In 2018, FARMERS IN NEW JERSEY STRUGGLED WITH RAIN.
Rainfall in the state was the worst on record in more than 100 years, according to precipitation averages prepared by Rutgers University.
Water is of course vital for plants, but too much causes problems. The extreme precipitation destroyed crops and hurt the bottom-line, particularly for small farms like Sandbrook Meadow Farm.
Surrounded by trees and with the rolling landscape of the Sourland Mountain range to its east, the farm is part of a rural enclave just north of Lambertville in Hunterdon County. It serves a small community of 300 members with its weekly CSA produce share.
In 2019, though threats loomed, rainfall has been less detrimental and the farmers at Sandbrook have had a chance to regroup.
We asked farm manager Megan Roe to share with us what her life has been like at Sandbrook this year, and why despite the challenges, she’s so inspired to work there.
We found Megan’s words beautiful and relatable: the things that challenge us the most offer the deepest rewards.
HOMESICK FOR THE COLOR GREEN
By Megan Roe
as told to and edited by Bikeout staff
Farming is not in my background or family. I have no links to it.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, the area shut down. I realized how unprepared I was for that. I wanted to be more self-sufficient. So I went on a quest to build skills.
Around the same time, my grandfather had a bout with lung cancer and conventional treatments weren’t working. I watched my mother and aunt maintain his health with what he ate. I realized how much life extension he got from food.
It all rolled into one. I got an internship on a farm, eventually started working at Sandbrook Meadow and became the manager.
The farm is 50 acres, but we grow on closer to six. Life on a farm is centered on the farm. You live your life in flow with the seasons. In the winter, I get homesick for the color green. And then spring comes and your eyes are filled with nature. I spend a lot of time in the field. I look on this beautiful landscape and it brings me peace. It reboots me.
The romantic notion of farming is not true. It’s uncomfortable. You sacrifice almost everything for it. It takes a toll on your mental state and your body. You’re always acknowledging that some things aren’t going to get done. Your crew is beside you six days a week and you couldn’t do this work without them.
It nourishes your soul and breaks your heart.
We farm diversified vegetables. Every year, you’re going to experience failures, so you hedge your bets. Some years, you’ll have an amazing tomato harvest. Others, tomatoes don’t do well. So you have other crops that carry you along. And rotating the crops is better for the land.
Our CSA is a meeting post and the community is amazing. A lot of friends and neighbors come here. People see each other and stop to talk about their kids. When people thank us and compliment our vegetables, it goes a long way. Some days, that’s the boost I need to know why I do this.
Last year, we lost our wholesale revenue to the rain. If you’re damp and wet, your body’s not going to do well. You’re going to get sick. Plants are the same way.
Disease travels on the rain and rain limits your ability to weed, till and plant. You can’t push a seeder through a muddy field. So, the rain limits your ability to work. And if you did, it could ruin the structure of your soil.
This year, there’s less rain. We can control water with irrigation and disease pressure is lower.
Autumn is your reward. The trees surrounding the farm are kissed with the sun and it glows. You get a cool breeze that comes down from the hill. The process of rest comes. You enjoy the company of your crew and develop a bond with an abundant harvest.
You breathe a little easier.