This is the time of year when we can enjoy nature’s bounty. The farm stands are overflowing with fruit, vegetables and flowers and it is a sheer delight for the eyes and the taste buds.
“While blueberry season is about to wrap up, there is an abundance of fruit and vegetables to enjoy–especially our peaches and sweet corn–which are the highlight right now,” said Kurt Alstede, Owner of Alstede Farm on Route 24 in Chester, and a 36-acre farm on Pleasant Grove Road in Long Valley.
According to Alstede, who manages 300 acres of farmland, most people think that sweet corn ends when school starts, but actually the later in the season, generally the sweeter the corn.
“People seem to have this mental block about corn. They think it just disappears when it gets cooler, but in fact, you can harvest corn as late as early December,” said Alstede.
He said many people also think that when you get halfway through September that vegetables become less available, which is not true either. Instead there is a huge assortment of broccoli, cauliflower, all kinds of greens, herbs, and lettuce.
“It’s been a challenging season, but a good one,” said Alstede, who has 30 years farming experience and identifies himself as a ‘first generation’ farmer in this country.
“This year the growing season was off to a shaky start because of all the rain in April and especially in May when there were two solid weeks of rain.
“Hot and dry is always better than cold and wet,” said Alstede.
Despite the economy, Alstede said people are certainly shopping and they seem to be placing a higher value than ever on locally produced foods. He said the only dip in business he has seen is on the flower side of the business, because flowers are not considered a necessity.
In response to this market change, Alstede said he made the decision to utilize an area normally devoted to flowers for tomatoes instead.
These are the kinds of decisions local farmers have to make in order to keep business humming along.
“Farming is easy. Running the farm is hard,” said Alstede, who has stepped back slightly from working the farm on daily basis to managing the farm and making more strategic decisions about the business.
“Here in this corner of Morris County, all of us farmers get along. It’s expensive to do business here so as much as possible we share our resources and purchase equipment together so we can take advantage of discounts,” said Alstede.
“But we have all made a long-time commitment to farming in Morris County and New Jersey,” said Alstede.
Alstede Farm offers a wide range of activities for children and adults throughout the year including: pick-your-own fruit, vegetables and flowers, hay rides, corn mazes, and other special events for every season.
“Our goal is to make agriculture accessible to everyone. Eighty years ago, one out of every three Americans was living on a farm, today two out of one hundred people live on a farm,” said Alstede.
Fortunately, in the Long Valley area, though we may not live on a farm, there are plenty in arm's reach.
Visiting the Farm Stands
Harvey Ort Jr., owner of on Bartley Road agrees with Alstede, saying, "Dry weather is always better for fruits and vegetables because it brings out the sugar in them."
Ort said this weekend the sweet corn and the tomatoes are ready for prime time.
He also said they are just beginning to harvest their own watermelon and canteloupes.
Adding Some Cheese to Your Plate?
located on Fairmount Avenue is featuring Jersey fresh cheese with sun dried tomatoes or seven-seed crust. The Creamery is also featuring hand made cream cheese in three flavors.