Millennial Farmers, Artists & Chefs Inspire Innovative Business Model
Cherry Valley Co-op is located on Cherry Valley Road in Montgomery.
Its founders — creative types who are in their twenties — have combined farming, education, and wellness to build an innovative business model.
They offer a wide range of opportunities for the public to learn more about who grows our food, how it is grown, and how to better appreciate and connect with the land.
Any any given day there may be 20 people on the property working in the fields, the farm store, or on special projects. Christian Moran, a resident of Montgomery, is a farmer, filmmaker, and former Rutgers University personal trainer who founded the Our Playful Nature program, which provides outdoor movement and play classes on the farm for children.
“We explore the fields, meadows, forests, and creeks and find opportunities for play, wonder, and learning,” says Moran, who also coordinates special events such as the Fall Harvest Festival, which will take place at the Co-op on October 27 this year.
“Imagine exercise that has you laughing and smiling out in the woods instead of groaning and grunting in the gym,” Moran says on his website at www.ourplayfulnature.org.
“Imagine enriching experiences in nature that ignite the senses, spark awe, and leave you feeling deeply connected to the living things all around you," Moran says. "By engaging with nature, and not just observing it, we develop a deeper relationship with it and ourselves.”
Other Cherry Valley Cooperative businesses include Cherry Valley Berries, owned by Vishal Pathak, a resident of Princeton, who grows blackberries,
strawberries and blueberries and offers a berry share to community members.
Pathak recently graduated from Temple University and he promotes such Co-op programs as “story telling and poetry around a fire and under the stars the way our ancestors did.”
“Our world is built upon the sharing of stories, poetry and song around campfires,” Pathak wrote on his Facebook page. “Come to the farm and connect with your fellow community members in a different way. Create, share, and wonder how words can change the shape of things.
"Please bring original fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry projects and gain feedback from fellow writers. Share ... in a personal, non-judgmental atmosphere.”
In the farm store, personal chef Gab Aron of Skillman sells the farm’s produce alongside meats and fruit from neighboring farms as well as her own brand
of cold-pressed juices such as NJ Cantaloupe, Orange & Fennel.
Princeton resident Alec Gioseffi, farm manager and board president, says: “We value cooperation over competition. Each business has an equal vote in deciding our future. Our shared vision is to continue to add businesses so we can offer the community more fresh foods, educational events and eventually home cooked meals year round."
A board of directors comprised of current CVC business owners and two at-large community members oversees to co-op. Each co-op business provides 12 percent of their gross sales to a shared fund which is then used to purchase and maintain equipment, pay for staff, and provide marketing for the farm. The businesses also participate in bulk purchasing, which reduces individual operating costs.
Above: Farm Share & Vegetable Manager Lauren Nagy
The farm business, called Cooperative 518, currently serves almost 200 community-supported agriculture members who purchase farm shares early in the season and pick up vegetables weekly at the farm store. The farmers also sell fresh produce to local restaurants and grocery stores.
In addition to working the fields every day, the farmers also teach farm classes at the Princeton Montessori School and will soon expand to the West Windsor Plainsboro School District.
Co-op board member and Skillman resident Alexander Cardona says: “What’s most important to me about the farm is the sense of community and the fact I am bringing home local food from farmers I know.” ■
Cherry Valley Coop
619 Cherry Valley Road, Montgomery
Farm store hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm on weekends.