Delmarva Farmer

Circle Brook determined to let nothing go to waste



John Krueger gave a tour and explained his organic growing practices at Circle Brook Farm to a group of students from Princeton University. (Photo courtesy of Foodshed Alliance)

ANDOVER — The word “kindness” is not on the list of crops grown at Circle Brook Farm, but it’s one of the most abundant that emanate from its fields. Rather than letting excess produce die on the vine or be placed in a compost heap, Circle Brook Farm has strived to donate its organic vegetables to help feed people in need in northern New Jersey.
In 2022, Circle Brook Farm donated more than 20 tons of produce.
This farm includes about 80 acres of land in Andover, New Jersey; about 50 acres are tillable. The ag operation is a certified organic vegetable farm.
John Krueger is the owner of this Sussex County farm.
Much of his farming is based on providing produce for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs in communities throughout the area.
He noted that the membership rolls have seen ups and downs through the years, with the highest number at almost 900 members in 2020/21. The number is about 600 members in 2023.
“For the most part, we deliver to central pickup locations for the CSAs,” Krueger said. “We deliver in northern and central New Jersey, including as far as Monmouth and Ocean Counties.”
The local CSA programs do their own marketing among current and potential members.
In addition to the CSA programs, Circle Brook Farm sells produce at 6 farmers markets in Denville, Fair Lawn, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Montclair. Sales are done on individual days — Saturdays through Thursdays — each week in each community, with sales on two different days each week in Jersey City. The farmers markets typically operate from May through November.
Consumers seek out organic vegetables from Circle Book Farm primarily through word-of-mouth from current customers.
Much of the produce donated by Circle Brook Farm is provided to LocalShare, a program of Foodshed Alliance, a non-profit organization. The farm has been donating to LocalShare for years.
In a statement issued by LocalShare, the organization detailed that Circle Brook Farm donated 41,111 pounds of produce to the organization during 2022.
Donations of produce from the farm have continued throughout 2023, with gleaning efforts undertaken by LocalShare at various times during the year. Thus far, to date, 20,375 pounds of produce were donated in 2023.
“Gleaning is actually a fairly small portion of what we donate,” stated Krueger. “It’s less than 5% of our donations. Much of what is gleaned are root crops and crops that are labor intensive to harvest — beans, peppers, and watermelons, for example.”
The vast majority of the produce donated by Circle Brook Farm, Krueger explained, comes from crops culled from organic vegetables that the farm itself has already harvested. These vegetables may be ones that are not considered for sale commercially — misshapen carrots, for example — but are still edible.
“LocalShare comes to the farm and picks up our excess organic vegetables usually twice a week,” Krueger said. “They then distribute the produce through their network to feed people in need.”
“Before LocalShare, we struggled as to what to do with our excess produce,” he continued. “We ended up throwing much of it on compost heaps. Tons of vegetables. I wasn’t happy.”
Krueger noted that “I realize that there is a lot of need. A lot of energy goes into producing the vegetables. It’s a shame for that food to go to waste.”
Christine Sharp Parauda, LocalShare Coordinator of Foodshed Alliance, stated that the donated produce “…is delivered to food pantries in Sussex, Warren and Morris counties. Pantry partners pick up food at coolers we have in 3 locations, one in Warren County and two in Sussex County. This allows them to pick up on the day(s) they are open and reduces the barrier of not having cold storage on site. This is important for smaller pantries that desire food for recipients but don’t have the means to store it.”
“Circle Brook Farm has been a cornerstone of the LocalShare program since its inception,” Ms. Paruda continued. “The desire to see that nothing is wasted and genuine care for the community drives John Krueger to share his surplus with us and, in turn, the community.”
She said that “John is an amazing partner welcoming our volunteers onto his farm to glean, hosting group outings, and educating young students we invite to the farm. Passion for this work always shines through. His commitment to using all the food he lovingly grows and serving those in need around him has had a huge ripple effect.”

 

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