This is the second in a series of profiles of local farm stands. Watch this space for more farm stand profiles in the coming weeks.
A proud family tradition continues at the Hillsborough Farm Country Market.
The Van Nuys family has owned and operated Hillsboro Farm on Hillsborough Road since 1867. Originally a dairy farm, Peter Van Nuys, grandfather of current owner Doug, was one of the founders of Somerset County 4-H and was considered very progressive for his time. In fact, he is credited with having the first cow in the United States artificially inseminated.
Over the years, however, Hillsboro Farm has overcome more than its share of challenges.
The family gave up the dairy side of the operation shortly after Doug’s father and younger brother died in a farming accident in 1987. That was when Doug took over running the farm—in addition to his full-time job as a landscape designer. The farm property (there is a total of 210 acres, including rental properties) was officially “preserved” in 2009.
Today, Doug sees the farm as “pushing in the direction we need to be in,” particularly with the Country Market. In addition to providing fresh produce in the summer and fall, Doug has expanded the cut flower and spices business and features a variety of Jersey Fresh products; fresh produce is brought in from other farms in the state three days a week. In the fall, the stand welcomes visitors for pumpkin picking and hay/corn mazes.
Also available at the Hillsboro Farm Country Market are pies freshly made from the Raritan Pastry Shop; the selection includes the shop’s signature “Crumb Pizza” with raspberry, blueberry or peach and apple cider donuts (available in the fall). Shoppers will also find canned Jersey tomatoes, honey and jams and jellies.
The farm started the 2011 season in what Doug described as “a bigger hole” than normal, with Mother Nature and “those four-legged giant rats”—also known as deer—taking their toll on the 2010 season.
Weather (“heat is the enemy,” says Doug), critters, bugs and fungus can quickly turn a good season into a disaster.
Doug is hopeful this year’s crop, which includes sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, melons, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, onions, eggplant, peppers and more, will not have the same problems.
This year, Hillsboro Farm has another challenge – road construction. Hillsborough Road detours have made access confusing, so the family added their own set of colorful signs to neighboring roadways, posting clear directions to the farm stand.
Hillsboro Farm continues to be a family operation, with Doug and wife Lynn leading the way. Katie runs the market and nephew Kyle plays a key role in the farming operations, while other family members chip in as needed.
“Farming is tough,” said Lynn. “There is so much to it that people don’t realize and take it for granted.”
All the while, however, the community “has been very supportive,” she stressed.