This past weekend Dream and I were treated to a tour of one of New Jersey’s biggest commercial produce farms. Now your first thought might be “Jersey ewwww, who wants to go there?” Little known fact, Jersey is actually known as the Garden State. The soil in New Jersey is some of the best in the world for things like tomatoes and sweet corn, and Stella Farms produces A LOT of it.
Our guide for the day was Eddie Stella, a friend of my grandparents and son of the famous (even if just in the South Jersey area) Ed Stella who passed away just last summer at 97-years old. Before taking off in Eddie’s red pick up truck for a tour of the crops he mentioned that his father’s constant motto was “the key to a long and healthy life is to eat what is grown on this farm and close to home.”
Out on the farm, our first stop was a freshwater lake with natural underground springs. At 90-feet deep this lake produced enough water to irrigate the entire farm, which is a major feet for a farm of this size.
Following the lake we toured the fields where hundreds of basil, cabbage and lettuce plants grow. Inspired to make pesto I picked up a couple of bunches of basil for myself.
Next came the fields and fields of Jersey tomatoes. I can’t even accurately explain to you the mountains of tomatoes of every variety we saw. While driving through the fields we asked Eddie some of the tough questions that all food enthusiasts wonder about our food.
What kind of seeds do you use? Non-GMO, Non-scary big corporation we shall not name. Pesticides? Natural, but necessary (the deer in New Jersey are out of control and will eat their entire crop if not)
Organic? Bullshit, local is way more important. You loose all the nutrients in your food when it’s been traveling for days to get to you.
Back at the farm stand we were pumped up. Seeing where your food comes from can really do that to you. Baskets in hand, we went a little nuts on the shopping. We grabbed practically a bushel of tomatoes, eggplants galore, basil, peppers, lots of corn, peaches and cantaloupe. We talked to Eddie a bit more about how to can and freeze our precious produce so we can enjoy fresh and local all winter long and then we hit the road. $21 dollars later, I can’t image ever buying $4.99 a pound tomatoes from Whole Paycheck again.