Farmers Expand Fairgrown Farm on Watershed Lands

March 15th, 2024

Photo credit: Fairgrown Farm

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Two Hopewell Borough farmers will expand their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations at The Watershed Institute.

Initially, James and Alex Klett will farm on 12 acres of land on Wargo Road and, if all goes well in the next two years, will eventually expand to 27 acres by 2025. The Watershed acreage will allow access for visitors and expand their seven-acre operations on Aunt Molly Road in Hopewell. Their two farms will produce the yield for their Fairgrown Farm CSA.

“We are very excited and know the long history of the Watershed, the organic land, and its importance in the community,” said James after signing the lease on Jan. 2. “We want to make the farm a great place, integrate it with the Watershed … and be an example of what sustainable local farming can be.”

Jim Waltman, the Watershed’s executive director, said he was delighted to support them by providing access to scarce agricultural lands in Hopewell Township.

“We know these two young farmers will be fine stewards of these agricultural lands and continue our commitment to organic farming,” he said. “Organic farming at the Watershed helps families learn first-hand about the origins of their food and also demonstrates environmentally sustainable farming practices.”

Fairgrown Farm started selling 2023 CSA shares this week and will offer locations for picking up shares at the small red barn on Wargo Road on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They also will offer Sunday CSA pickups at the Hopewell Farmer’s Market in the borough and home delivery for a nominal fee. Their CSA runs for 30 weeks from early May until Thanksgiving.

“We are not only thrilled to have extra production land, but to be at the Watershed farm. It is our first property that our customers can visit. At the Watershed, we can host a CSA pickup and people can come and actually see the fields and see things growing,” James said. “We are still working on the details for pick-your-own crops, most likely it’ll be cherry tomatoes and lunchbox peppers initially.”

The farm agreement between the Klett brothers and the Watershed comes after the departure of Honey Brook Organic Farm after 30 years, growing from an initial 3.5 acres to about 60 acres of leased land. Honey Brook’s co-owners Jim Kinsel and Sherry Dudas pioneered a successful CSA model in central New Jersey, gaining name recognition and thousands of subscribers who enjoyed the variety and quality of their produce, herbs, flowers, and fruits in the decades-long partnership.

Photo credit: Fairgrown Farm

James Klett said his intention is to gain organic certification on the Watershed acreage with his plantings. The land had been planted with cover crops and allowed to rest in the two-year hiatus between farmers.

“Because the land has been farmed organically in the past, we should be able to expedite organic certification to one year instead of the normal three years,” he said.

Finding suitable lands to increase Fairgrown’s expansion was difficult. “One of the big challenges in central New Jersey is there is a great deal of preserved land, but there isn’t a lot of land suitable for production farming,” James said. “But on the upside, there are suburbs and family households. So there is a market close by, and having the local customer base makes this kind of CSA model possible.”

Photo credit: Fairgrown Farm

Fairgrown Farm, which starts its fifth season this year, collaborates with other farmers who don’t have nearby markets and ready customers. The yield from their leased acreage will be mixed with produce from its collaborative partners. Everything is labeled from the source farm and identified if it is certified organic. Their weekly subscriptions come in three sizes and offer seven to 13 different crops depending on the consumer’s size selection.  

“As a business, we work with others to bring in their crop and sell their produce. We grow a decent amount of produce and we use our partners to augment ours and offer a wider variety and more quantity.”

James, 24, who has an undergraduate business degree from Rutgers University, handles the farming and business operations. Alex, 28, who has a background in carpentry and mechanics, manages the maintenance, upkeep and infrastructure.

Photo credit: Watershed archives.

They started farming at Fairgrown Farm in 2019, learning hard-won lessons from prior summer experiences on a smaller property in Montgomery.

“I fell in love with farming, was farming every summer and driving home from Rutgers to start plants in my basement,” James said. “We grew up hearing about how the Watershed farm was a huge part of Hopewell. For us to be able to step in and bring new life to the farm is really exciting.”



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