Showing off the county's farms

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:43

Farm women from all over New Jersey travel to Sussex Wantage — Talk to any of the members of the New Jersey Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and you will undoubtedly notice how proud they are of agriculture in the state. They never miss an opportunity to educate people not only about agriculture, but legislation that affect farmers and also teaches leadership skills. Last week, 18 members of the group traveled from as far as Cumberland County up to Sussex County for a program to give them an overview of agriculture in Sussex County that was organized by Jane Brodhecker, president of the group. The day began at Kuperus Farms in Wantage, where owner Charlie Kuperus gave the women a brief history of the farm’s beginnings as a dairy but has since evolved into a gardening and landscape center. Brodhecker felt a visit there was “timely” this time of year and the women enjoyed seeing all the uniquely designed Christmas decorations, such as candy-cane wreaths and kissing balls, as Kuperus explained his farm operation. The next stop was the administration building at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, where the women were treated to lunch provided by Roseline’s Farm & Bakery of Augusta. While they ate a selection of homemade quiches and soups, all made with vegetables and produce grown on the farm or other locally-grown ingredients, the women listened to a talk about some of the agricultural education programs offered by the fairgrounds staffers to the schools. The women then visited Arthur and Friends, the greenhouse at the fairgrounds. Wendie Blanchard, the program director and founder, explained the concept of hydroponic gardening and encouraged the women to sample any of the many plants and herbs in the greenhouse. Almost all of the employees of Arthur and Friends are disabled and Blanchard said she has noticed that many of the autistic workers seem to thrive there. Big 'green' building In keeping with their green theme, the tour next showcased the $1.2 billion conservatory, technically also a greenhouse in terms of its architecture, but much more. The conservatory hosts social, family and corporate events year-round in a peaceful setting. Ninety percent of the building materials in the conservatory are considered “green,” such as the use of recycled milk containers and plastics. Although the women didn’t stop inside the Farmer’s Market building, they did learn that it is one of the few in New Jersey housed in its own building, and is open from April through October. The women left with goodie bags that included birdseed from Brodhecker Farm and homemade candy. Several told Brodhecker that they had enjoyed the day. “I felt good about that because most had come a very long way,” she said.