Vol. LXI, No. 16
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
FARM FRESH: "We feel so fortunate to be here. We believe we are stewards of the land. We have the privilege of taking care of the farm and sharing it with the public, which has been a great joy." Gary and Pam Mount, owners of Terhune Orchards, continue to enjoy providing customers with the delicious apples, peaches, berries, and vegetables grown at their farm.
Emphasizing the unique bounty of each season, Terhune Orchards is a local treasure, open all day, all year round. Here, at this country farm on Cold Soil Road, customers gather to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and friendly farm animals.
Owners Pam and Gary Mount report that 500,000 people visit each year. Customers come from Princeton and the area, but also from New York and Philadelphia. Not only do they enjoy the variety of fruits and vegetables grown on the farm, but there is also the relaxed, friendly atmosphere a haven amidst the fast-paced life-styles of so many today.
"We have loyal customers who come every week," says Pam Mount. "I think people understand that if they want to have farms and open space, they need to support the local farmers."
The evolution of Terhune Orchards into a major example of modern farming began 32 years ago, when Pam and Gary Mount purchased Terhune's, which had been established in the early 1920s. Just home after three years in the Peace Corps in Micronesia, the Mounts saw a 'For Sale" sign at the Orchards, and decided to buy it.
"Our experience in the Peace Corps made us realize we could have a tremendous impact if we focused on a small community, and it could be so rewarding." explains Mrs. Mount, a Princeton native. "Gary had grown up on a farm in West Windsor, but it was very different a wholesale operation. I had never thought of having a farm or orchard, but we knew how to work, and we thought all our friends could come, and we'd invite the public in."
At the time, Terhune's focused on apples, peaches, and cider, and was open July, August, September, and October, she adds.
"Gary raised money from the bank to buy it, and as we now had a definite motivation to pay it back, we decided to stay open seven days a week and expand the farm store. Early on, we started to have dwarf apple trees. They were much more productive and easier to maintain. We tried to keep the look and feeling of the place and modernize at the same time. We added the bakery and vegetables and started growing organic items.
"We now have 35 to 45 different crops," she continues. "One of the reasons we grow so many different things is that then we are not dependent on just one crop, if there are weather problems, etc."
The Mounts investigated a range of innovative farming techniques, including the use of integrated pest management. And they have also expanded not only the fruits, vegetables, and other products they offer, but their acreage as well.
"We actually have three farms," explains Mrs. Mount. "One, the original. Two, the 'Pick Your Own' area at Van Kirk Road, and three, 57 acres nearby where we will raise organic fruits and vegetables. Our daughter Tannwen, who is manager of Terhune's, lives there with her husband, and they will also be starting a vineyard with a variety of grapes."
Visitors to Terhune's always enjoy browsing through the popular farm store with its array of specialties. Among them: the farm's delicious pies, cookies, crisps, and fruit breads. Other favorites are Terhune's homemade salsa and guacamole, hot soup, cider, and donuts.
Gift baskets, filled with all of Terhune's goodies, are a favorite of many customers, and currently, there is a wonderful display of flowering baskets. Soon, cut flowers and bedding plants from Mrs. Mount's gardens will be available, as well.
Boxes containing apples, cider, and other specialties can also be shipped, and this continues to be a big part of the business.
Special events play a major role in Terhune Orchards' activities, and many are family-oriented. Coming up in May (5th and 6th) is the annual Kite Day Festival. Adults and children alike can bring their own kites or make one at Terhune's. There will be music from local bands, a variety of refreshments in the Food Tent, and pony rides for the kids.
The "Pick Your Own" program at Terhune's is another favorite, beginning the end of May with strawberries, followed by blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and flowers in June. Asparagus and rhubarb will be available in late April.
In addition, there is now a new "Read & Pick" program for children, combining fruit-picking and listening to a story highlighting that activity.
This spring, Elaine Madigan, Terhune's education program coordinator, and Tannwenn Mount will read stories with the kids, and then the child, with their parent or guardian, will pick fruit. Ms. Madigan also leads an increasing number of school tours at Terhune's, adds Mrs. Mount.
"We try to make them fun and educational, and also for the past few years, we have had a two-week summer camp for children, ages seven to 12. It's all day, and they participate in farm chores such as picking blueberries, tomatoes, and corn, and they also take care of the animals, plant seeds, and walk on the Nature Trail. They learn about the balance between nature and the farm, and how we all depend on this."
Somehow, during her busy days at the farm, including designing and tending to the gardens, Mrs. Mount has found time to serve on the Lawrence Council for eight years (including two years as mayor). She is also in charge of a new conservation-oriented organization "Sustainable Lawrence", and helped start a Farmer's Market in Lawrence, emphasizing sustainable produce. Terhune's also has a year-round stand in the Trenton Farmer's Market.
It is a way of life the Mounts are proud of, and they have received recognition, including honors and awards, for their innovative farming techniques and stewardship of the land.
"All our farm is permanently preserved," says Mrs. Mount. "The state has purchased the development rights of the farm, so it will be permanently preserved as a farm. I am so happy that we could raise our children here, and that we could have a family business in which all our family could be involved. It has been wonderful to do something with our lives to make the community better that people enjoy and appreciate. It's very special."
Terhune Orchards is open Monday through Friday 9 to 6; Saturday and Sunday 9 to 5. (609) 924-2310. Web: www.terhuneorchards.com.
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