New Jersey Ag News
Old-fashioned work ethic thriving at Ann’s Market
By RICHARD SKELLY
SOUTH BRUNSWICK — To be sure, Claire Moreen and her husband Dennis have a good, strong work ethic.
And, they’re enamored with all of the nuances of vegetable farming.
“We start at 5 a.m. and quit whenever,” said Claire Moreen, of the roles she and her husband and her 90-year-old mother have in running the small vegetable farm off Davidson Mill Road in South Brunswick. She clarifies that: “My mother is still the owner and we help out. My mom doesn’t want to quit, so we’re here to help her and we’re farming with her.”
Moreen is the granddaughter of Clara Lemke, who first farmed the tract.
In 1982, Moreen’s mother Ann McKenderick, added the retail vegetable stand which also sells New Jersey-grown fruit in season.
Though slowed down by a recent July heat wave, McKenderick still tends to her vegetable stand most days in the summer and fall and will turn 91 this month.
On less than 30 acres of land, the mother, her daughter and her son-in-law grow numerous crops; from sweet corn to deer corn, tomatoes, all manner of peppers, onions, cabbage, yellow squash, and green and Zucchini squash.
“We grow a little bit of everything, just not in large quantities,” Moreen said, adding the retail operation, a popular stop with commuters going to and from nearby Route 1, is open from Mother’s Day until early December. Because they also grow field corn, which people use to feed goats, sheep and deer, “our produce season lasts well into November.”
“We shut down for a month or so in January, but then we start seedlings again in the greenhouses in February,” she said. “Our busiest time of year is April” with planting field corn and getting vegetable transplants ready for planting.
Claire and her husband Dennis have a son, who sometimes helps out on the farm but primarily works outside the operation.
Dennis retired last year after 30 years working for the South Brunswick Township’s Public Works.
“Farming in New Jersey isn’t what it used to be,” Moreen added, because everything costs more. “Your fertilizers, your diesel fuel, even your seeds. You used to be able to buy seeds by the pound. Now you buy them by the count.”
Dennis said they’re making enough money to pay the taxes on the land they own and some years, a bit more. So what’s the incentive to stick with it?
“We like it because every year is different,” said Claire, “we really enjoy doing it. It’s frustrating when animals destroy your crops.
“But it’s different every year, between the weather, the animals and the insects.”