Getting a Start on Growing New Farmers

Oct 7 2013

DailyRecord (N.J.)
By Michele S. Byers

William Powers and AidenInnovation in farming is nothing new in this state we’re in. But a new program to help aspiring farmers succeed and gain access to farmlands is another New Jersey innovation.

The “incubator farm” program created by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) gives beginning farmers — who likely don’t own land — an affordable, low-risk way to start and grow their farming ventures.

Three start-up farms were just launched and are finishing their first season growing vegetables, flowers and herbs and raising animals. All three are planning to expand next year.

The farmers include husband and wife Jon Knox and Kim Koziol of Dogwood Farms, Wilson Klein of Fertile Crescent Farm, and father and son Richard and Corey Morgan of Hummingbird Farm.

“Everything’s going so well, we just want to shout it from the rafters,” says NOFA-NJ’s program coordinator Eve Minson, better known as the “farm mom.”

“It’s incredibly hard work — they’re here day and night — but they love what they do and they’re passionate about it,” added Minson. “I’m so proud of them.”

The “incubator farm” is located on 140 acres within Duke Farms in Hillsborough, Somerset County. It’s got most everything new farmers need: irrigation, fencing, a walk-in cooler, a vegetable wash station, an equipment barn, a greenhouse and even a farm stand.

Duke Farms was the estate of the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, and the nearly 3,000-acre property has recently become a model of environmental stewardship and sustainability. NOFA-NJ has its headquarters there.

Budding farmers in the NOFA-NJ program lease land at below-market rates and are matched up with seasoned mentors and expert advice. They get stipends for educational courses, and can sell their produce at a stand on the Duke Farms grounds.

In three to five years, once up and running, the new farmers can transition to other leased or purchased land. NOFA-NJ offers a “journeyperson” program to match farmers who need land with property owners wanting to lease their land.

For applications and more information on the Beginner Farmer Program, go to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey website at The website also has photos and profiles of the program’s first group of farmers.


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