HILLSBOROUGH: Duke Farms opens on-site market

By Kelly Velocci, Packet Media Group
   Say goodbye to frozen food aisle vegetables. Residents have a new spot to buy fresh locally grown produce this summer. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey has opened a farmers’ market at Duke Farms off Duke’s Parkway West in the northern part of Hillsborough.
   Spring greens, including lettuce, arugula and mustard greens, are available now. Soon, patrons can look forward to seasonal favorites, such as tomatoes and eggplant.
   The farmers’ market is located under a red tent at the Partners’ Cottage next to the Orientation Center. It will be open on Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
   The market specializes in produce and seedlings from three incubator farmers who have grown their produce on Duke estate land. The program is part of NOFA-NJ’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Dogwood Farms will be selling organic lamb and Simply Grazin’s organic meat, poultry and prepared foods will be available.
   Wilson Klein of Fertile Crescent Farm, Jon Knox and Kim Koziol of Dogwood Farm and Richard and Corey Moran of Hummingbird Farm began farming at Duke Farms in March. The farmers began growing their produce in greenhouses before transitioning to growing outside.
   NOFA-NJ’s beginning farmer and rancher development program is the first of its kind in New Jersey. According to NOFA-NJ, one of the biggest obstacles a new farmer faces is obtaining affordable land. NOFA-NJ is leasing land from Duke Farms for the program.
   ”The farm will serve as a low-risk opportunity for budding farmers of all ages and backgrounds to begin their farming career and test their business plan,” according to NOFA-NJ.
   In addition to the traditional weekend Duke Farms’ visitors, said program coordinator Eve Minson, NOFA-NJ is working to attract Duke’s Parkway West commuter traffic.
   ”The idea is to get Friday evening traffic from 5 to 7 p.m., which wouldn’t be the regular Duke visitor,” she said.
   Ms. Minson said the size of each farmer’s plot of land is specific to their growing needs. NOFA-NJ launched its program after receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
   NOFA-NJ defines a beginning farmer as someone who has operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 years. An incubator farm is a plot of land leased at a subsidized rate. After the initial trial period, the farmer is expected to launch an independent farm.