Tamar Stukes, owner of the Readington farm Market Company, loves her home in Readington, N.J. It’s not that she misses the buzz of big cities, it’s that she misses the real-life options that make farm living so worthwhile.
Ms. Stukes grew up on a farm; her mother, mother-in-law and grandparents all farmed, and she’s been proud to share their skills with her own seven-person staff — from flower growing to making jam — at the Readington-based store.
Pressed for space, Readington Farm Market Company was built in 1972 at the start of the CIAA, the Atlantic Athletic Association. It is surrounded by farmland, and the surrounds look kind of like a giant wooden cookie box, with green pebbles capped by dark wood. The current owners, the Stukes family, have doubled its size — from a small white store to a storefront that offers regional picks (that’s new food year-round), plus produce, meat, dairy, and specialty items from New Jersey farms. Ms. Stukes’ nursery in the back of the store is filled with vendors’ plants: Strawberry orchids, pheasant eggs, lots of sweet eggplants and succulents, including a hardy kind that survived Hurricane Sandy.
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Her favorite local makers: The “half-timers” she knows who keep their farming operations small and really enjoy the experience of working the land — as opposed to simply milking cows or growing crops. Readington’s biggest draw to visitors are the “rabbit pals,” aging rabbit coops that have been passed down from generation to generation. Ms. Stukes offers free walks around Readington Farm Market with the friendly animals in her pasture.
The garden is also a big draw. “Some people think of us as a dry place, because we are a farm,” Ms. Stukes says. “But we have small gardens that feed our store. When you take time to see them, it’s always like: ‘Holy crap, I forgot how good this soil is!’”
The Readington produce market opened Sept. 25, 2011, and is open Sunday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Christmas (until 5 p.m. on the weekends in early January). My visit coincided with my birthday (8/11/2011), a special day indeed for a person with my working knowledge of the past with agriculture in Readington.
Visit Readington Farm Market Company, 1340 Main Street, Readington, NJ 07723.