From left: Dan Lipow of Foraged Feast, Ben Del Coro of Fossil Farms, Ben Walmer of the Highlands Dinner Club, and Mike Carrino of Mike’s Pasta and Sandwich Shoppe created a feast to be remembered.

From left: Steven Aiello, Dark Earth Farms; Pete Tischler, Seek-No-Further Fruit Farm; Tim McDonald, Lionshead Bee Farm; and Daniel Aiello, Dark Earth Farms.

Sussex County Community College School of Agriculture’s Erin Collins is launching an organic Student Farm.

Brienn Youngman of Bread lock Botanicals (right) pictured here with her mother, Lisa, was the first to sign a lease for a SAgE site. She is now in her second growing season.

Michaeline Picaro, Munsee Three Sisters Medicine Farm.

It all began with a suggestion to break bread. It ended with the sun going down over a bonfire, emptied plates, and new bonds forged between farmers.

There are now six farms in the Foodshed Alliance’s Sustainable Agriculture Enterprise (SAgE) program on two locations in northwest New Jersey. SAgE is an innovative program that makes long-term affordable leases of preserved farmland available to farmers that are committed to natural and organic practices..

Starting a farm is time-consuming and exhausting, and it became clear to Eric Derby, SAgE Project Manager, there had to be an opportunity for the farmers to get together to get to know each other. One of the major goals of the SAgE program is help farmers collaborate with each other.

So the idea of a casual open-air barbeque on the farm was born. Support for the idea grew quickly and ended up with four chefs and the Foodshed Alliance Board of Trustees and staff stepping up to make it happen. Ben Del Coro of Fossil Farms, Mike Carrino of Mike’s Pasta and Sandwich Shoppe, Dan Lipow of Foraged Feast, and Ben Walmer of the Highlands Dinner Club collaborated on the menu, built a fire pit and a created a feast to be remembered.

We were honored to have all of the farmers in attendance who are subleasing land through the SAgE program on two pilot sites in Sussex County (290 Route 206 South, Newton, NJ 07860) and Warren County (2627 Route 57 East, Stewartsville NJ 08886).

  • Bread lock Botanicals is an organic seasonal cut-flower, vegetable and medicinal herb five-acre farm that specializes in CSA shares, wholesale and local farmers’ markets, while enhancing soil, water and air quality through sustainable, no-till practices. It is finishing its second growing season and is located at Bread lock Park in Stewartsville.
  • The Sussex County Community College School of Agriculture will operate a fully organic Student Farm on a five-acre plot, serving as an outdoor lab for Horticulture Science and Agriculture Business majors. They will start with cover crops, and transition to vegetables, herbs, and grains for the college’s Culinary and Hospitality department and the school’s food pantry.
  • The Munsee Three Sisters Medicine Farm is a Native American-owned company benefitting the Ramapough Lenape/Munsee group of indigenous people native to the highlands around Mahwah, N.J. by offering employment, growing food, and offering part of its of profits to social service programs. Munsee has been planting and growing heritage Lenape Native American seeds and plants on a nine-acre plot.
  • Dark Earth Farms is a first-generation biodynamic farm with a unique and innovative approach that will offer top quality hemp, vegetables and specialty products at an affordable price. They are leasing 13 acres to start a permaculture operation focusing on regenerative practices. Products will include hemp for wholesale, CBD products for direct consumer sales, vegetables, honey, and medicinal mushrooms.
  • Seek-No-Further Fruit Farm will grow fresh, organically certified tree fruit, berries, and vegetables to retail consumers, restaurants and wholesale distributors on 11+ acres.
  • Lionshead Bee Farm is located on the Sussex Country property and assists in pollinating its neighboring farms while producing honey products.

The SAgE program was created to make preserved farmland accessible to emerging and expanding organic farm businesses. While New Jersey has the second most expensive farmland in the country, it has preserved a higher percentage (29%) of its farmland than any state in the country.

Through the SAgE program, the Foodshed Alliance works in partnership with organizations that preserve farmland such as the Ridge and Valley Conservancy and County of Warren and acts as the linchpin connecting preserved farmland and sustainable farmers who want to grow healthy food:

  • Preserved farmland parcels owned by land trusts, municipalities, counties, etc. that are suitable for sustainable farm businesses are identified.
  • Easement-holding entities lease (minimum of 10 years) or transfer preserved parcels to the Foodshed Alliance for a nominal fee.
  • Farmers who wish to raise food sustainably are identified.
  • The Foodshed Alliance leases or sub-leases the preserved parcels to the farmers at reasonable rates.
  • The Foodshed Alliance stewards farmers leasing on the land, both identifying what they need to succeed and ensuring they adhere to the agreements of the sub-lease and the farm management plan they submitted.
  • The Foodshed Alliance connects farmers in the program to resources they need to succeed and provides business management and marketing training for lessees.

There are two plots still available at the Sussex location (8.6 acres and 10 acres). Applications for a SAgE plot are available at FoodshedAlliance.org/SAgE.

The Foodshed Alliance works to increase access to local, healthy food and protect the environment by working with farmers who use sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic methods to grow healthy food to increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve watersheds, and enhance ecosystems.

For more information on the SAgE program, contact eric@foodshedalliance.org for details.