Mid-Atlantic Grower topics
Small in size, Garlind Farm maximizing fresh variety
By RICHARD SKELLY
MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (April 11, 2017) — Since Garry Koehler and his wife Linda of Garlind Farm are both working full-time, growing niche crops on six acres in a farming area of Monroe Township is how they’ve chosen to maximize profits.
“My philosophy with what comes out of our large garden is we don’t grow commodities,” Garry said. “Everybody can offer tomatoes and peppers and eggplant at a cheap price during the summer. Yes, I do grow tomatoes, but some of the varieties of heirloom tomatoes I grow will bring three and four dollars a pound, even in the summer.”
Garry said they offer unique, off-the-beaten-path heirlooms like Persimmon, Dottie’s Polish, Pineapple, Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, Boxcar Willie and Japanese Trifle. In the small tomatoes category, Garlind Farm produces Sungold, golden cherry, Jaunne Flammee and Lime Green Salad varieties.
During spring and summer months, Garry focuses on his vegetable crops and fruit and nut trees in the mornings and then shifts to his lab equipment sales business in the afternoons and early evenings, mostly from a home office.
He switches the routine in the fall when afternoons tend to be warmer, working in his home office and making deliveries of lab equipment during morning hours instead.
Garry said he met his wife Linda, who works in purchasing for Dow Jones’ South Brunswick facility, while the two were in college. They got married in 1982.
On his commutes to Ramapo College through rural parts of northern New Jersey along he began stopping at a farm market on his way to and from college.
He got interested in growing his own vegetables and persuaded the farmer to lend him an acre of land on which to grow vegetables.
“One day I said, ‘Paul, you’re not using all that land, can I plant some stuff? So the following year he let us use an acre,” Garry said, noting it was 1974 and he was still in college.
The Koehlers moved to Monroe Township from Paterson in 1978 when his previous sales job took him into new territory in central New Jersey.
They found a 6.5-acre property, which aided their desire to develop a market garden.
Since Garlind Farm was launched in earnest in the early 1990’s, the Koehlers have grown a range of crops, including grapes he uses to make his own wines, which he quickly pointed out he’s not allowed to sell.
He prints out a crop list from the home office and brings it into the kitchen, stressing most of his sales are to restaurants, including many in New Brunswick, where he’s often delivering lab supplies.
“I sell to the New Brunswick restaurants and at the same time, I sell (lab equipment) to Bristol-Myers Squibb, right next door, one of my primary customers, and that’s one day a week I deliver,” Garry said. “You find restaurants and go and visit them in the non-busy hours. You ask to see the chef. If I happen to be coming home from (delivering lab equipment) in New Brunswick, I’ll stop in to various places. It can be problematic selling to restaurants because chefs come and chefs go, but if you’re lucky you get the owners of the restaurant on your side because they like you or they like your produce. I always tell them, I’m not going to be your primary supplier. I’m only here from spring to first frost.”
For a small farm operation, given that it’s just him and his wife Linda, the Garlind Farm 2017 Offerings list is indeed impressive. Herbs include thyme, oregano, sage, garlic chives, chives, cilantro, rosemary, lemon grass, French tarragon, dill and many varieties of basil.
The vegetable offerings include cucumbers, beans, many varieties of summer and winter squash, many varieties of sweet and more than 20 varieties of hot peppers; eggplant, turnips, many varieties of heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries and poha berries, shallots, garlic and garlic scapes, swiss chard and kale, among other things.
At the bottom of his product sheet, the Koehlers add: “You buy from our very large ‘kitchen-garden’ – we pick when you order, usually within a few hours of delivery. Our farm is not organic but we use no pesticides and try to practice sustainable agriculture. We do not wash any produce to get it to you as fresh as possible and extend shelf life. There will be an occasional bug.”
Since they are part-time farmers who both enjoy the work, Garry said they decided to diversify their offerings many years ago, knowing they can’t compete with large-scale vegetable farmers elsewhere in New Jersey.
“We grow the usual herbs,” Gary said, “but we also grow five different kinds of basil. That means we can sell Thai basil to Thai people and Italian basil to Italian people and with garlic it’s the same thing, we grow hard necked garlics because the high end chefs love garlic scapes. I make more money on garlic scapes than I do on garlic.”
The Koehlers also grow Asian pears and rhubarb and have several hazelnut and heart nut trees that appear to be flourishing.
Garry said he’s also excited about the various hot sauces and other “value-added products” he and his wife produce in their kitchen, but, since he’s not using a commercial kitchen, the hot sauce varieties are gifts to friends and associates, and not for sale.