Celebrating the Four Seasons at Terhune Orchards Has Been a Longtime Tradition at the Farm
FAMILY TRADITION: “We are so happy that we could raise our children here, and that we could have a business in which all our family could be involved. It has been wonderful to do something with our lives to make the community better and that people enjoy and appreciate. It’s very special.” Pam and Gary Mount, owners of Terhune Orchards, are shown with the family’s second and third generations, all doing their part at the farm.
By Jean Stratton
Terhune Orchards is a favorite place not only for Princetonians but for many other loyal customers from farther away. People come from all over to enjoy this special haven at 330 Cold Soil Road. As many as 500,000 a year actually visit, and return again and again.
Emphasizing the unique bounty of each season, this country farm is a local treasure year round. Community and families gather to enjoy great food, fresh fruits and vegetables, friendly farm animals, and wine tastings in the wine barn from the farm’s own vineyard winery.
The evolution of Terhune Orchards into a major example of modern farming began 47 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 orchard, and decided to buy it.
Making a Difference
“Our experience in the Peace Corps made us realize that we could have a tremendous impact if we focused on a small community, and it could be rewarding,” explains Pam Mount, a Princeton native.
“Gary had grown up on a farm in West Windsor, but it was very different — a wholesale operation,” she says. “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.
“Also, when we bought it, no one was buying farms. Instead they were being sold to developers, turned into shopping malls and parking lots. We thought we could help to preserve the land and make a difference.”
At the time, Terhune’s focused on apples, peaches, and cider, and was open July to 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.
“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. Certainly this summer, with its heat and lack of rain, has presented its challenges. We find we always have to improvise.”
Together, the Mounts have expanded the scope of the original Terhune Orchards, and introduced safe and up-to-date farming practices. They have investigated a range of innovative farming techniques, including the use of integrated pest management. Gary Mount has received many honors, including “Apple Grower of the Year,” which recognized “his progressive approaches, hard work, and dedication to learning.” Today, customers can find many, many different kinds of apples to satisfy every taste.
60 Different Crops
And the Mounts have expanded not only the fruits, vegetables, and other products they offer (now more than 60 different crops), but their acreage as well. “We actually have three farms,” explains Pam Mount. “One, the original. Two, the Pick Your Own area at Van Kirk Road, and three, 57 acres. also on Van Kirk, where we grow organic fruits and vegetables, and grapes for the wine. We recently added 50 acres to bring our total to 250 acres, and now the farms are all contiguous. Also, the land is permanently preserved.”
The Farm Store is a big attraction for customers, and they will find an abundance of choices. Among them: the farm’s delicious pies, donuts, crisps, and fruit breads. Other items are Terhune Orchard’s homemade salsa, chili, and guacamole, hot soup, cider, and gourmet items. A big variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is always available, and shoppers will find that perfect tomato to take home.
Gift baskets, filled with all of Terhune’s goodies, are a favorite of many customers, especially at holiday time. Boxes containing apples, cider, and other specialties can also be shipped, and this continues to be a big part of the business.
Also popular is the opportunity to Pick Your Own Flowers from the array of colorful wild flowers planted by Pam Mount. As she says, “I was always interested in gardening, and I had started growing the flowers for the farm store. They became so popular that we started the Pick Your Own flower program.
This has become a real favorite, along with similar programs for cherries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, and pumpkins. It is always a favorite for the kids, notes Pam.
Special events play a major role at Terhune Orchards’ activities, and many are family-oriented. Now that fall is almost here, apple and pumpkins are highlighted, and many Fall Family Weekends are planned.
Kids will enjoy the scavenger hunts, rubber duck races, and pumpkin painting, as well as the chance to visit the sheep, goats, donkeys, ducks, chickens, and guinea hens. They are also happy to find that ice cream is now on the Terhune menu at the Barn Door Café. There is always something at Terhune’s to entertain and enlighten visitors of all ages — you can count on it!
Variety of Wines
The adults have come to enjoy the variety of wines now offered at Terhune Orchards. Sips & Sounds wine events are held throughout the summer and into September on Friday evenings, including area bands, and these are very popular.
“We started growing grapes in 2020, and we now have 18 different kinds of wines,” reports Pam Mount. “A popular fall choice is our apple wine, made from our fresh apple cider. Also, light fare of cheese plates and homemade salsa and chips are available in the winery.”
Gary Mount, whose book, A Farmer’s Life, was published this summer, has found winemaking to be a new and engaging activity. As he writes in his book, “Winemaking had opened a whole new world for me. My life has always been connected to farming — that is, growing something. I grew up on a farm near Princeton, and then I became an agricultural advisor in the Peace Corps; coconut culture was my specialty. I’ve been farming at Terhune Orchards now for 47 years. With all that experience, you might think there aren’t that many new things to learn. Not so.
“I love growing grapes and making wine because so much of it is new to me. We make a lot of wine from our apples, blueberries, and peaches, but most of it is made from grapes. When it comes to growing and processing grapes, I’m still low on the learning curve. Growing good grapes is a must. Winemaking doesn’t always go smoothly, but one way or another, there’s always something new to learn.”
Learning something new has always been a hallmark of Terhune’s, all the while keeping the appealing atmosphere and the essence of a genuine working farm. There is something very real about Terhune Orchards.
This is Real
Pam Mount likes to recall a particular incident. “As Terhune’s evolved, we realized we were the neighborhood farm. The story I like to tell is about a Princeton woman who came in every Tuesday with her granddaughter. She said, ‘I can take my granddaughter anywhere — to New York, to museums, theater, etc. But, Pam, this is the only place we come that is real. Things are grown here.’
“So, we decided we’d stick with what’s real.”
She is proud of the longtime, loyal staff working at Terhune’s, which now numbers 70. She is also very happy that the orchard has grown into a real family enterprise, with her two daughters Reuwai and Tannwen now full-time members of the operation.
“It is wonderful having them involved,” says Pam. “They bring new energy and ideas daily to the work here. Their husbands and children are the present and the future. I am so grateful to have the family all together in the business. Even our grandchildren like to help out and enjoy the farm. I am looking forward to all of this continuing.
“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. Over the years, we have seen people of all backgrounds and from all places. They are all ages, and we see parents, grandparents, and children every day. This has been a great joy.”
Terhune Orchards is open seven days, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (609) 924-2310. Website: terhuneorchards.com.