Longmeadow Farm shows off its apples

AFP Correspondent

HOPE TOWNSHIP (Oct. 1, 2016) — It’s apple time in North Jersey and the pick-your-own Longmeadow Farm is busy in spite of a slightly less abundant apple crop.
The unusually warm and dry winter followed by less rain than normal was not too good for apples.
A late frost kept owner Bradley Burke overnight in the orchard tending fires to raise temperatures.
“We lost some blossoms,” Burke said, noting the dry weather has had an impact as well.
His weather station tags his Warren County farm as four inches below normal rain fall.
The statewide the figure is six inches.
“We’re already picking some later varieties,” he said.
Longmeadow has 15 varieties which are listed in a brochure handed out to apple pickers with the approximate ripening dates and a description of each variety.
Also included are recipes and tips for storing apples.
Along with the five acres of apples, Burke has a small half-acre raspberry patch.
The fall bearing bushes produce a yield about the same time as the apples and most of the customers who pick raspberries have come for the apples.
The apple trees are dwarf varieties for easier picking and care as well as to get more yield per acre.
Burke said he is looking at the new method of trellis training apple trees and may try it with his Honeycrisps next year.
The dry weather wasn’t kind to the flowers Longmeadow also has for picking, but customers could find sunflowers, cosmos, marigolds and zinnias.
The next big thing at Longmeadow will be pumpkin picking. Burke has four acres of pumpkins and some goards.
He also retails vegetables from the farm. On a recent sunny Saturday , he had sweet corn, tomatoes and green beans in baskets for sale.
A beekeeper keeps 25 hives at Longmeadow.
He has 1,200 total and makes honey at his Pittstown location then sells it at the various farms.
Burke also sells house of Webster jams, fruit butters and preserves.
Burke allows his pick-your-own customers to bring well-behaved dogs and two happy pups were enjoying a recent sunny Saturday on the farm with their families.
“I advise them to keep the dogs on a leash and clean up after them,” Burke said, noting he doesn’t have problems with the animals.
Longmeadow was a stop on this year’s Tour de Farm, sponsored by Mitch Morrison of the Sparta Farmers’ Market.
The tour has 40-, 20- and 10-mile rides.
It begins and ends at Race Farm in Blairstown, with a dinner at the end.
Burke speculates most of the distance riders don’t stop, but he expected about 200 people to come by. He provided water and samples of the jams and preservers.
Burke also brings school groups onto the farm, but normally he’s only open for picking on weekends.
He has six part-time weekend employees for the picking season.
Aside from a couple of seasonal employees, Burke is a solo operation. 
He said he has been in Hope since 1995 when he moved from Bridgewater where he operated a small nursery to support his landscaping business.
He built his house on the farm and then started planting.
Although his daughter handles the farm’s social media presence, Burke said neither of his children was interested in taking over the farm.
“They had other interests by the time we came here,” he noted.
Burke has been recognized by the New Jersey Agricultural Society for his work with Farmers Against Hunger.
Because he runs a pick-your-own operation, he has many salvageable apples to donate.
He also works with America’s Grow-a-Row and the Nature’s Harvest, a local group that gleans area farms.
A relatively new group, Nature’s Harvest is doing more gleaning this year on area farms.
Burke was preparing for his big harvest festival which features a corn maze, arts and crafts vendors, live music and demonstrations and activities for children.