Roaming through rows of blueberry bushes, I’m on the hunt for perfect blue gems among the glossy leaves. It’s pick-your-own season at Phillips Farm in Milford, one of the dozens of farms and vineyards that make Hunterdon County a destination for day-trippers. Hunterdon’s new agritourism program, the 579 Trail, features destinations along or near Route 579, which angles north-south through the county. Autumn offerings will include apples, pumpkins and squash, as well as year-round products like wine, grass-fed beef, chicken and cheese.
As tempting as the food is, the best part of a day on the 579 Trail may simply be eyeing the rolling green hills dotted with silos, red barns and historic villages. This year, it’s an especially attractive proposition.
“A lot of customers don’t want to go into a supermarket,” says third-generation farmer Kathy Cervenka at Cervenka Farm Stand (179 Klinesville Road, Flemington). Taking a break from arranging brilliantly colored bouquets of zinnias, Cervenka explains that business is actually up this year at the 100-year-old, 138-acre family farm.
Continuing on the trail, I drive past grazing cows as I arrive at Sugar Maple Jersey Farm (835 Sergeantsville Road, Stockton), where farmer Heidi Kovacs and daughters Madeline, 11, and Miranda, 10, are setting up their stand. A converted granary building holds refrigerated meat and feta, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Miranda opens an antique oak armoire, and a sweet smell bursts out: soaps and lotions made with their cows’ milk.
[RELATED: Your Fall Guide to Visiting Farms & Vineyards]
At Blue Jingler Farm (865 Route 579, Flemington), Cheryl and Jack Gaskill sell eggs, chicken, pork and grass-fed beef, raising the animals on land that has been owned by Jack’s family for 150 years. Customer demand has been up since the pandemic disrupted supermarket meat supplies in the spring. “People became more familiar with local farms,” says Cheryl.
At Beneduce Vineyard (1 Jeremiah Lane, Pittstown), rows of vines line up with military precision. Visitors relax on a covered patio or in the garden, savoring their libations in the afternoon sun.
Beneduce is one of five wineries along the trail. The others are Mount Salem Vineyards in Pittstown; Unionville Vineyards and Old York Cellars in Ringoes; and Federal Twist Vineyard in Stockton.
My next stop is Bobolink Dairy (369 Stamets Road, Milford), where I tell the counter guy I prefer sharp, dry cheeses. He slices me a wedge of tangy Drumm.
Finally, I reach Phillips Farms (91 Crabapple Hill Road, Milford), where I fill a container with blueberries (there’s also a farm stand at 564 Milford-Warren Glen Road). In fall, apples and pumpkins are the main attractions.
There are plenty of other 579 Trail destinations I’d like to check out, with some surprising offerings—including soaps and lotions from the Bubbly Goat in Stockton, and teas, herbals and body products from Fields Without Fences in Frenchtown.
But that’s for another day. On this visit, I head home, soothed by the fresh breezes and peaceful landscape, and laden with potatoes, blueberries, eggplant, cucumber, cheese and red wine. Your haul will vary, depending on the season and your tastes. But you can count on it being fresh and delicious.Click here to leave a comment