Page 29 - Middlesex Health & Life - Fall 2012 Issue

send your ideas for “shop local leader” to
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farming business. She’s also working on
creating an online retail website. My son,
Tim, is studying agriculture at the Univer-
sity of Maryland and plans to come back
to the farm after he graduates. He already
has a lot of good ideas. My two daughters,
Kristie, 17, and Kellie, 14, also help in the
farm market store, and both are involved
with the farm animals in our local 4-H
programs. This summer, Kristie started a
Barnyard Buddies program geared toward
preschool kids. For one hour every week
she reads stories and does a hands-on
activity on the farm with the kids.
What events do you have planned for the
fall?
Our fall kickoff weekend is planned
for Saturday, September 22, and Sunday,
September 23. A 5K event will be held
on the 22nd to raise funds for Ronald
McDonald House. On Sunday, we’ll have
our usual fall activities including pony
rides, inflatable moon bounces, face
painting, hayrides and a barnyard chicken
show. Also, our huge cornfield maze will
be opening that weekend. Every year we
design a maze with a different theme, and
this year our six-acre maze celebrates
the Ronald McDonald House 25th anni-
versary. Our big event is the annual Fall
Festival, which is always scheduled for
Columbus Day weekend. Along with the
maze, we’ll have pony rides, hayrides, live
music, clown shows, apple and pumpkin
picking and much more.
In 1913, Henry VonThun came
over from Germany and purchased 90
acres in Monmouth Junction. Nearly 100
years later, Bob VonThun Jr., a fourth-
generation entrepreneur, has expanded
that farm into a thriving agribusiness where
townspeople can enjoy annual festivals and
pick-your-own” orchards, shop in a coun-
try farm market and garden center and join
the community-supported agriculture (CSA)
program. We spoke recently with VonThun:
How has the family’s farming business
changed over the years?
After a couple of
bad years growing potatoes, we realized
we needed to diversify to survive. When I
came back from college in 1986, my father
and I formed a partnership and started
growing fruits and vegetables. We’d
opened a small retail farm market, and
slowly we introduced educational school
tours, farmers’ markets, fall activities
and pick-your-own produce. In 1989, we
added a 15,000-square-foot greenhouse
where we grow thousands of spring
annuals, perennials, fall mums and pan-
sies. We’ve also added an apple orchard
and acres of pumpkins. We find that peo-
ple want to pick their own produce, and
they like the whole farm experience.
Is your immediate family involved too?
My
wife, Cindy, is a schoolteacher, but she
helps out with e-mail and social media like
Facebook and keeps up the website. I
never thought we would need all that in the
A fami ly farmer explains that there’s more
to his growing business than growing
Farming + festivities
Famlily farmer Bob VonThun Jr.
(
right) and his son, Tim
How else do you give back to the community?
In the spring we work with local elementary
schools and firehouses on plant sales for
their fundraising efforts. We’re also involved
with Farmers Against Hunger, which deliv-
ers produce that’s not marketable to local
food banks and distribution centers.
How does your CSA program work?
People
pay a fee in advance to get shares of pro-
duce during the growing season. We start
registering them in November, and in late
spring, members begin receiving baskets
of produce. This is the second year we’ve
done it, and it’s really taken off—we have
more than 100 members participating. For
18
weeks they receive a package of six
to eight different vegetables per week,
depending on whatever is plentiful. Some
weeks they might even get 10 different veg-
etables. A lot of younger families are
involved because they prefer buying
local and eating healthy. It’s fun to see the
children get excited about seeing what’s in
their basket. We put recipes on our Face-
book page to help them cook their produce.
What happens on the farm during the off-
season?
We actively farm until Thanks-
giving. In the winter we revamp and get
ready to do it all over again. We have
blueberry and raspberry bushes that need
trimming. We fix everything that broke,
and we start growing in the greenhouses
after the New Year. There’s not a lot of
down time on a farm.
Dora Johnson
Getting there
VonThun Farms
505
Ridge Rd
.
,
Monmouth Junction
732.329.8656
vonthunfarms.com
At left, aerial view of this year’s
cornfield maze at VonThun Farms;
Bob VonThun Jr.’s children, (from
left) Kellie, Kristie and Tim
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courtesy of Vonthun Farms