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.
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