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                        Gardeners of Somerset Valley
February 2015					From: Mitch Greenbaum

NEXT "MEETING": Wednesday, February 18, 7:30pm at the North Branch Reformed Church

Dear GOSV: Honestly, have you ever wanted to be a farmer? In an ideal world this would be a wonderful occupation until things like seven day work weeks, long physically demanding days, the cost of land, machinery, seeds and livestock and other obstacles get in the way. On the other hand, even in NJ perhaps the most expensive and overbuilt state in the country there appears to be a renaissance of young entrepreneurs returning to working the land as not only a way to earn a living but also a bigger mission, to change for the better how people eat. Last month we learned about regular folks renting plots at the Wagner Farms community garden and for the most part finding success growing their own vegetables. And though Duke Farms in Hillsborough also has a robust community garden with more than 450 active plots, because of the bounty of a large trust, this institution can take things a step further and rent land and provide support to men and women who dare to make farming their dream occupation.

Jon Knox is the owner and operator of Dogwood Farms where most of the growing and raising takes place adjacent to the array of solar panels at Duke Farms. He was born in NJ, spent some time plying his trade in Colorado, eventually came home and will talk about his life journey to become an organic farmer. These new boutique type operations do not use million dollar air conditioned John Deere tractors, nor plant miles upon miles of GMO crops supported by tons of fertilizers and herbicides. Instead animals are treated humanely and fed healthy often tasty diets, in example pigs enjoy excess salad greens and something unique, whey provided by a mozzarella cheese plant which they apparently absolutely love and devour. Many of the vegetables are heirlooms, never exposed to anything inorganic and are absolutely delicious. Jon will explain the leasing arrangement and support he receives from Duke Farms, and briefly touch upon National Organic Farming Association practices used on the property. He operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm sharing program for about 200 members and considers his customers part of his extended agricultural family. Even during the busy growing season he and wife Kim always find time to offer hands-on education, camps and tours for local youth. Dogwood has a wholesale side, and after you learn about the restaurants that have contracts you are going to want to frequent those establishments and ask if Dogwood meats and vegetables are on the menu that day. Every Saturday from May to end of season Jon can be found at Duke under a tent selling his products and seemingly never gets tired talking about his work. Jon and Kim have a great zest for life that will be quite evident and you really donít want to miss this program.

Just a friendly reminder, if not done so already, please bring in your dues checks.

The club is still looking for a new President, Vice President and trustee. No one has volunteered yet.

Please see the attachment about a program offered by the American Boxwood Society held at Longwood Gardens.

Later this week is the start of the NJ Flower Show, a sure sign spring will eventually come to NJ.

Happy Valentineís Day!