatoes doesn’t allow us to simply go back to growing the varieties of the 1930’s.

Our breeding program, variety evaluations, and conducting consumer tastings are the path to redesigning a Jersey Tomato to meet the needs of today’s markets and consumer expectations. The Jersey Jems trademark, prepared by Ag Agent Peter Nitzsche, offers farmers a Jersey marketing identity for better grape tomatoes. These projects, together with our work evaluating heirloom tomatoes, connecting with consumers at the Great Tomato Tasting, and identifying superior post-WWII hybrids, contribute to sustaining New Jersey’s signature tomato crop.

View the Newsletter

Farm Calls: Advising Beginning Farmers Who Set Their Sights on Jersey Soil

Theresa Viggiano and Patrick Leger of First Field

Theresa Viggiano and Patrick Leger
of First Field

Hunterdon County farmer Susan Blew gets a kick out of telling young people who want to get into farming: “The only path into farming successfully in New Jersey is the womb, groom, or the tomb.” It’s funny but too true at the same time – the cost of land is a huge barrier to entry for those starting out in our state.

Despite this hurdle, entrepreneurs still choose to give Jersey farming a shot. Advising them is what makes extension work rewarding. For example, Theresa Viggiano and Patrick Leger, owners of First Field, are beginning farmers who have turned their sweat equity into an enterprise to be proud of – their Jersey Ketchup and Jersey Relish products are sold  in NJ, NY, and Connecticut.

Recently, I was contacted by a father whose son is returning to New Jersey to farm with his fiance. They have experience working for the past 4 years on a large organic farm CSA in the West that grew from a 35 customer base to over 300. It’s encouraging to see family willingness to help with a grubstake; invest in the young couples’ venture. The father is a professional and “has some capital and can’t think of a more rewarding investment” than his son’s dream.

Their questions revolve around how a beginning farmer gets started in New Jersey.
[Read more…]