Archive for June, 2011

Picked up a small container of Rutgers Tomatoes at Sickles, that long-time Little Silver institution, while looking for some plants for a tough corner spot on the patio today.

Since we’re in a townhome and don’t have a garden plot, I’m experimenting with some container gardening in a small space with challenging sun and shade.

The Rutgers Tomato is part of the Rediscovering the Jersey Tomato project being run by researchers at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

The project is designed to bring back some of that old timey tangy Jersey Tomato flavor and ensure we don’t lose yet another critical part of New Jersey’s cultural and agricultural heritage.


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Hours are 11am to 6pm and the market will keep going as long as the farmers keep going, quite possibly till December.

The market is in the parking lot across the street from Jesse’s Cafe.

Jesse’s address is 139 Brighton Avenue at the corner of Brighton and Kosssick in Long Branch.

West End is a very vibrant, artsy part of Long Branch with lots of options for lunch or dinner regardless of taste or what’s in your wallet. And it’s a very short walk to the beach.

The farmers and merchants are almost all hyperlocal and many of the farmers rent or lease tillable acres from estates out in Colts Neck or other parts of Monmouth County.

The market features New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s certified Jersey Fresh farmers and growers.

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Editor’s Note: This is Jesse Dean’s inaugural post for pocket farms. He’ll be writing about his experiences with the Sunset View Farms CSA and more broadly about local agriculture and markets in Hudson County — the most densely populated county in the most densely populated state. Jesse will also provide his perspective on the organic and sustainable trends from time to time. Welcome aboard Jesse! -jack

Byline: Jesse Dean

This week the Sunset View Farm CSA in Andover delivered its first produce of the season to me and approximately 20 other members living in Hoboken. The small delivery included leaf lettuces and herbs but like many farms in the Northeast, the growing season is delayed by a few weeks due to the wet and cool early spring.

Still, it was exciting to receive the first bit of bounty from the small family farm in Sussex County.

I joined the CSA in March with trepidation: it was their inaugural CSA outside of the County, the farm manager could only estimate the weekly quantity and variety of produce they would deliver, and I had no way of knowing whether I would hear again from the farm manager after I gave him a check.

My concerns were alleviated however, after I met the farm manager, Matthew Odenthal, a Jersey City resident, at a Hoboken Starbucks to discuss the farm and his vision of how the CSA would work.

I struggled to keep up with him as he spoke energetically of their farming activities as they were carefully tending to seedlings in advance to the planting season. He spoke with the passion of Joel Salatin (Polyface Farm) and with the agricultural vernacular I had known as a kid. Then he ran his finger down an expansive planting list featuring a mouth-watering array of herbs, vegetables and fruits and I was hooked. I eagerly handed over my payment.

Yet a nagging doubt persisted and I wanted to meet the Farm’s owner, if not to allay my concerns, to thank her for working to grow the food I’d be enjoying over the summer and fall. Finally, a dry weekend was forecasted in mid-May and after confirming with Matt that he’d be at the farm, I gathered my partner and a friend for a Saturday field trip.

Matt welcomed us enthusiastically and introduced us to Linda Grinthal, the farm’s owner.

Their 20-acre property is bordered by trees and lies on a western-facing slope and with breathtaking views of High Point, NJ to the north and Pennsylvania mountains to the west.

The property wasn’t a farm when they purchased it, but her family has been converting it into a working farm, which now includes chickens and a chicken coop, bee hives (managed by a neighbor), a community garden and rows of freshly tilled gardens with freshly planted seedlings. They are not organic certified, but they avoid pesticides and herbicides and grow with organic methods.

Linda and her husband were doing well professionally when they decided to abandon their jobs and hectic life in Hackensack to raise their kids in a more gentle setting.

“We had a condo overlooking a parking lot,” Linda explained to me. Their young family was expanding after the birth of their third child and they were tiring of the stresses of urban living. Then one day her young son used street language he had learned from his playmates, and Linda knew it was time to leave. “My husband and I looked at each other and in six months we sold the condo and bought this place.”

I was impressed with the openness in which Linda and her family shares their farm. A dozen or so local residents rent or barter for plots of a community garden and cover for each other by watering and weeding when one of them can’t make to the farm. That day three men and their dogs were busy working in their assigned plot. Across from them, a local pastor was tending to his barley plants, in which he will use to produce beer.

For more than two hours Matt led us through nearly every corner of the farm – yanking pesky wild mustard weed from the ground when we encountered it – and explaining what was planted. He would pluck leaves for us to sniff or give us samples of mint and wild herbs to take home.

Matt had been a cable and telecommunications technician for nearly two decades and although he was raised in Hudson County, he explained he always had a green thumb, growing food for his parents. He maintains a backyard garden at his Jersey City home, which he shares with his wife and two children.

Matt met Linda at a Sussex County fair a few years ago. They found each other by pure serendipity. While waiting for their kids to finish a ride on a Ferris Wheel, they started chatting. Linda talked about her farm and Matt was intrigued. Struck by the similarities in their surnames, they stayed in touch and Matt eventually accepted the position as their farm manager. He often puts in 12 hours or more each day and works seven days a week.

Last night Matt and his wife delivered the small bag of herbs and lettuces and although it was late he stayed for a few minutes to chat. “I know it’s small but more is coming, a lot more.”

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Fresh blueberries in early June. There’s a reason we’re called the Garden State!

H/T to the Village Voice Blog and their coverage of the Abingdon Square Farmers market.

Kernan Farms is located in Bridgeton New Jersey. That’s deep south Jersey to you Yankees. 🙂

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I freelance for Red Bank Patch and covered the local food vendors at Riverfest yesterday.

My article is here:

Great Local Food a Highlight at Red Bank Riverfest

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