By Dw. Dunphy, Jan. 2012
Mercer County farm market offers state-grown food and drink
New Jersey may no longer be dominated by farm life, but there’s still plenty to remind us why it is called the garden state. Independent farms have carved out a niche for themselves here.
And while the bounty of the harvest season is past, there are still plenty of reasons to drop in at a local farm market.
Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road in Lawrence Township, is a family-owned and operated destination with a long history. Gary and Pam Mount bought Terhune Orchards in 1975, but the facility had a rich history before that, having been run by the Terhune family for two generations prior.
Running the present operations is daughter Tannwen Mount.
Our farm, farm store, barnyard and winery tasting room area all open and wonderful to visit this time of year, Mount said.
Tannwen mentioned the winery’s tasting room. The orchards originally only had apple and peach trees (with a few pear trees interspersed) but after her time living in San Francisco, she persuaded her father to give a vineyard a try.
“When I came back, we decided on expansion, but it came about because I came on full-time [at the Orchard],” she said. “Otherwise, they really weren’t planning to expand.”
The family was not setting out to remove trees from the pre-existing space. Instead, a farm adjacent to Terhune was up for sale and, after its purchase, became the land for this new venture.
In 2003, father and daughter planted five acres of grapes, with the first crops of grapes being picked in 2009. By September of 2010, the wine was in the bottle and the Terhune Orchards tasting room was opened inside the longstanding barn, which has been a fixture of the property for over 150 years.
But how does New Jersey wine taste, you might ask? Pretty good – and that’s why we’ve made it the subject of this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.
Why it’s Worth the Trip: The area offers plenty of things to do beyond just shopping at Terhune Orchards, but the home cooked, handmade and local products are reason enough for a stop. Sure, you can buy a Napa Valley wine from a local store, but consider the conversation starter a New Jersey-grown, pressed and bottled wine would make.
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: If you choose only to shop from Terhune Orchards instead of endlessly snacking, take a short drive and eat at Chuckles Pizza and Pasta, Amalfiâ’s Italian Restaurant, or Masa 8 Japanese Sushi Restaurant. The historic Village of Lawrenceville also has several popular places to eat on Main Street, also known as Route 206.
While you’re in the Area: Why not go to a park? Better yet, why not go to many parks? Terhune Orchards is nearly surrounded by the Old Mill Road County Park, the Rosedale Park, and the Curlis Lake County Park, all in bucolic Hopewell; the North-West Mercer Park in Lawrence Township; and the Carson Road Woods and the historic Princeton Battlefield State Park on Mercer Road (a Revolutionary War landmark), both in Princeton. If you’re more inclined to take part in indoor activities, or still have holiday shopping to do, hit the Quaker Bridge Mall off U.S. 1, or head downtown to visit the Princeton Record Exchange, a must-stop spot for vinyl lovers.
Tannwen Mount’s father, Gary, had grown up on a large apple farm Mount Farms on Route 1 in West Windsor, but the property was sold in the early 1960s. Tannwen’s mother, Pam, grew up in Princeton on Terhune Road. Gary and Pam dated while they were students at Princeton High School. Pam went to college in Ohio, studying art and education while Gary went on to study at Princeton University, and later joined the Peace Corps.
And yet there was still farming left in his blood, so after the couple reunited, the opportunity to purchase the Terhune Orchards occurred in 1975, and everything seemed to come full circle.
With Tannwen’s return came the impetus for new ventures.
“My parents are very supportive,she said. Terhune Orchards grows more than 35 different crops on 185 acres with almost half the property devoted to the trees of the orchards. Thirty varieties of apples, 28 varieties of peaches and seven varieties of pears make up the primary yields – and then there are the grapes.
The question was whether the buying public would be equally supportive because, even though several wineries have developed throughout the state, there is still the stigma against Jersey wine.
People have been pleasantly surprised, Mount said of when customers give the products a fair tasting. There are a lot of up and coming wineries in the state producing really great wines. New Jersey has a unique soil type that’s conducive to certain varietals of grapes. They’re not as well-known, but they produce really great wines.
Terhune Orchards is one of the few operating farms in the Garden State with a winery and tasting room. Mount said that supporting local foods and food producers has positive, far reaching effects.
There are two parts to this. If you buy from, and support, local farms and businesses you contribute so much to the local economy. Plus, you know where your food is coming from. The shorter the distance between the farm and the table, the fresher the product. The food doesn’t have to be treated with preservatives to handle long transport routes, she said.
The second benefit to buying local, specifically from farms, goes to the heart of Jersey’s identity.
Keeping farms thriving helps preserve open space, and that is so important to the nature of what the state is, she said.