When my husband came home from doing errands a few weeks ago on a Saturday morning and placed a large bag of mixed salad greens on the counter and said he’d found a new organic farmstand, I was skeptical. I knew last year’s Cedar Grove farmer’s market hadn’t returned this spring, and that he likely hadn’t meandered into a nearby town. But he washed them up, sent them through the salad spinner (another of his spontaneous purchases; me, I just dry greens between tea towels), and tossed them with oil and vinegar.
This weekend, I made my own trip to the new Morgan’s Farm Stand, located on the grounds of the Morgan House. I stuffed as much of the mixed romaine, spinach and butter greens as I could into a bag ($4), grabbed a bunch of beets with long perky greens attached ($3), scooped up snowpeas ($6/lb), which I like to snack on, ice cold. On offer Saturday too were carrots ($3/bunch), yellow beans ($3/lb), and organic eggs from just over the New York border ($2.50/dozen) and honey ($7).
The Farmstand is the brainchild and pet project of John Ostering of Verona, who, along with his wife Julie, has been active with the Cedar Grove Historical Society for years. They both grew up in Cedar Grove, and John operates his business, United Support Solutions, a metal fabricator, in nearby Industrial Village. He’s spent many early mornings, evenings and weekends at the farm since he started the garden last fall along with some other volunteers. Hundreds of hours have gone into building and cultivating the vegetables in 1300 square foot raised beds.
Julie, a Historical Society trustee, handles sales and organization, and keeps the compost heap going. Her interest in healthy food also extends to volunteering with Montclair’s Human Needs Food Pantry.
Proceeds from the sale of foodstuffs at the Morgan Farm Stand benefit the Historical Society, which supports the 14-acre Morgan’s Farm House and Museum, comprised of the Canfield-Morgan House, and surrounding picnic grounds, park, amphitheater and skating oval. It was the site of a continuously-operated farm from the mid-1800s until the last of the Canfield-Morgan family passed on, and donated the house and land to the Township in 1985. The house, decorated as it was when originally built, is open for tours on Wednesday morning and by appointment. In the fall, the Society operates an apple and pumpkin market on the grounds.
“At first we were going to plant the vegetable garden in order to have a table of our own at the farmer’s market, but when we realized that market wasn’t viable, we decided to move ahead anyway,” John Ostering explains. “We’ll be here every Saturday morning through October. I pick everything fresh at 5:00 a.m. The last three weeks, traffic has been very good; in fact last week we nearly sold out by noon. But I can always go down and pick more. You can’t get much fresher than that.”
As the season progresses, John will be picking spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, egg-plant, peppers, kale, basil, Swiss chard, leeks, parsley, green beans, and many other vegetables and herbs. They use no pesticides or artificial fertilizers. “We use nothing but organic seeds and soil mix, and natural seaweed fertilizing products,” John says. “Our goal is to offer fresh-picked, organic food at prices below what you’d pay for the organic equivalent in a local grocery store.”
Local honey is produced from nearby Grove Avenue hives by Mike Frey, president of the Essex County Beekeepers Society. They will also offer organic corn from a Jersey grower later in the season, and locally made organic jam is sometimes sold too.
To help support the garden itself — which the Osterings staked with their own funds this year — John is selling decorated birdhouses he’s built from trees felled in Cedar Grove during Hurricane Sandy. Decorated in a variety of motifs — including Yankee pinstripes, birds, stras-n-stripes, and butterflies — these are $20 each.
Many Cedar Grove residents who grew up in town long before the farm ceased operating, remember its previous residents selling home grown produce on tables — and they and their children now welcome its return.
The stand will be open every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Morgan’s Farm is located Route 23 North (Pompton Avenue), about 1/2 mile past Foodtown. Drive past the Farm, and turn right at the light onto Commerce Road, then follow signs to enter the Farm through the rear parking area.