Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Photos and information about some of our favorite 
Mercer County area markets can be found HERE.)

It wasn’t that long ago that New Jersey’s farming industry was in danger of following drive-in movie theaters into extinction as suburban sprawl gobbled up farms at an alarming rate. Fortunately, federal, state and county officials had the foresight to pursue farmland preservation efforts that not only stemmed the loss of existing farms but offered new opportunities for those interested in organic and sustainable farming practices.

Metropolitan Seafood at the Stockton Farmers Market, Stockton, NJ
Community farmers’ markets, roadside farm stands as well as farms with stores on property can be found across Mercer County. From the year-round offerings at the sprawling Trenton Farmers Market in Trenton to the tiny roadside stands that dot the hills of Hopewell Township, opportunities to buy fresh, locally-grown and produced products are plentiful.

Whey fed, Nitrate free Pork and . . .
 Raw Milk Cheeses at Cherry Grove Farm Market,
Lawrenceville, NJ Check out their cheese making process
Shopping locally has the added benefits of allowing us to discover new varieties of common items, to experience the full flavor of sugar filled fruits picked ripe for immediate consumption and to contribute to our environment by reducing our carbon footprint and supporting sustainability.  Following are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip to our local farms and markets. Additional photographs and a list of local markets can be found here.

Be Prepared 
Carry cash, many vendors do not accept checks or credit cards. Do bring along bags and containers to carry your purchases home; don’t bring your dog or other animals if visiting a farm. A cooler in the trunk will keep items fresh on hot days or when other errands may delay refrigerating purchases. 

Consider the Elements 
Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and insect repellant are recommended basics. Proper footwear is a must, especially if you plan to spend some time in the “pick your own” farm fields. The sun may be shining on the day you visit a farm, but a heavy rain the day prior may provide for wet, messy grounds underfoot.

Watch the Calendar
Pick-up a harvest calendar. The NJ Department of Agriculture has an online guide at Many farms and markets produce their own versions of what they anticipate to harvest and when. Still, the best way to keep up with the harvest during the season is to simply ask the farmers and vendors what they anticipate bringing to market.

Highland Gourmet Market at Stockton Farmers Market

Shop for Value not Price
It is not uncommon during the height of their harvest to find conventional or organic fruits, vegetables and flowers priced at or below their supermarket equivalents.  However, that is not always the case. Remember that you are paying for the freshest, healthiest and best tasting products available; each purchase supports local farmers and contributes to a sustainable food system. To reduce your costs, try shopping shortly before closing time when some suppliers may slash prices. Consider buying meats in volume by ordering whole animals or ½ and ¼ shares. Ask friends with similar culinary interests to split the shares with you.

Learn the Labels   
Below are a few general terms you’ll encounter during shopping, but don’t be afraid to ask for more details. We’ve always found our local farmers and producers proud of the work they do and happy to answer questions about their farming practices.

Certified Organic Gravity Hill Farm at Stockton Farmers Market
Organic - according to the NJ Department of Agriculture, organic is a term referring to agricultural management procedures that “enhance the ecological balance of natural systems” and whose primary goal “is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people." Farms must meet certain criteria to gain state certification allowing them to advertise their products as Certified Organic.

Chickadee Creek Farm at Pennington Farmers Market
CSA – stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA members can purchase shares that allow them access to the farms’ harvests throughout the season. Mercer County has three CSAs: Honey Brook Farm in Pennington; Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville; and, Naturally Grown in Pennington. To find out more about these and other CSAs nearby, visit

Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville, NJ

Grass Fed – refers to animals fed a diet of natural grasses only, not supplanted with grains or animal by-products. Natural grass-fed meats produced at farms such as Beechtree in Hopewell and Cherry Grove in Lawrence are often leaner than organic grain-fed meats found in supermarkets. For more details on the benefits of grass-fed farming and products, we recommend the website

Jersey Fresh – started as a marketing plan in the 1980’s, this label identifies growers registered with the state’s Quality Grading Program and licensed to use the Jersey Fresh logo. A recent expansion of this concept allows food processors authorized by the same grading system to use the “Made with Jersey Fresh” label on their packaging.
If you have a favorite farm or market you think we should visit, leave a comment with your recommendations.

(A version of this article was originally published in Mercer County Woman Newspaper)


  1. What a terrific article and great for the start of the growing season! People don't need to be locavores but it's important to support your local farms.

  2. Nice post! It might be too late for this season, but do you know of any local pick-your-own organic strawberry places? Plenty of strawberries around central NJ but I want to avoid the pesticides/fungicides.

  3. Thank you Basia and Chris for your comments.

    Chris, you may be late for Strawberries, but I did an email from Terhune Orchards that they are starting their cherry picking tomorrow, with blue berries not that far behind.

    You can find them through the link to farm markets in the third paragraph above.

    Jo Ann