By Desirée Taylor
DePiero’s Country Farm, a staple in Montvale for decades, has plans to downsize to make room for Wegman’s supermarket. Even though the farm isn’t going out of business, longtime customers have mixed reactions about the plan.
“I think it’s very sad because the open spaces and the natural things that you grow here, it’s a good thing,” said Elfie Schnellbacher of Bergenfield.
“We kind of like Wegman’s. … It has very good food,” said Bowley Moore of Paramus. “But it’s not the same balance. Is progress going to do away with our traditional roots of farming?”
That’s the question other residents are asking. Back in 1997 there were 131 farms in Bergen County. By 2007 there were 89. A stark reminder of the changing landscape here is Tice’s Corner, a shopping mall that replaced Tice Farm.
Bowley Moore has fond memories of taking his daughter to Tice’s and Van Riper’s farm which has been replaced by a supermarket. He fears future generations won’t be able to get this same experience. “You can tell the kids about them but unless you walk the fields … you’ll never know the past history,” said Moore.
Until recently, the number of farms across the state was decreasing. Between 1958 and 2007, New Jersey lost 8,000 farms. But since then the total number of farms has stabilized. “We’re losing a few …. but that number has stabilized to about 10,300 farms across the state, ” said Douglas Fisher, New Jersey’s Agriculture Secretary. He added that some farm operations are changing and are smaller but they’re productive which he believes is a good sign for the state.
New Jersey’s farmland preservation is also helping. So far, 200,000 acres have been preserved. The goal is to preserve 500,000 acres across the state.
The manager of Demarest Farm, a family owned farm in Hillsdale which has been in business for 127 years, says this farm has been able to survive by adapting to the changing marketplace. One way they do this is through agri-tourism. By offering hayrides, pick your own fruit and other family fun activities manager Jason DeGise says they keep customers coming to the farm throughout the year.
But farmers face many challenges, from inclement weather to rising costs and competition from supermarkets. But DeGise plans to make sure Demarest Farm stays in businesses for years to come.