Farm Intern James Bourgeois

Bourgeois_James_Spinach_01Ask him a question about his farming experiences after graduation from Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and James lets you have it with both barrels, “If you make farming your life business, you have to see or find sustainability aspects in every practice on the farm.”

He gives the example of when he took on running Riamede Farm in Morris County after graduation. “It had 28-acres of older, traditional apple trees on a 30-acre orchard. While not new varieties nor latest planting techniques, the trees were already there, well-established, and – with care – yielded far more than the costs of production inputs.” While new varieties are considered the lifeblood of growing tree fruit, for James, “not replanting these well-established older trees was a sustainability decision.” Why? Because on James’ u-pick operation, “the traditional appearance of older trees plays a part in the experience farm patrons are paying for in direct marketing.”

Thinking back to his college years, James says his best class in 4½ years at Rutgers, by far, was Sustainable Agriculture. He still recalls his class project on applying no-till practices to vegetable production. In that class, all farm management concepts “came together.” James’ strongest experience was working on nearby Giamarese direct market farm through the Coop Education program. When asked what he would he would do different if he could do his undergraduate life over, James, said “Nothing, it was a great experience.” Then, with a smile, “Pay attention more in class.” He will get that chance since he has enrolled in the 2-year Rutgers Agricultural Leadership Development Program to hone his skills further.

What’s James’ advice for beginning farmers? “You have to sell products, direct to consumers at a higher price. In u-pick, you have no harvest expenses, and the customer pays for that experience!” For James, moving toward sustainability has meant, “it is better to feed fewer people, with higher income to the farmer. Farming sustainably means you have to cover costs.”

In addition, he encourages beginning farmers to adapt to New Jersey’s farming environment and try new ideas. This year, he added a special flavored Jersey Gems grape tomato, identified through Rutgers Cooperative Extension evaluation, to his u-pick vegetable operation and had a successful season selling them at $2 per pound.

While living on the farm he operates now, his long-term goal is to save and buy his own farm in the coming years. With the production he’s generating today, James is well along that path only three years from graduation.

Education: Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences

Field Of Study: Agricultural Science

Hometown: Cedarville, NJ

Position After Graduation: Farmer

Post Graduate Studies: Rutgers Agricultural Leadership Development Program