“Something this good comes along once in a blue moon!” says Jim Lyons, with a smile. Describing the origin of his Blue Moon Acres Farm and Blue Moon Acres Farm Market, he is proud of this family business he started with his wife Kathy Lyons in 1992.
“Our farm began 21 years ago in Buckingham, Pa.,” he explains. “In the beginning, it was a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. People would buy a share, and then come and get their vegetables.”
The Lyons started growing a small variety of greens and produce, and within a few years, the focus shifted to microgreens — small specialty greens for garnishment, especially in fine restaurants.
“We started with three restaurants in New York, and now we provide microgreens for 280 restaurants in New York and Philadelphia,” says Mr. Lyons. “When I first told my father about my work in farming, he said ‘Get a real job!’ Now, he’s a big supporter.”
Top Quality Produce
In 2007, the Lyons purchased 63 acres on Willow Creek Drive (just off Titus Mill Road) in Pennington. “We went from seven to 70 acres,” reports Mr. Lyons. “We came to Pennington because we needed more acreage. In addition to selling microgreens to the top restaurants and caterers in the New York/Philadelphia corridor, we now also operate markets at both of our farms.”
Ensuring that he can offer top quality produce to customers is a priority, and the Lyons have done extensive research about proper farming techniques. “We are certified organic.” points out Mr. Lyons. “We use only natural methods in our growing process — no chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or growth regulators. The premise now is the same as it was in the beginning: to grow good quality food that is in accordance with sustainable agriculture procedures.
“Our goal is to produce the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods in the most sustainable way possible,” continues Mr. Lyons. “To achieve this, our focus is primarily to encourage the numbers and diversity of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. With healthy soil microbiology, growing crops becomes easier. Without it, the farming methodology would require an ever-increasing amount of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and no doubt, genetic modification, to attempt to achieve the same yields, all the while producing what I feel would be a nutritionally inferior crop.
“The interaction of the various microbes with one another and with the roots facilitates nutrient cycling and nutrient uptake by the plants.
“A good balance of bacteria to fungi in the soil also helps create good soil structure by the formation of soil aggregates. With good structure comes more pore spaces in the soil allowing the soil to, among other things, retain water better. Roots are also able to go deeper because soil is not compacted.
“Disease issues become less of a problem because the healthy microbes cover the plant top to bottom. So when a disease spore lands on a plant leaf or a root is attacked, the diseases are not able to compete because the surface of the leaf or root is already covered with healthy mircro-organisms. Also, even weeds can be lessened by enhancing the fungal populations in the soil.”
Long Grain Rice
In addition to the microgreens, Blue Moon Acres Farm grows baby greens (the next step up) and kale, chard, collards, kohlrabi, corn, red cabbage, and tomatoes. The Lyons also look forward to having blueberries soon, strawberries, and ultimately fruit trees.
We have also started growing long grain rice and arborio (Italian rice for risotto) as well as 30 other strains. The chefs at the restaurants are very happy about this,” reports Mr. Lyons.
Customers will also find beets, beans, and broccoli, carrots and corn, onions, potatoes and peppers, as well as spinach, squash, and turnips, among many other choices.
“We have three categories of produce: our own, which is organic, other organic, and local, which can also be organic,” explains Ashley Lyons, director of sales and marketing, and the daughter of Jim and Kathy Lyons. “We use the word ‘traceable’ about the products we have. We have a carefully curated selection. We know what farm or company they come from, and we have a personal relationship with the owners.”
In addition to produce, the farm market carries a variety of other items, including local area jams, jellies, honey and bee pollen, homemade ketchup, cheese, ice cream, chicken, soaps and lotions, coffee and tea, and various soft drinks, bread, and homemade chocolates.
The market also features a cafe, with chocolate and plain croissants from the Terra Momo Bakery in Princeton, various muffins, biscotti, and other specialties. “We have coffee beans from Coffee Scoop,” notes Ms. Lyon. “The beans are organic and Fair Trade. Also, the decaf uses the Swiss Water process and no chemicals.”
O Wow Cow Creamery
Laurie’s Chocolates from Bucks County, Pa. are another treat. The hand-crafted, award-winning chocolates are available in many varieties, including the popular chocolate peanut butter “Buckeyes”.
“We have small batch ice cream from O Wow Cow Creamery in Pennsylvania,” adds Ashley. “We also carry ice cream from the Bent Spoon in Princeton.”
The variety of breads includes baguettes and batards from Terra Momo Bakery and loaves from Berkshire Mountain in Vermont. Blue Moon Acres is the only establishment in the area to carry Berkshire Mountain bread, points out store manager Natalie Rockwell.
Pasta from Lucy’s Ravioli in Princeton, cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, and chicken pot pies and fruit pies from Griggstown Farm are other popular items.
Ms. Lyons also points out the lavender soaps, lotions, and sachets from Pear Valley, owned by her aunt and uncle, Patti and George Lyons. “These are all natural products, with no chemicals.”
Customers also enjoy the variety of seasonal fresh flowers from the garden Kathy Lyons has planted.
Blue Moon Acres Farm Market prices cover a range, and include small coffees at $1, croissants at $2.50, muffins at $2, and baguettes at $2.50.
Series of Events
The Lyons family look forward to holding a series of events in the summer and fall. “On Saturday, July 14, we will have a special dinner created by elements’ chef Scott Anderson, using our own certified organic produce,” reports Ms. Lyons. “A part of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.”
In August, an outdoor barbecue is planned, followed by a Farm Camp-out in September, Fall Harvest in October, and holiday Open House in December.
Ms. Lyons adds that she is very proud to be part of the family business. In addition to her parents, her sister Alissa and brother Chris take part in the farm’s operation. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
“I enjoy the fact that we are taking care of the land in a way that will leave it better than when we found it. And, with the store, in connecting with the local producers and growing our own produce, we are reaching out to the community. The support from the community for quality food continues to grow. People appreciate what we have, and they are knowledgeable about it. They are informed consumers.
“We look forward to expanding what we offer and to taking on the challenge of growing whatever we can grow in the area.”
Blue Moon Acres Farm Market is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 to 5. (609) 737-8333. Website: www.bluemoonacres.net.