Around 40 farmers have established Readington Farms, a peaceful and peaceful farm dedicated to preserving its charm.
Following the destructive floods caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late summer 2010, Readington Farm was brought to its knees as everyone knew they would be.
Readington Farms has three phases: the Manor, which is the property’s largest block of farmland with approximately 450 acres and is home to Readington Meadows, Readington Colony and Readington Farms Nursery. While the remainder of the land, the smallest section of which runs from Middlesex Avenue and Readington Church to North Main Street, was considered one of the county’s last remaining historic farms, since the middle 1800s, it was also used to own hundreds of acres, particularly the area between Route 206 and the Johnson Homestead and to maintain the homestead.
Readington Farms’ Heritage Farm Museum, located on the Manor farm property, is a testament to the heritage that surrounds the property. The museum stands as the region’s only agricultural heritage center, which is adjacent to North Main Street, in the heart of the Readington Valley. Along with the tours of the farm that are offered throughout the year, the museum and adjacent Morgan’s Market are a unique insight into Readington’s past, present and future.
On a recent Saturday morning, rain clouds gathered and grey skies lined up on the horizon over the Readington Valley. In the midst of the rain, the smell of the farm belied this uncertain forecast. This was the wake-up call, the kick in the pants this group of farmers needed.
Joining the other 10-20 farmers and residents, Mike Lease left his family’s home in Emmitsburg, Md., and drove down to the closest Farmer’s Market and stood in line for 45 minutes.
“If it rains, I’m in,” he said.
After being waiting for 45 minutes, the rain cleared, the sun went on, and Lease and his family, along with the other farmers and visitors, got in their heavy pick up trucks and headed south, with the farm, to the Readington Church Cemetery, an appropriate starting point for their annual pilgrimage to the graves of Daniel and Mary Readington, the first white settlement.
The townsfolk of Readington are nowhere near the same demographic as many surrounding communities, from Algonquin to Toms River to Flemington, N.J. However, their crops are varied and the atmosphere is largely similar. As the area grows and develops, the farmers will likely suffer. There is no way to prove this through statistics, but the signs point to a bleak future.
On a warm, sunny afternoon, farmers and residents of Readington planted garlic. As daffodils and other garden crops arrived in boxes, many farmers told me they believe that of the roughly 700 farm families currently in Readington, there is only a small number that are actively growing their own crops.
This camaraderie of those who keep their fingers to the roots of their community is much more precious than a recordkeeping victory.
Josh Judge works for the Monmouth County New Jersey Office of Economic Development