349 Mattison Reservoir Ave
Branchville, NJ 07826
Phone: 973 948-0906
The Farm Store is open on Saturday from 8-4 and by appointment. We always say if we're home we're open...but please call ahead!
NCS at the Sussex County Fairgrounds Conservatory
Saturday November 22nd from 10-4
St. Joseph's School on Halstead Street in Newton
Saturday December 6th from 10-4
The Fairgrounds Farmer's market continues until November 22nd! It's Saturdays from 9-2, so visit us there for soap, canned goods, honey and lotion!
It's not too early to reserve your kid for next spring! Prices start at $200. A deposit of $50 will hold your choice!
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Helping to feed your family since 1992!
As a child my father instilled the importance of treating every living thing with respect. This is what we believe, and this is the way we treat everything under our care at DanaRay Farm.
Biodynamic farming is another type of natural farming that follows a different set of practices from organic farming and is in many ways stricter than organic farming. It embraces the idea that the farm should be thought of as an living organism that must be cared for as a whole and be in balance with nature.
Greeting from DanaRay Farm,
Yes I know it’s been forever…
So there’s been a 20 foot tall inflatable nutcracker in front of Lowe’s for at least a month so I suppose it’s not too early…
For the perfect stocking stuffer, teacher’s gift, or small thoughtful reminder of your affection over the holiday season think homegrown and homemade canned goods. Or perhaps some fragrant and skin smoothing goat’s milk soap. Perhaps you know someone with dry chapped skin? Our goat’s milk and honey lotion is just the thing…we now return to our (ir) regularly scheduled newsletter…
Back in the beginning of the summer, when the springtime greens were still going strong but the first of the summer crops were coming on I had four CSA shareholders come in in a row within a ten minute period. Shareholder number one extolled the quantity of the share. Saying something along the lines of… “We get ALL this! This is amazing!” I must admit I was quite pleased with the share. Everyone got 2 large heads of lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, and then a long list of choices including snap peas, beets, kohlrabi, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, the first onions, beans, summer squash, garlic scapes, escarole and the very first cherry tomatoes from the high tunnel.
Shareholder number two arrived immediately on the heels of number one and said… “A little light for this time of year, don’t you think?” No, I thought. I think it’s an awesome share and I picked for ten hours yesterday just to get it all in. I reassured the customer not to worry, the shares would get bigger.
Shareholder number three passed number two in front of the first of the canned goods and grabbed a couple dozen eggs and stopped to study the blackboard with all the choices listed. “Oh my god, there’s so many great choices, how will I ever choose? Dana I think you add something new every year.” Well, actually I try to add several something new every year. After a lot of hemming he made his choices, thanking me for all I do.
Shareholder number four arrives as number three is pulling out of the driveway. She stands in front of the board. “Do you have tomatoes?” Yes. “No, real big tomatoes, not those little ones.” The field tomatoes don’t start to ripen until early August. That’s where the big ones are. “They have them in the food store.” They’re not from around here. “They say they’re Jersey tomatoes.” South Jersey…way way South Jersey…or they’re from a greenhouse. “Even the farm stands have them, and the farmer’s markets.” They’re from South Jersey. She finally agrees to take my lousy little cherry tomatoes. She sighs and once again peruses the list. “Do you have any cucumbers?” Next week, I assure her. “Eggplant?” Also next week. “It’s just we’ve had all these greens (making it sound like a dirty word.)…for so long now…” How about some yellow squash? I suggest…it’s certainly not green. “Well…I’d rather have zucchini.” I assured her you could substitute the yellow squash for any recipe that called for zucchini. She studied the board again hoping for inspiration. “Dana, are these the only choices you have…”
A woman came into the stand at the farmer’s market at the fairgrounds. Ray runs this stand on Saturday as I’m home with the CSA. From her bag she pulls a half empty jar of Jardinière. Jardinière is a pickled mix of just about everything, containing cucumbers, summer squash, peppers, onions, carrots and celery in a savory spiced cider vinegar brine with a little bit of sugar. “This has sugar in it.” Ray checked the label and mentioned that it does say so on the label. “It’s just that I’m trying to watch my sugar…and when I make it I don’t put sugar in it.” Ray asked if there was something wrong with. “No actually it’s quite good…it’s just I’m trying to watch my sugar.” She did eat half the jar, it must have been pretty good. Ray finally just gave her her money back. Of course she just happened to be munching on an apple cider donut at the time!
Another farmer friend has a large farm along a busy highway which is great for her large established farm store. It also means she has come across a lot of picnickers using her fields as a campsite. One particularly large extended family had started a campfire and were roasting hotdogs as the wife picked cutting flowers. She had stomped through some new baby lettuce transplants to get to the flowers. When they were asked to leave, and to please take your garbage with you they became indignant, they hadn’t finished their picnic. When asked if they had seen the “No Trespassing” sign they said they had but certainly that didn’t apply to them!
“If I buy two do I get a discount?” No. I’m sorry. She was holding up a jar of our hand lotion. “How about three?” No. I’m sorry. “It’s just I really like it, I got it last week, and I wondered if you could give me a discount.” We really don’t make that much on it… “Could I buy it in a bigger jar?” This is the only size we make it in. “How about if I buy a jar of lotion and a bar of soap for $10.” The cost is $11. We do offer a discount if you buy three bars of soap. Or we wholesale the soap but you have to buy a whole box which is 49 bars. Ray has been up since 3am to feed the livestock. I got up before 5 and picked the lettuce and together we packed everything, produce, eggs, honey, canned goods, soap and lotion and drive to Hopatcong. We arrive about 7:30 and set up the tent and everything in it. We’re ready to sell by 9. By this time Ray has already been up for 6 hours and he’s tired. “Lady,” he explains patiently. “A jar of lotion is $7.50. If you don’t buy it doesn’t go bad, we’ll sell to someone else.” She pauses and looks at the jar. “Are you sure you can’t offer a discount?”
So back when I had a real job there was a young receptionist. She was in her early twenties and had just gotten married. Her father and husband owned a very successful mason business. They all drove nice expensive new cars, she drove her new BMW to her $10 an hour office job. She and her new husband were building a new house. Her parent’s home backed up to a large orchard just outside of Warwick and over the course of her short stint at the imaging center she would talk of how her family would go and pick from the orchard. Starting with cherries, and peaches, plums and nectarines, and finally the apple crop they would pick to their hearts content. They would share with their extended family, make dozens of pies and put up jars and jars of jams and jellies and sauce. And then she told me how the farmer had changed his routine. What? So? I queried. Well they couldn’t go into the orchard when the farmer was there, could they? They had to figure out the farmer’s new routine before they went back into the orchard to get more fruit. “So you’re stealing from the orchard?” No, she assured me, of course not. “Well, did you ask the farmer if you could pick his fruit?” No. But it’s all right there and he has so much! “Well, what if I walked into your mason yard and took a couple of hundred bricks, would that be stealing?” Of course it would! But what they were doing wasn’t the same at all. “But the farmer planted those trees, pruned them and cared for them over the course of the year and hoped for a good harvest, and you didn’t ask and took his crop and that’s not stealing?” Dana, she assured me, it’s not the same at all. If anyone ever told me they were hungry I would feed them if I could…and I’m sure the owner of that orchard would say the same thing.
A couple arrived at the farm. If you ever happen to come to the farm there’s usually chickens running around everywhere. And it’s not like we have just a couple as window dressing…there are several hundred chickens running, scratching, fighting all over and everywhere. Spanish was their first language and with just a bit of work we managed to understand each other. They wanted to buy eggs, but they wanted to make sure these were our eggs, not eggs we had bought from someone else and were reselling. I gestured broadly, first this way and then that at the chicken chaos all around us. He looked around and started to laugh…yes I had convinced him they were our eggs.
“Do you spray?”
“But you’re organic.”
“Well, technically we’re certified naturally grown using biodynamic principles…”
“We can’t use the word organic because it’s a term owned by the government…”
“But, you’re natural…”
“But you spray.”
“Yes. But only if I have to. I’ve been using a lot of floating row covers on crops that don’t need a pollinator. But if the bugs get out of hand I only use those products found in nature. Like pyrethrum, it’s an extract made from chrysanthemums. Or BT, it’s a bacteria that kills caterpillars.”
“But why do you spray?”
“Because people won’t buy buggy food and it’s the easiest way to get the pesticide on the plant.”
A friend of ours owns an orchard. He uses conventional methods to control insects and disease. But he uses a system called IPM, integrated pest management, you only apply the insecticide or fungicide when the problem is present, thereby lessening the use of these toxic and very expensive chemicals. I heard him being grilled by a potential customer. He patiently explains about IPM, how he would rather not have to spray at all but that customers expect perfect fruit. She assured him she doesn’t expect perfect fruit and that he should be organic. After about five minutes of back and forth she agrees to buy a pint of red heart plums. She chooses a basket and as our friend goes to put them in her bag she points out a plum that has some spots…the damage caused by an insect called the plum curculio. “What’s wrong with that one?!” she demands. “That one,” our friend tells her, “is organic.”
The new alfalfa field had been planted the previous year, it was now early June and ready to be cut for the first time. However some new neighbors from the suburbs had moved in the week before, a new neighbor with teenage boys with ATVs. They made a racetrack around the perimeter of the five acre field and an “x” through the middle. When the farmer confronted the boy’s father the father became angry. “It’s just grass, it’s just a field!” “It’s my alfalfa field and they’ve destroyed about a third of the crop…not only this year’s crop but the plants!” The argument continued until the farmer said, “How would you like it if I dropped my plow and made a circle around your house, around your lawn?” “That’s new sod! You wouldn’t dare! I’d have you arrested!” The farmer cut the remaining alfalfa and plowed and reseeded the edges and fought an unending battle with the boys with the ATVs from the suburbs until he finally fenced in the field and put steers out there. And then the father complained about the smell of the manure.
Our feed dealer was given the gift of a lot of sweet corn from one of his customers. The feed dealer wanted to give them something for it but his customer was happy someone could use it. The customer was going to use it for animal feed. So our feed dealer ate some fresh and then froze the rest. The problem was ear worms, not a lot of them, just a few but no one would buy it because of the worms. The customer grew an open pollinated heirloom variety without the use of pesticides, thinking people wanted a natural product…
I made a large sign for the fair that said “Dairy Goats for Sale.” And then on the sign there were some pictures of our lovely does and some additional information. After the fair was over Ray hung it on the wall behind our stand at the fairground farmer’s market. A woman came into the stand and Ray said she studied the sign for a long moment and looked very confused, finally she asked… “Dirty goats for sale?” Ray looked at the sign and then back at the woman… “DAIRY goats for sale!” OK maybe it was wasn’t my most clear lettering ever…
“Look at this! The second ingredient is sugar!” An older gentleman says shocked and staring at the label of my raspberry jam. We’re at Springfest, he’s sampled my jam and found it tasty but he’s now nearly enraged that the second ingredient happens to be sugar. But sir, I assure him, there’s only four ingredients in my jam…raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and pectin…and you don’t use a lot of lemon juice or pectin, so... “But still…the second ingredient is SUGAR!”
We love our customers, we really do, and good many of them have become much more than just customers, they have become good friends. But sometimes…
Talk to you soon…
Or at least a lot sooner!
Dana and Ray
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