When New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the closing of most retail businesses in his “stay-at-home” order to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, he exempted “grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers.” That’s great news because our local farmers are a valuable resource during a crisis—and ready to nourish you with fresh, healthy food. We are still the Garden State, after all, with considerable capacity to feed our local population.

It’s easy to have overlooked the rebound in on-farm markets in Central Jersey, because they are located away from our main retail corridors, but they are well worth regular trips, not only for high quality food and beverage products, but also for scenic drives and fresh-air farm visits as permitted under the governor’s order—provided you maintain “social distancing.” Some farms even deliver!

Local farms, restaurants, and beverage makers recently have been working together to get the word out, through the Discover Central New Jersey agritourism initiative.

TERHUNE ORCHARDS is one of the best known of these farms, having served the area for four decades from its location between Princeton, Hopewell, and Lawrence townships. Owner Pam Mount says the farm has met the state’s highest food handling safety requirements and has “doubled-down on cleaning and removing all health hazards.” Their store is offering their own apples, cider, lettuce, herbs, Terhune wine, and baked goods, plus a full line of fruits, vegetable, eggs, and milk sourced from other farms. Amid the pandemic, they accept online and phone orders with on-farm pick-up or deliver within 10 miles. They are open 7 days per week.

BOBOLINK DAIRY & BAKEHOUSE in Milford near the Delaware River is renowned for a unique, Central Jersey approach to cheesemaking, grass-fed beef and whey-fed pork. They bake distinctive breads with regional grains and the farm store carries house-made charcuterie; eggs from their own cage-free, soy-free chickens; fresh 100% grass-fed milk, cream, butter and chocolate milk from Lancaster, PA. Since the health crisis, they encourage advance orders online or by phone for delivery to your car outside. They are also starting a program of free delivery on orders of $50 or more, with 2 days’ notice and within 20 minutes of the farm. Open every day except Tuesday.

BRICK FARM MARKET is a leader in the local food movement and has a popular farm market featuring pastured meats and eggs from their own farm, Double Brook Farm, in Hopewell, and a large selection of produce, sundries, cheese, juices, NJ Fresh milk, butter and cream from area farms and purveyors. They also have an in-house bakery making daily breads and sweets. They have seen an explosion of demand since the health emergency as the locals are taking them up on curbside pickup and free delivery within 15 miles on orders of $50 or more. Check their website for updates, order forms, menus, and safety rules. Currently the store is closed to shoppers, with all business done by phone or online order  They have modified hours from 10-6pm Wednesday through Saturday.

The counter at Brick Farm Market are available with social distancing.

CHERRY GROVE FARM is best known for cheeses, grass-fed beef, and whey-fed pork. They have a wide variety of locally made food products in a store open 7 days per week, 10-5pm, off Route 206 in Lawrenceville. Because of the health crisis, they are closing the store daily from 1-2pm for a thorough cleaning, and no more than 5 people are allowed in the store at once, to maintain social distances.  Fortunately, if you find yourself arriving at a busy or closed time, there are farm trails to walk and animals to see.  Also due to the crisis, Cherry Grove is offering free delivery (orders of $60+) on Wednesdays and Fridays (orders by noon the day prior) within a 30-minute drive of the farm.

GRIGGSTOWN FARM MARKET has a Princeton mailing address but is in Franklin Township. They are best known for their own poultry and prepared foods, including Griggstown’s famous chicken and turkey pot pies.  Almost any visit to the store involves a drive along the Millstone Valley National Scenic Byway and the D&R Canal State Park, where tow-path strolls are permitted during the shutdown.  In addition to farm-made fruit pies, pot pies, chicken sausages, chicken salad, stuffed ravioli, and breads, they also carry produce and dairy from nearby farms. They are open 7 days per week.

HIDDEN SPRING LAVENDER – This on-farm market is in the Skillman section of Montgomery, offering culinary lavender, tea, and honey, plus a wide range of lavender lotions, creams, perfumes, and plush toys. The store is expanding hours early this year to every Saturday and Sunday, 10-4pm, in order to spread out customer visits. No more than five people are allowed in the store at one time, and they offer a curb-side pickup if you call ahead.  Visit the alpacas while you’re on the farm.

NORZ-HILL FARM is on the western side of Hillsborough Township has 24/7 “egg shed” with an honor system. Since the crisis, they have expanded off-season hours to meet community needs. Norz-Hill raised beef and pork are now available for purchase five days per week: 2-6pm Mon. & Fri; 10-2pm Weds. & Sat.; noon-4pm Sundays.   Norz-Hill’s beef and pork animals are raised humanely, without artificial growth hormones and all-natural feed, hay, and okra. They also offer a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.

Rich & Debbie Norz of Norz-Hill Farm.

SKILLMAN FARM MARKET’S butcher shop in Montgomery sells organic, pasture-raised beef, pork, and poultry.  During the health crisis, they have closed the store itself to the public and converted to phone orders and driveway pick-ups only, Thursday (noon-6pm); Friday (10-6pm); Saturday and Sunday (9:30 to 3).

For wholesome, perishable vegetables, dairy, and meat, nothing beats Central Jersey farms. Their markets are small, generally uncrowded, and naturally ventilated. If you want to avoid supermarkets, consider pairing regular trips to these on-farm markets with online shopping for non-perishable staples. Because circumstances can change quickly, you may wish to call ahead before heading out to farms.

Throughout most of American history, the farms of New Jersey played a crucial role. In the 1700s, New Jersey’s farms fed George Washington’s Continental Army during the Revolutionary War; in the 1800s, New Jersey served as the breadbasket to the rising New York metropolis; in the 1900s New Jersey played a key role in feeding wartime America.

Today, farmers of the Garden State are called again to serve us during a time of crisis.

Click on map to explore Central Jersey’s Canal Region