Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Save Our Family Farms

A "Thanks for the Memories" photo collage at Demarest Farm, Hillsdale, New Jersey

Flashback: a crisp autumn day, childhood. Age, too young to remember. I am watching apple cider being pressed. The aroma of donuts is sugary perfuming the air. I stare in awe at a scarecrow watching over a pumpkin-dotted patch.

I couldn't relive those memories, since the two farms, Van Riper's and Tice's in Montvale, New Jersey are no longer there. Van Riper's, which had been around since the 1700s, became an A&P supermarket, and Tice's is now a strip mall with a Victoria's Secret, Gap, and other chain retailers. Depressing.

Do you have fond memories of visiting a farm as a child, and do you enjoy visiting them now?

Earth Day weekend marked the re-opening of Demarest Farm, which has been family owned since 1886 and operates from April through November. I'm already dreaming about their juicy summertime peaches, but my taste buds will have to be patient.

On a rainy day, I couldn't sit yet on their inviting picnic benches.

So I sat with my mom next to a cheerful geranium plant. My feast: corn chowder soup, an onion roll and blueberry iced tea.

Go lightly: we bring our own silverware to avoid the plastic.

A bunch of this asparagus came home with me for homemade asparagus soup (I add a potato, onions or shallots, some vegan stock and salt and pepper - that's it).

Cider donuts! Wash it down with a cup of their complimentary coffee. Real coffee from a pot - not those wasteful plastic single serve pods that will linger in our landfills generations after we drank the coffee.

Farmers' hats overhead seem to be bowing to the wagon wheel and an era of family farms gone by.

Visit Local Harvest to find family farms, farmers markets, CSAs and more near you.

Very little that we shop for can truly be called a "need." Food is. Support family farms, and give thanks for the nourishment they bring to body and soul. Let's cast our vote with our dollars for farms.


  1. What a terrific place!
    You're lucky to live so close by.
    I just joined my first CSA starting in June.
    I can't wait
    I must make some aspargus soup!
    Good idea!

  2. Thanks Carol. It really is! I visit a farm every week. It's good for them, but just as good for me! It's sad how empty many are compared to the very busy supermarkets with so much processed food, or the packed malls.

    So exciting about the CSA! Good luck and let me know how it goes. Asparagus soup is a spring favorite. Asparagus risotto would be great too!

  3. My childhood was spent watching family farms go under while megafarms ate the landscape. Our Sunday drives (a common thing in the country!) frequently featured signs on fence posts that read "stop mega farms." Entire communities were wiped out thanks to mega farms, their monocultures and big box stores.

    Yet while recently talking with a friend about how much I hated these changes and how rural America has just been ravaged by multinationals, she actually said to me, "I don't know. Maybe people just like living in cities?" She has a strong aversion to all things rural, because she labels rural areas "dumb, racist, homophobic, redneck Republican" land, but sometimes I feel like that stereotype is all part of the effort to push us from the land and from each other. How can urban folks care about farms if they're full of intolerant idiots? Nevermind the truth--the stereotype is enough to make people apathetic or downright hostile. I truly believe that such culture wars are in part responsible for the decline of family farms.

  4. What's sad about this farm is the son does not want to take it over, and relocated his family to California. The parents still run it. I understand a sale is still planned, but this parcel is protected farmland (other parts of it aren't).

    I've never lived in rural America. I think it's sad how easily people cast labels and make broad sweeping generalizations. I can't stand the 'I'm better than you are attitude' because a person has a degree, a certain income or is one political party or the other. I could go into Owen Meany "The Voice" mode for that one, but won't - this time!

    Tim McGraw has a song called "Where the Green Grass Grows." He signs of being from a small town having relocated to a big city, but after too much city living, including not wanting "another supper from a sack, a 99 cent heart attack" he aches to go back to country living, where the green grass grows, sitting on rocking chairs, raising a family where the peaceful river flows. Sometimes, I think he may be on to something.

  5. As a child, I grew up on Long Island and my family would often take weekend drives out to the more rural areas on the East end of the Island. My favorite was Briermere Farm, a small farmstand that offered fresh fruits and veggies, along with some of the tastiest homemade pies you'll ever find. Thankfully, this farm is still running so I can visit it and rekindle childhood memories when I go back to LI.

    But since moving to upstate NY about two years ago, I've heard so many distressing stories about family farmers that are just barely scraping by. I agree that there needs be a more open-minded approach to rural areas, particularly in tearing down the stereotype that everyone in rural area is inevitably ignorant.

    As with all other things in life, we need to learn to open our minds a bit more and look at the world more objectively. Otherwise, we just close ourselves off to what could be some amazing opportunities.

  6. Thank you for sharing your memories! Very much agreed about keeping an open mind. My attitudes have often changed from encountering people who share a different viewpoint.

    There's something timelessly appealing about the Sunday drive in the country and stopping at farm stands and delighting in a homemade slice of pie, sweet corn in the summer, or any of nature's bounty.

    There's a great scene in the Golden Girls where Rose, from the farming community of St. Olaf, Minnesota, tells off Blanche for always picking on St. Olaf. She said it's filled with descent people who care about each other and so what it has farms, that's great – we need farms to eat.

    You tell her, Rose! She also tells Blanche what would she do without food, then she couldn’t go on a diet and then what would she do with the rest of her life, and in good hearted-Rose fashion, finishes, "Was I too harsh?"

  7. I love your Owen Meany voice! :) And I'm going to check out that Tim McGraw song. Oy. I can so relate.

    A really great resource on all things rural (politics, agriculture, culture, trends, etc.) is The Daily Yonder (dailyyonder.com). It's a great little online mag.

  8. Thanks for sharing that link! You never know when Owen's spirit will show up again here. ;-)

  9. Mommy knows bestOctober 08, 2012

    Growing up in NJ, Tices Farm is a huge part of my childhood memories. I am almost 60 now and if I think about it long enough I can smell the hot donuts and apple cider! I think it is a shame that the children now days are missing out on these beautiful memories. My own children spent autumn weedends at Tices farm and my little grandson got a taste of farm goodness in Lancaster PA last year. I love walking down memory lane but sometimes it makes me sad.

  10. Thank you so much for your comment, which came in while I was away and wanted to get back to. There was a nice article in today's Record about Van Riper's Farm:


    I'm glad your grandson got some good country air. I can't imagine my life without regular visits to the farms and interacting with the people who harvest our food. In my gratitude for my meals, I give thanks to the farmers, especially our family farmers.

  11. AnonymousJuly 02, 2013

    Years ago I worked summers at Demarest farm. They had a real farm in the back and sold most of their crops at market.Their retail outlet was that garage built into the hill. Most people had no idea that this was a "real" farm.
    Across the street was Winters Farm. They had a field of pumpkins so most people assumed this was a "real" farm but, in reality,their vegetables were bought at market.

    I remember founder Lincoln Demarest and his wife and Annie and Lincoln's son George and George's wife Liz and their son Peter. All were good people, hard workers who loved the land.

    Each generation nurtured and grew the operation. Peter was and is a dreamer and entrepreneur who dreamed big and made things happen.

    I'm sure the farm, or at least the store, will continue to thrive. But without the Demarests there really is no Demarest Farm.