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Montgomery Farmers Expand to Watershed Lands

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted January 26, 2023

Two brothers who grew up in Montgomery Township signed an agreement in January to expand their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations to The Watershed Institute in Hopewell.

From left: James and Alex Klett.

James and Alex Klett, both Montgomery High School graduates, will cultivate 12 acres of Watershed-owned land on Wargo Road in Hopewell. They hope to expand to 27 acres by 2025. The Klett brothers operate Fairgrown Farm CSA on Aunt Molly Road in Hopewell. James Klett says, “We are thrilled to have extra production land.

The Watershed farm.

It is our first property that our customers can visit. At the Watershed, we can host a CSA pickup and people can come and actually see the fields and see things growing.” “We are still working on the details for pick-your-own crops — most likely it’ll be cherry tomatoes and lunch-box peppers initially.”

Jim Waltman, the Watershed’s executive director, said he was delighted to support the Kletts by providing access to scarce agricultural lands in Hopewell Township. “We know these two young farmers will be fine stewards of these agricultural lands and continue our commitment to organic farming,” he said. “Organic farming at the Watershed helps families learn first-hand about the origins of their food and also demonstrates environmentally sustainable farming practices.”

Fairgrown Farm in Hopewell

Organic farming

The agreement between the Klett brothers and the Watershed comes after the departure of Honey Brook Organic Farm. Honey Brook’s co-owners Jim Kinsel and Sherry Dudas had pioneered a successful CSA model in central New Jersey, gaining name recognition and thousands of subscribers who enjoyed the variety and quality of their produce, herbs, flowers, and fruits in the 30 years partnership. Kinsel started Honey Brook Organic Farm’s CSA program with a partner in 1991. “We reluctantly decided to discontinue the CSA after a failed five-year effort to restore financial sustainability to the farm,” Kinsel told the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey. Kinsel said he would continuing farming at his Pennington and Chesterfield farms, offering organic asparagus, chestnuts, dried heirloom beans, and pickyour- own organic fruits. James Klett said he plans to continue organic farming at the Watershed site. The land had been planted with cover crops and allowed to rest in the twoyear hiatus between farmers. “Because the land has been farmed organically in the past, we should be able to expedite organic certification to one year instead of the normal three years,” Klett said.

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Challenges for local farmers

Finding suitable land is one of the challenges in central New Jersey, according to Klett. “There is a great deal of preserved land, but there isn’t a lot of land suitable for production farming,” he said. “But on the upside, there are suburbs and family households. So there is a market close by, and having the local customer base makes this kind of CSA model possible.” Fairgrown Farm, which starts its fifth season this year, collaborates with farmers . Everything is labeled from the source farm and identified if it is certified organic.

James, 24, who has an undergraduate business degree from Rutgers University, handles the farming and business operations. Alex, 28, has a background in carpentry and mechanics. He manages the maintenance and infrastructure. They started farming at Fairgrown Farm in 2019, learning hard-won lessons from prior summer experiences on a smaller property in Montgomery Township. “I fell in love with farming,” James says, noting that he would plan what to plant while driving home from Rutgers. He would start the plants in his basement. “We grew up hearing about how the Watershed farm was a huge part of Hopewell. For us to be able to step in and bring new life to the farm is really exciting.”

Fairgrown is now selling 2023 CSA shares. Pickup will be at the red barn on Wargo Road; at the Hopewell Farmer’s Market; or home delivery for a nominal fee. Their CSA runs from May until Thanksgiving.

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