Thirty Two

by Gary Mount

broccoli fieldThe beginning of 2021, was an exciting time for us at Terhune Orchards. A farm that adjoined Terhune was for sale. It was to be named Thirty Two.

There was no question that we needed more farmland. Each year, our planning for 50 different crops—some annual crops and some more permanent plantings—was getting more difficult as we grew more of each crop. Rotating crops, a farming practice that helps avoid disease and insect problems and reduces nutritional deficiencies was becoming difficult. Our planting plan (you should see our map) was out of control. And most of all, I thought of the future and wondered if the farmers here then would have the space and opportunities that we have had.

Farmland in our area is in short supply. It is not often that a farm comes up for sale and very rare that it is one right nearby. This is not to say that we could not find a relatively close farm to purchase. Burlington County adjoins our Mercer County and farmland there is less expensive and soils are better. BUT, we feel our type of farming business is tied to our customers. We– and they– are most interested in crops that are grown right here. I might also just mention the transport related difficulties involved with a farm 20 or 30 miles away. Oh My!

We started farming on Cold Soil Road in 1975 on our home farm of 53 acres. We now, 47 years later, have five farms. Four farms we own and one we rent. I have learned to grow multiple crops- enough to keep our farmstore full- and I often think of my father’s farm where I grew up on Route 1 in West Windsor. He had one crop, apples- lots of apples. But those were different times. The apples were all sold wholesale and none direct to customers. I cannot imagine doing that in this area today.

We now farm about 250 acres. Crop rotation works better and we have room to grow enough of each crop. In particular, we are able to periodically rotate our fields that are organically certified into a fallow or uncropped year. We do not just leave the fallow field empty but rather plant a cover crop that will enrich the soil. This is very important in an organic growing regime that does not include commercial fertilizer inputs.

The farm that we bought is a learning experience. First up was the name. Calling it the “new farm” or the “ new, new farm” quickly got confusing. Our solution was to get the township to assign a street number—not usually done for farms with no buildings. We now call it Thirty Two for 32 Van Kirk Road. Next to Thirty Two, the farm that we added in 2004 is now called Forty Two, and down the road is our pick your own apple orchard, Thirteen,(1982). An added benefit is that emergency services, police and ambulance, can now find us if we call.

Thirty two is 50 acres. It is a permanently preserved part of the 250,000 plus acres of preserved farmland in NJ. It has about 35 acres of farmable land. We started this year planting sweet corn, potatoes, and pumpkins. Areas not planted with them will be cover cropped and in certain places we

will be creating soil conservation measures such as diversions and grassed waterways. Control of soil erosion is a must.

Learning to farm Thirty Two is interesting. We need to learn which areas are suited for what crops and how we can mix annual plantings with more permanent trees and bushes. It is a joy to add Thirty Two into the farming at Terhune Orchards. We are happy.