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[This review has been updated in January, 2015]
Looking for fresh, organic, local vegetables and fruits? Honey Brook Organic Farm, located in nearby Pennington in the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Reserve, offers the oldest organic CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) in New Jersey, founded in 1991. Though they used to deliver boxed shares to Trenton (discontinued in 2014), they’re still a very convenient trip for members who choose to subscribe to pick up fresh vegetables, herbs, flowers, and berries weekly from one of their two farm. They have a farm in Pennington (address listed above) and another in Chesterfield, both of which seem about an equivalent distance from Trenton. (I am a member of the Pennington Farm, and have been for 4-5 years, so this review will focus on that).
The farm works on a “share” system. You register in the Fall for a share and choose a “pick-up-day,” then you can visit the farm weekly on that day of the week during the following year’s growing season, typically May to mid-November. If you need to switch your pick-up-day one week, it’s an easy process (you can switch into any day except for Sunday–only Sunday members can pick up on Sunday). Share sizes are “individual share” (which was $432 for the 2015 summer) or a “family share” ($799 in 2015 for roughly double the individual share amount). The farm grows well over 60 types of crops and 350 varieties, including many unusual and heirloom varieties. Heirloom and slicing tomatoes are a specialty, and are usually available in abundant quantities, as are strawberries, raspberries, and a variety of specialty crops (edamame, celery root, ginger, etc). Quantities depend on the season, but depending on how committed you are to cooking veggies every day, a family share is more than enough for a family of 4-5 omnivores. I’m a vegan who eats almost exclusively produce from the farm, and I have to work hard to keep up with my individual share (and I also use it to cook a weekly dinner party!). It is also possible to split a family share with a partner (though occasionally there are items that are only available in one-per-share quantities, such as watermelon and pumpkin).
On arrival at the farm, you will see a farm stand with abundant quantities of freshly picked produce, and signs that say how much each share-size is entitled to. Usually your produce is specified by weight (with things like spinach or tomatoes) or quantity (eggplant, bunches of kale, etc). Outside the farm stand is another sign showing the types and quantities of pick-your-own produce available that week. Here it’s important to pick-and-choose, as you can spend hours trying to pick each of the things you’re entitled to. Regular items in the pick-your-own fields for 2014 included raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, okra, green beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes, paste tomatoes, sauce tomatoes, edamame, wax beans, ground cherries, tomatillos, etc. The quantities are generous. There are also options for pick-your-own herbs (sage, parsley, oregano, mint, chives, marjoram, thyme, and others, including fresh stevia!) and flowers (too many varieties to name!).
The quality of the produce is outstanding, and of course it’s all organic. You’ll find an enormous range of options that change throughout the seasons, and you may need to get advice from the other folks at the farm (or the attendants) about how to prepare some of the more unusual items. Fortunately, the place is full of foodies and everyone is usually very helpful and friendly. The more unusual produce is also often placed in mix-and-match sections where you there are multiple options–for instance, you might be allowed to select four items from a section of bins that include Chinese eggplant, french breakfast radishes, turnips, and bunches of mustard greens. You can pick four of any one item, or you can mix and match, as long as you end up taking no more than four total.
The farm is relentless, as there will be another carload of vegetables to pick up every week, whether you’ve cooked your produce from the previous week or not. Nevertheless, if it fits your life style, and you’re in a position to eat most of what is available, it’s a fantastic deal. The individual share for 2015 works out to a bit more than $17.50 a week. During the height of summer, you’d probably pay much closer to $100 getting this quantity of organic vegetables, organic herbs, and organic flowers at somewhere like Wegman’s or Whole Foods. And nothing would be as fresh, or as high quality. There is nothing like picking your own organic strawberries and eating them on the drive home.
Farm shares sell out every year. Current shareholders get first preference, but every year a few open up. If you want to join the party, sign up for the farm’s email list here, to get notified when applications open up again (typically mid-October). You’ll want to sign up as soon as you can, to ensure your place for the following season.
This is an important CSA program, one of the largest in the country (with several thousand members), and we’re incredibly lucky to have it in our community.