“It's easy for Americans to forget that the food they eat
doesn’t magically appear on a supermarket shelf.”
State 41: New Jersey May 28th, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Freehold, NJ well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, Rosie’s side door jammed partly opened, and we needed to get it fixed ASAP! Complicating matters further, today is Memorial Day, and there were not many repair shops open. Thankfully. it did not rain last night, or we would have gotten soaked while we slept! Apparently, the reverse “Rain Dance” Lori and I performed late last night must have worked! My Uncle Mike referred us to Al, Owner of Ultimate Auto Body, who agreed to meet us at his shop at 10:30 am. After two hours of pulling, pushing, poking, prodding, and lubing, Al finally fixed Rosie's side door! Hooray! Thank you Al and Uncle Mike! Please see the pictures below of Rosie’s side door getting repaired.
After departing Ultimate Auto Body, we drove 55 miles Northwest to Chester for the Cross Country Couple's; “Made in the USA” Tour for New Jersey: Alstede Farms! Since we are in the Garden State it seemed only appropriate a farm should be our chosen tour. Alstede Farms is the first family farm we have toured on our year long cross country trip, because tragically there just are not many family farms left in America. When Michele, our GPS, proclaimed “Arrive at Alstede Farms in one mile on your right”, Nate and I looked at each other in disbelief. We were currently in the town of Chester, NJ surrounded by shopping centers, office buildings and restaurants, which is not the typical environment one would expect to find a family farm. Sure enough, a ½ mile further down the road, the commercialism gave way to acre after acre of open land. I did not know such wide open space existed in Northern Jersey in one of the most densely populated places in America.
When visiting a farm, you never know what you are about to encounter. Some simply consist of a roughly constructed roadside produce stand, and others are over commercialized tourist traps. Alstede Farms appears to have hit the sweet spot between the two with entertainment, nourishment, education and the opportunity to connect with nature. This is a place I could easily see myself coming just to hang out, and relax on a Saturday afternoon! Please see the pictures below of our arrival at Alstede Farms.
After parking Rosie, I entered the farm store, and was told to wait outside in the petting zoo where Maxine would soon meet us. Off I went across the parking lot enroute to the petting zoo, and I encountered the most unusual contraption of my cross country trip from which a sign hung “New Jersey’s First Goat Walk”. Before me stood a series of wooden ramps with guardrails extending high above my head. Wait... it gets even more interesting! There is a hand crank conveyor belt leading from ground level up to the top of the goat walk. If you wish to feed the goat. You purchase pellets from a coin operated machine, load the pellets into a cup connected to the conveyor belt, and manually crank the handle until the food reaches the goat! The goats appeared to be happy and well cared for! Please see the pictures below.
Inside one of the pens was the most adorable fuzzy chick, so tiny he was able to squeeze between the holes in the fence. The mother chicken on the opposite side was visibly stressed being separated from her chick. I tired to corral the chick back into the pen, but the little bugger was too fast. Behind us I heard a voice say, “Did he escape again?”. The lady reached down and easily scooped up the tiny chick, and placed him back into the pen with his momma. The lady introduced herself as Alstede Farm's Brand Manager, Maxine Finney. After asking the chicks name, Maxine stated no one has named him, and suggested I give him one. I squatted down near the fence, looked the cute chick right in the eye, and publicly proclaimed, “Your name is Houdini”. Maxine responded, “What a wonderful name for such a slick chick who keeps escaping”. Below are pics of Houdini, his mom and some of the other animals we encountered.
With Houdini safely back in his pen, Maxine explained farming practices of Alstede Farms. Set on over 600 permanently preserved acres, Alstede Farms is a family owned and operated farm offering hay rides, pony rides, PYO (Pick your own) produce, homemade ice cream, petting zoo, farm equipment museum, educational workshops, and the freshest home grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Health, freshness, quality of life, hard work, honesty, integrity, community service, and reverence towards God, are the core values by which Alstede Farms operates enabling healthy, sustainable, nutritious food to be locally grown in a responsible way. All of their produce is sold directly to customers! No wholesale here!
Alstede’s farming, stewardship, and conservation practices center around using sustainable, NON GMO and USDA certified organic production methods. A portion of the farm is certified organic, and undergoes rigorous annual inspections and audits to ensure compliance. Alstede Farms is the largest organic farm in Morris County, NJ. Crop varieties native to New Jersey are selected or specifically bred to thrive in the Garden State, eliminating the need for GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops. From regular soil testing to monitoring plant nutrient levels, Alstede Farms uses only sustainable and natural growing methods to preserve their land. Water conservation is taken very seriously, and center around trickle flow irrigation to insure water is only applied in the exact place and at the exact time that it is needed. Pheromone trapping, erecting fences to keep deer out, and predatory insects, are all part of Integrated Pest Management or IPM practices tremendously reducing the farms dependence upon pesticides. “Dignity Prices” are charged for all produce to ensure that every employee receives benefits and living wages.
While Maxine was finishing up, we were greeted by Alstede's Farm Steward; Sam Walmer who would be taking us on the tour of the farm. With a hearty bellow, Sam said, “Nice to meet you both! Follow Me!”. I was expecting a walking tour or perhaps a scenic tractor ride throughout the farm. Imagine my surprise when Sam led us to a two seat ATV, invited me to sit shotgun, told Nate to hop in the back, and it was raining! I was not expecting an ATV to be my chariot for the day, but why the hell not! I hopped in the passengers seat, Nate hopped in the back, Sam hit the throttle, and we were tearing through the farm's dirt roads seconds later!
As Sam drove us around the farm, he pointed out the crops grown on the land sprawling out before us. Pears! Apples! Lettuce! Asparagus! Tomatoes! Peaches! Cider Mill! Christmas Trees! Flowers! Beehives where honey is harvested! Even a sunflower maze, corn maze, and pumpkin patch for the fall! Of particular interest were the stone ruins of an old homestead, which will one day be turned into a farm to table restaurant! Despite being bounced around in the back of the ATV in the rain, Nate did a great job at taking the pictures below.
Shame on me! I almost forgot to mention the strawberries! Oh the heavenly strawberries! Sam pulled over the ATV, invited me to “Hop on out to try the best strawberry of your life!” I cautiously made my way across the muddy dirt road towards a nearby strawberry bush as the rain suddenly intensified. I bent down at the second bush I encountered, plucked a large firm bright red luscious strawberry, and brought it to my mouth to take a bite. All I can say is Holy Shit!!! The strawberry tasted as if I had suckled mother nature's bosom!!! I was so engrossed in my strawberry, I seemed to have lost all sense of time, and forgot I was standing in the pouring rain! Out of the blue, I heard Nate yell from the back of the ATV, “Lori, are you alright over there?” I did not respond! I was having a moment with my strawberry, and did not wish to be disturbed! I did not care I was standing in a mud puddle in the middle of a New Jersey field in the pouring rain. I just did not want this moment to come to an end! The lyrics of John Lennon’s song, “Strawberry Fields Forever” now made perfect sense. Eventually, Nate hopped out of the back of the ATV, snapped me back to reality, and escorted me back to the ATV! Please see the pictures below of me partaking in the best strawberry of my entire life!
One of the last stops on our ATV tour was a greenhouse where tomatoes were grown. Providing its vegetarian, I like almost any and all foods, but there is one thing I absolutely despise. I hate, Hate, HATE, fresh tomatoes!!! The taste, smell and texture of tomatoes nauseates me! I am still traumatized from the famous food for Alabama; Fried Green Tomatoes, which you can read more about my clicking here.
As soon as Sam brought the ATV to a stop, he turned to me and said, “Hop on out, and try the best tomato you will ever taste!” I felt my stomach wince, and a huge lump form in the back of my throat. Lori was sitting in the front seat fighting back laughter, because she knows how I loathe tomatoes. Since Lori likes tomatoes, I was hoping she would eat one in my place. Instead, Lori hopped out of the ATV with camera in hand, and said, “I have to get a picture of this”. I guess I am eating a damn tomato!
Sam took time out of his busy day to give us a tour, and freely shared his crops with pride and grace. There was no way I could decline his offer! I made my way into the greenhouse in search of the tiniest tomato I could find. A few moments later, I plucked a bright red plump cherry tomato off the vine, slowly brought it to my mouth, chomped down, and the tomato exploded in my mouth with a forceful SQUISH! I was quite surprised and impressed by the flavor and freshness of the tomato! I must admit Sam was right! Although you can not tell from my facial expressions in the pictures below, it was the best tomato I have ever had in my life, but I still do not like tomatoes!
Upon conclusion of the tour, Sam dropped us back off at the farm store, and Nate and I wasted no time loading up on tasty healthy treats! I headed directly for the quarts of strawberries, and Nate picked out a container of asparagus pesto. In addition, the farm store was fully stocked with local honey, homemade ice cream, fudge, home baked pies, jams, jellies, cider donuts and over 200 types of fruits, vegetables and flowers grown at the farm! They even have a chef on staff tasked with concocting new and exciting recipes. Where else can you get asparagus pesto? Please see the pictures below!
The Alstede family are not just farmers; they are good stewards of the patch of earth entrusted in their care. With their permanently preserved land, the Alstede Family has been bestowed upon both the tremendous honor and tremendous responsibility of nourishing their community. Our nation's desperately need more places like Alstede Farms! Next time you need to pick up some produce think outside of the big box stores, and seek out and support the family farms in your community. What a wonderful fun, exciting and delicious day we had at Alstede Farms! I did not want to leave! Please see additional pictures below!
In Colonial times, agriculture was the livelihood of 90% of Americans, and today the number stands at a shockingly low 2%! Many argue freeing up the population from farming allowed Americans to branch out into infinite disciplines furthering our society. Even if we land a man on Mars and find the cure for cancer, our primal needs have not changed. Humans still need to eat! While pursuit of progress is a noble venture, the drastic decline in the number of American farmers over the past two centuries has had dire consequences! Today, the top three seed companies collectively account for 53% of the world's seed market, and 10 companies control almost every large food and beverage brand in the world. Does anyone else finding these numbers terrifying?
Strolling down the supermarket isles would leave the consumer to falsely believe they have infinite choices. From Campbell's Soup to Oreos and almost everything in between, America’s most iconic brands are owned by a small group of powerful companies who place profits before the health of people. These companies use low quality ingredients, dangerous pesticides, artificial flavors/colors and growth hormones simply because it makes them more money! In 2012 alone, powerful Agricultural Lobbyists spent over $30 million to influence the policies enacted by law makers and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). When corporations instead of science are used to determine the safety of our food, clearly something is seriously wrong with the system!
If Americans want to know why the cost of healthcare is so high, they need look no further than the nutritionless food we eat daily! If you require proof, the next time you go grocery shopping, try to fill your cart with items not containing: high fructose corn syrup, pesticide laden produce, GMO’s, palm kernel oil, rBST dairy, MSG, gelatin, cottonseed oil, aspartame or margarine. Good Luck!
What are some simple things we can we do to get acess to quality nutrious food?
-Grow your own garden with non GMO seeds!
-Get to know your local farmer, and their farming practices!
-Shop the perimeter of the supermarket (perishable = less preservatives)
-The fewer ingredients an item contains the healther it is!
-Avoid products whose ingredient list reads like a chemistry equation!
-Say NO to GMO’s, non-organic produce, rBST dairy, aspartame, and margarine!
-Always buy the highest quality food you can find and afford!
Henry Kissinger once said, “He who controls the food supply controls the people”. For the first time is our nation's history, the children of today have a shorter life expectancy than their parents! Now more than ever, we all must remain extra vigilant of what we are putting into our bodies! Remember, you can either pay the farm today, or you can pay the pharmacy tomorrow. The choice is each of ours to make!
After departing Alstede Farms, we drove 16 miles East to Cedar Knolls where we found a Walmart to spend our last night in New Jersey.