Farm to Market: A Day with Central Valley Farm

How rural New Jersey feeds its big-city friends.

A Business & A Lifestyle

Photo by Laura Moss

“I was on a tractor when I was seven years old,” says Ed Huff, owner of Central Valley Farm in Asbury, where he was raised. The sprawling Warren County farm sells its produce direct to consumers in three ways: through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs; a self-serve farm stand on the property; and at seven different farmers’ markets, including three on Saturdays. Crops are raised based on demand. “There are some things we don’t make money on,” says Ed, “but I have to have it because people expect them.” Pictured above: zinnias (with butterfly), corn, cherry tomatoes (on the vine) and heirloom tomatoes.

A Family Affair

Photo by Laura Moss

Brian Huff, on the tractor, is the fourth generation of Huffs to work the farm, which was started as a dairy farm in 1948 by his great-grandfather, Isaac Huff. His father Ed, in the foreground, began diversifying the farm a decade ago. “We started dabbling with a little bit of produce and our own CSA,” says Brian. Now the farm also offers eggs, beef, herbs and fresh-cut flowers, like this field of zinnias.

From the Fields to the Truck

Photo by Laura Moss

The farm buzzes with activity on back-to-back market days like this one, a Friday last July. Farmhands pick and wash vegetables, such as fingerling potatoes (above). When the trucks return from the day’s market, the workers help unload the leftovers, then reload the trucks with fresh goods for the next day’s market. (The truck has coolers to keep the produce fresh overnight.) Leftover produce can be sold through the CSAs or at the farm stand, or can end up in the compost heap—depending on quality. Bottom right: Brian Huff, center, and the crew take five after a hard day’s work.

From the Truck to the Tables

Photo by Laura Moss

On market day, Ed (plaid shirt) departs before sunrise, driving his truck to Jersey City’s Van Vorst Park. By 6 am, he unloads with local helper Shannon Hunt (in purple). The market opens at 8:30 am. The farm uses 16 to 20 tables, depending on the season, with more in the fall. Vendors pay for each space used; the larger the display, the higher the rent. Space fills quickly, and markets tend to favor diverse vendors over local ones. The competitive environment drove Ed to add more products and to specialize in heirloom tomatoes and related products, such as tomato sauce and soup.

And Back to the Farm

Photo by Laura Moss

Ed and local helper Lauren Clarke (headband) check the displays. This day’s bounty includes yellow zucchini squash, carrots and beets. The market runs until 3 pm, after which Ed and his crew break down the display, and reload the truck. Ed makes it back to the farm just after 5 pm, finishing a 12-hour day. Tomorrow, Sunday, is a day off, but it’s back to the markets again on Monday.
Visit Van Vorst Park Farmers Market every Saturday through December at the corner of Jersey Avenue and Montgomery Street.

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