This story first ran on TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove.
Historic Morgan’s Farm is a landmark in Cedar Grove, yet many are unaware that it is also a working organic farm — in fact it is the only organic farm in Essex County and has recently expanded to include an indoor market with a larger assortment of local products.
“Sometimes people don’t know what’s in their own backyards,” said John Ostering, a Verona resident who runs the farm with a handful of volunteers. “What’s different about us is we only sell here on Saturdays, we don’t do any other farmer’s markets. We harvest on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. All of the funds to go to the museum, the house, the upkeep of the house and back to the farm budget to allow me to provide organic product to the community.”
The Canfield Morgan House was bequeathed to the Township of Cedar Grove by the last farmer in Cedar Grove, Courtenay Morgan and became Morgan’s Farm and Museum in 1985, with the Cedar Grove Historical Society maintaining the buildings and grounds. In 2013, Ostering came up with an innovative way to bring the community together and bring in some revenue.
“I recreated the first vegetable patch with the idea of being able to sell at the farmer’s market that was being held here at the time and maybe make a few $100 for the historical society, then read in February that the town canceled the farmer’s market so we decided to do it on our own. I’ve always been out in nature, always liked planting. I did all the upper gardens and landscaping planting and I just had the idea that maybe we should do veggies here and help make some money," he added, admitting he didn't realize how profitable it would turn out.
After six years, the small vegetable patch has expanded to 90 beds and 15 bee hives, and maintaining the farm is now a full time job for Ostering, who is retired and runs the farm with the help of a handful of farm volunteers. After an extremely rainy summer of 2018, he had the idea of converting a room in the barn into an indoor market for the farm. He felt it would simplify things — no more dragging out tables and tents every Saturday and it provided a safe place to permanently store some of the non-perishable goods sold at the market.
The room was filled with 20th century farm equipment, which was moved into a second room in the barn which is going to be a museum, opening next spring. Once the room had been emptied, Ostering began transforming the room. He built the display shelves, the crates for the produce and cabinets to display the goods, and volunteer Alyssa DeSimone decorated the market to give it a charming country-store feel.
“I did all the building and the work and Alyssa did all the decorating. She did a great job — it’s a unique look, it’s cute and it keeps us safer and it keeps the product safer,” Ostering added.
In addition to produce, the market offers handmade cutting boards and trays (hand-carved by Ostering), fresh-cut flowers, fresh honey and beeswax products, organic bug spray and lots more.
As a tribute to Mrs. Morgan, who lived on the farm until she was 91-years-old, Ostering has created a corner for fresh flowers in the market. With 15 active hives, honey and beeswax products are big seller for the farm year-round.
“We do sell a lot of honey, since it's all organic. And our beeswax is used for lip balm. We take it to a guy in Montclair who has a machine,” Ostering said. “We make beeswax wrappers ourselves which are used to replace saran wrap or aluminum foil. You can use them to wrap sandwiches and fruit because there’s just way too much plastic in the world.”
In addition, Ostering works with four local residents to transform his vegetables into sauces and baked goods. Lunello Restaurant of Cedar Grove and Ariane Kitchen of Verona prepare fresh pestos for sale, while Jessica Alfred’s of Bloomfield and Piece of Love Pastries of Montclair provide baked goods and other special treats.
Other popular products regularly for sale at the farm include lavender sachets made from lavender grown and dried on the farm, organic olive oils and vinaigrettes, beeswax candles, organic soaps, and elderberry syrup and organic teas.
With the new indoor space, there are plans to host a jam making workshop on July 18 and a Christmas shop during the holidays. In addition, Ostering plans to open the stand during the summer concert series held at the farm offering free popcorn for all.
The Farmer’s Market at Morgan’s Farm is located at 903 Pompton Ave. in Cedar Grove and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ostering recommends getting there early as some of the most popular vegetables sell out quickly. Cash and credit cards are accepted.
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