New Jersey Ag News
Genesis hosts two-part tour for NOFA-NJ members
By JANE PRIMERANO
FRELINGHUYSEN TOWNSHIP, Warrent County — On a perfect summer evening, a group of NOFA-NJ members became acquainted with Genesis Farm in Marksboro, an unusual experiment in farming and living.
NOFA-NJ scheduled several farm tours as an extra perk for members, Connie Deetz said.
Miriam MacGillis, founder of Genesis Farm, said that the Dominican Sisters in Caldwell ended up with the property upon the death of the owner.
“We wanted it to be a place that would welcome people of good will,” she said. “We were struggling to find how we could live differently.”
This was in the late 1970s, just after the United Nations Conference on Hunger, and the sisters recognized the potential damage of the corporate centralization of the food system.
“It took 10 years to sort it out,” MacGillis said, explaining the entire farm was in pasture for cows and the 1830s farmhouse was abandoned.
They were interested in the biodynamic movement and found a Swiss expert to help them get started. At first, they created a market garden, then converted to a CSA which is now run separately.
One of the farm’s goals is to provide uses for local products and to that end, they built a straw bale building. MacGillis explained straw for building can provide another source of income for farmers as well as providing a building material without contributing to deforestation. As a building material, straw is a good insulator and, once covered with stucco, it is fireproof, insect proof and rodent proof. And the walls can be raised in a weekend with an able crew.
MacGillis lives in the airy and comfortable cottage.
A new project involves warm-season grasses which are a good habitat for birds and can be collected after overwintering and turned into pellets which can be burned for heat. Since they contain no carbon, they don’t contribute to CO2 in the atmosphere.
For years, the primary function of Genesis Farm was education in earth literacy, rooting the science of the Big Bang in a spiritual context. Classes, some for college credit, workshops and seminars were held frequently.
With the advent of the internet, however, there are more outlets for education and Genesis Farm is rethinking its mission, MacGillis told the participants in the tour.
The second part of the tour took participants to the CSA.
The CSA started from the original market garden in 1988, making it the oldest in New Jersey. More than 20 acres are in cultivation and the orchard contains 256 trees. Three greenhouses extend the growing season.
Judy VonHandorf has been with the CSA from the beginning as it expanded from 77 to more than 300 members with 50 weeks of pickup. Half and full shares are available. All pickups for the year start in May. Half-share pickups end at Thanksgiving, the full-share pickups continue to April.
In winter root cellar crops are available as are greens from the hoop house, VonHandorf said.