New Jersey Ag News
Community sustaining Seven Arrows CSA
By JANE PRIMERANO
LOCUST (Dec. 1, 2015) —Old fashioned community support helped save a farm started on a modern concept.
The Homestead at Seven Arrows East is a Community Supported Garden and was started as part of a yoga retreat, farmer Meg Paska said.
The Rumson estate is leased out by yoga teachers for weekend retreats and the initial idea was for a farm to support the meals prepared by chefs brought in by the yoga professionals.
Since the retreats were only two weekends a month and attracted small groups, Paska needed more customers, so she created a CSA. She has 35 members.
When Paska’s business partner left to rejoin family in Florida, “our finances took a beating,” she said.
She was facing a tough time keeping livestock fed over the winter until several friends organized a dinner for the farm at the Navesink Hook and Ladder in Middletown Township. The dinner raised about $3,000 which will be a big help, she said, although she was hoping for about $5,000. “We’ll still have to hustle. We have to make it until the CSA members sign up,” Paska noted.
“I didn’t think it was this kind of community,” Paska said of the generosity manifested in the dinner.
The idea for the dinner was Deb Stasi’s. Stasi owns d’lu Floral Impressions in Red Bank for which Paska supplies flowers.
Stasi enlisted Jill Green of 2 Senza Restaurant to help with the cooking. Paska provided the produce, Forty North Oyster Farm in Montoloking brought fresh oysters and clams, Tullulah’s brought fresh sourdough bread and Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands served beer.
One of the CSA members is a fireman with Navesink, so the location was provided, Paska said.
Paska is searching for new farmers’ markets as another outlet for her produce.
She checked out the one on Ryder’s Lane in East Brunswick and is going to look into Highland Park. A market with plenty of variety and nice people would be a good fit, she said.
Besides the CSA’s vegetables, Paska raises chickens “We have 75 chickens from heritage breeds, so we provide rainbow dozens.” She pre-sells the eggs to the CSA members who each get a dozen every week with their order.
She also has goats, four does, three milkers. They are Nubian/Alpine cross. “I like big girls, big and strong,” she said. She makes goats-milk soap to sell at the farmers’ markets.
Bees are a passion of Paska’s. She has three hives now, supplying honey to the CSA members.
Her book about urban beekeeping, The Rooftop Beekeeper, will be published in the spring. She also taught urban beekeeping when she lived in New York City.
She believes in diversity to keep a small farm healthy, but admits too much diversity can be taxing on an individual.
While Paska uses organic practices, she isn’t certified organis since she isn’t sure how long she’ll stay on the Seven Arrows property. “I’m keeping my eyes open for larger plots,” she said.
The initial deal under which the farm started is a good one for Monmouth County with its high property values, Paska said.
Paska told a local Monmouth County publication the model she created depended on the owners of a large estate giving a farmer a good deal in exchange for a farmland assessment on the real estate value of the property.
Besides beekeeping, Paska has a diverse background for a farmer. She worked in children’s fashion, “designing hipster clothes for kids,” she said. She had a backyard garden when she lived in Brooklyn which is when she took a beekeeping course.
She also did some farming up in the Catskills.
“I knew what to look for,” she said of finding Seven Arrows East. Denying she had any romantic notions about being a farmer, she noted “you have to be capable as a grower and also a good planner. I’ve learned a lot and look forward to refining my efforts for less chaos.”
Her boyfriend commutes to Manhattan for work, but helps out on the farm on weekends.