New Jersey Farm Fair: Family culture, fun and learning from nature



A Farm Community intent on Preserving Its Charm

This story was written by Dan Reidel, also known as the NJ Media Group’s organic farmer to the stars. Visit his website here

Buyers and sellers of all kinds have gathered in Readington Township, New Jersey, this week during the third annual New Jersey Farm Fair. This is a celebration and blessing of the farming community, where 2,000 farmers and their family members have gathered to show off and prove to the world that farming is a place to live, work and raise a family.

I have attended this event three times. Each time, I marvel at the ease with which all the attendees crowd into the “Soap Box Farm.” The thinking being, why wait until Christmas to buy gifts, when you can enjoy them right now? And they do, in abundance, according to the fair’s organizers.

This year, the best food available includes butter chicken, pork cutlets, chicken salad and Italian sausage. Likewise, the most appealing products include strawberries, dried tomatoes, banana and persimmon, hot peppers, and a cobbler that even appealed to me, although it wasn’t quite as savory as I would have liked.

The white-washed buildings, which held 150 vendors from around the world, are surrounded by a row of live organic gardens that sell flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs and blueberries. They grow as part of an environmental response to an indoor chemical waste facility.

In addition to beer and wine, New Jersey also has its own native American craft beer with eight breweries across the state making beer on-site, with long winding tasting lines.

The appearance of such patriotic amusements was that of bearded elders that take up residence on the farm to assist the farmers and market vendors. These worthy family members stand guard at the entrances and entrances, dressed in brightly colored, patriotic clothing, to block photographers from taking shots of the farmers. They even wear special flags and hats made of canning jars for photos.

The activity at the “Weed Bar” was an illustrated lesson on herbs, from the way they grow to the curing of the finished product. Instructors — both farmers and members of the “Weed Bar” team — explained the necessary details, such as how to remove the soil with a drill bit and the care necessary to drain the herbs before they can be picked. After digging up a few sprigs and observing how they grow and regrow, the students at the water tank checked out the process of growing and harvesting one of the herbs.

Migratory birds provide a continual soundtrack to the activities at this year’s gathering, especially an assortment of flamingos. Visitors are reminded of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) partnership, the Sustainable Garden Funding Initiative (SGFI), which, through $700,000 in federal grant funds, will protect 13 percent of Readington’s open space. These funding grants will support projects that promote native biodiversity, spruce up infrastructure and create recreational spaces and food trails.

Dig a bit into this interest in the natural world and one will see the emphasis is on enjoying nature, developing a sustainable community and nurturing our collective humanity. Visiting this event proves these are some very serious ideals.

For more information about this event, visit www.njfarmfair.com

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