Terhune Orchards and the Mount family of Mercer County, N.J., have been recognized as the state’s first recipients of the Jersey Fresh Farm to School Farmer Recognition Award.
The program is an opportunity for farmers to highlight their farm-to-school efforts and to help feature their produce in local school meals.
"New Jersey school students benefit greatly from consuming healthy local produce but also can learn a great deal from our farmers about how their food is grown," says Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher. "The Farmer Recognition Award presented to Terhune Orchards is an opportunity to highlight how farms can engage with local schools to teach farm-to-school activities and encourage more farmers to connect with schools."
Terhune Orchards regularly hosts schoolchildren and events for children year-round. The orchard currently has a tour program that includes exploring how crops grow and life on the farm by visiting the orchard, pumpkin patch and a children’s garden. The orchard also features a life-size display about corn in one of its barns that shows the growing stages of corn until it is ready for harvest.
"We feel strongly that it is important to show children how food is grown and to teach them about the importance of eating healthy," says Gary Mount, who owns and operates Terhune Orchards with his wife, Pam, and daughters, Tannwen and Reuwai. "We are honored to win this first award and believe the Farm to School Program is a great way to educate children about what they eat and the importance of having fruits and vegetables in their diet."
Terhune Orchards has 200 fruit and vegetable-bearing acres. The on-farm activities include apple picking, pumpkin picking, pick-your-own and field trips, as well as having cider, pies and gift baskets at the farm market.
Terhune also has farm animals on-site.
During the 2017-18 school year, the influence of the Farm to School Program led to 255 schools purchasing some local produce from their main distributor, 223 school districts buying local produce directly from farms, 212 school districts using a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and 114 school districts organizing field trips to farms.
Source: New Jersey Department of Agriculture