Clark prepares to take turn with family operation

AFP Correspondent

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (July 11, 2017) — Young Andy Clark eschewed college for full-time work on his family’s farm.
So far, he said he has no regrets.
“I didn’t really want to go to college, I just wanted to get out and get into it,” he said on the porch of his grandmother’s house on a 95-degree June day.
He never went to summer camp during summers off from school.
But he does recall helping out his father and uncles and grandfather as much as any 5-year-old could.
Located in East Brunswick, young Clark, 24, is the fourth generation to take over stewardship of the family’s 80 acres of farmland, actually about 130 acres in total.
Across the street, “McMansion” houses have been built on what once was some of the most potent, fertile farmland in New Jersey.
“My grandmother used to have a farm on Fresh Ponds Road, not far from (Jim) Giamarese’s farm,” Clark related “and my father said it was 1908 when our family bought this farm.”
Clark is in his second season as a more-or-less full-time farmer as his father Bill seeks to ease slowly into retirement.
Bill handles most of the spraying of corn and pumpkins while Andy handles nearly everything else, including overseeing a retail farm market at the front of the property on Dunham’s Corner Road.
The Clark family put a large sign out front last July when the farm stand first opened, staffed by his mother and his younger sister.
“Last summer was our first season with the produce wagon and we did okay,” he said, noting they’ll open in mid-July this year and will remain open until the end of October with pumpkins.
The family’s combined efforts supply the local population with tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelons, zucchini, cucumbers, garlic, sweet corn, and you-pick and pre-picked pumpkins during the fall.
Clark’s Farm also offers cool weather crops in the fall like broccoli, cabbage and Brussel sprouts.
“We do what we can for now,” he said, “we would like to eventually open it up for strawberries, but we don’t do too much in early spring.”
Clark has been attending monthly meetings of the Middlesex County Board of Agriculture in the last year and said he finds those intriguing.
Meetings are held at the county’s Earth Center in North Brunswick, near Route 130, off Riva Avenue.
He holds the other local “veteran farmers” in high regard and referring to them as Mr. and Mrs. Along with Giamarese, he includes John Hauser and Jim and Caroline Etsch in that group.
“I’d say there are 10 to 15 of us that show up every month, and the meetings are valuable,” Andy said. “Once you’ve been to a few you start picking up on things.”
Asked about the most successful sellers on the farm stand, Clark said the top three list would include tomatoes, sweet corn and pumpkins.
The Clark family farm dog, Lou, has proven a hit with customers. The Beagle-British Terrier mix greets customers at the retail produce wagon with great affection.
“All the customers come along and little kids come to the wagon and they all ask to see Lou,” Andy said proudly.
“We’ve been doing the pick your own pumpkins for a little while and now we’re going to be trying to do a little more each year,” he said, “We’ve always grown tomatoes and we’ve always gotten compliments on how good the stuff is. Now, we’re just trying to do a little more each year.”