The sounds of spring are underway at Honey Brook Organic Farm as a tractor put-puts in the fields and seasonal workers call to each other while spreading protective cloth over newly planted rows.
For the past 28 years, Honey Brook farm has showcased successful soil and water management practices, as well as the viability of organic farming, said Jim Waltman, executive director of The Watershed Institute.
Honey Brook’s Jim Kinsel and Sherry Dudas anticipate Opening Day in several weeks for members of their community supported agriculture (CSA). They’ve farmed the leased acreage since 1991 from the Watershed.
This year, thousands of seedlings have been cultivated and transplanted in waves on the 80 acres in Hopewell Township where produce, herbs and flowers are grown for Honey Brook’s 2,600 CSA members. Sherry said more than 60 different types of crops, including about 350 different varieties, are grown here and shared with CSA members from May through November.
“Getting ready is a really big job and we’ve been helped out tremendously this year because we have really good staff,” said Sherry, relaxing briefly at a picnic table near the red Farmer’s Market.
Families select the seasonal lettuces, vegetables, flowers, berries and herbs from the Farm Market for the variously sized boxed shares. Honey Brook has a U-pick option where families and children visit the fields throughout the summer, seeing where their food is grown and helping pick the crops.
This year’s late snow, windy Nor’easters and unusually cold March meant the Honey Brook staff worked double time to prepare the ground as temperatures hovered about five degrees lower than in past years.
Emilyn Fox, greenhouse co-manager, explained the recent bevy of activity inside the three greenhouses. One worker tended to the trays of field tomato plants while others thinned out the okra emerging from seed flats. Sweet corn, watermelon, lemon grass, lettuce, basil, verbena and other plants appeared in colorful grid rows.
These seedlings are “hardened off” outside the greenhouses and exposed to the range of temperatures before they’re taken to the fields. As organic farmers, she explained, several flats of kale and onions are covered with cloth to protect the tender shoots from pests such as the flea beetle and allium leafminer instead of spraying with pesticides.
Sherry said she’s noticed some trends in the past few years. Honey Brook offers a “choice” box where members select their produce. “We’re seeing that people are more interested in choosing what to put in their box that they know they want and their kids will eat.”
Convenience is king and she said several local businesses, including The College of New Jersey and PEAC Health & Fitness, contacted her about offering central locations in Ewing where members can collect their boxed shares.
She said the popularity of fresh herbs has waned slightly. This gives Honey Brook a chance to educate people on the benefits of cooking with the fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, thyme, marjoram and others. With more diverse members coming to the farm, Honey Brook has added ginger and turmeric to the herb choices.
Please visit honeybrookorganicfarm.com for more information about CSA memberships and updates from Honey Brook Organic Farm.