Home » Support your local farm: an interview with Jim Sansone

Support your local farm: an interview with Jim Sansone

by Kim Robinson

According to Time Magazine, the U.S. lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018, farm debt hit a record high, and more than half of all farmers have lost money every year since 2013.  Closer to home, New Jersey, the Garden State, has lost more than 70,000 acres of farmland from 2000-2016, with 30,000 of those acres converted to urban or highly developed uses.  We, here in Hopewell Valley, have only to look to our local papers to find that we, too, are by no means immune to this slow but steady exchange of farmland for concrete.

Living just up the road from Sansone’s Farm Market at 245 Lambertville-Hopewell Road in Hopewell Township, I took a ride over to chat with Jim Sansone, and get some perspective from a long-time local farmer trying to navigate these new, but unwelcome by many, waters.

MercerMe:  Tell us a bit about your farm.  How long has it been in the family?  How many acres do you farm?  And what do you grow?

Sansone:  My grandfather began farming this spot in 1914.  We have 45 acres.  It started as a truck farm (fruits and vegetables), but he also had fruit trees and a vineyard, as well as dairy here.  It was a self-sufficient farm, in that they could produce and preserve what they needed for the family.  Over the years, as my grandfather became older, my dad took over the farming operation and was growing the food, but mainly selling it wholesale.  To stay involved in the business though, my grandfather would sit at a roadside table at the farm, selling corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables, while my dad and I worked the fields.  When I took over the operation from my dad, I increased production and was supplying produce to restaurants, supermarkets, etc.

MercerMe:  Hopewell Valley has historically been a farming community.  Are local farmers in a battle right now to keep our small farms alive?  If so, what do you feel are the three or four largest issues or threats currently facing local farms?  Are these issues fixable and if so, how? 

Jim:  The biggest issues for me have been animal damage.  As more houses go up in Hopewell Valley, the acres open to hunting drop, and the deer have been wreaking havoc on local farms. Another big issue is the price of oil; increases in fuel prices have a huge effect on farmers. Even though I’m paying a lot more for fuel, my selling prices can’t be raised high enough to match the loss. All small farms are losing money. I’m losing money. Big box stores buy in larger quantities and sell the produce for less. Small farms can’t do that. With taxes going up, and tractor prices going up, we can’t make enough to cover our costs. We are often selling produce at our own cost.

MercerMe:  I heard there was a farm worker shortage this year.  Is that true?  Did it affect your farm?

Sansone:  This is why many farmers are going out of business. Our costs have quadrupled. We didn’t really farm [this year] because of the worker shortage. We planted a few crops this year, but not nearly as much as we have in the past. The weather has also been insane – winter in the spring and springs that are cold, wet, hot, or anything. It’s craziness and it’s causing havoc with fruit trees, strawberries, etc.  The plants get confused.

MercerMe:  Do you also sell your produce at other outlets like grocery stores or other farm markets?

Sansone:  Not now, because of the labor shortage. We have been selling our produce here at our farm store, but we just don’t have the labor for a larger production.

MercerMe: Do you bring outside produce in as well?  Is that a common practice with local farms in the Valley?  If so, is that produce from other local farms?

Sansone :  Yes, we will bring in some produce from other friends who are farmers, and vice versa, to give our customers more variety.

MercerMe:  How is YOUR farm doing?

Sansone:  It is a struggle trying to stay here. But we will have Thanksgiving decorations, and trees, wreaths, poinsettias, and other decorations for the Christmas season. (Jim gave me a sneak peek at some of the items!)

MercerMe:  Have you had to adjust your business model?  If so, how?  And have those adjustments been successful?

Sansone:  Yes.  We are selling a lot more firewood now. We’ve even put up a building just to store the firewood and keep it dry. 

MercerMe:  What do you see in the future for small farms and their success in Hopewell Valley and NJ in general?

Sansone:  That’s a very good question. Success is going to require community support, both in this Township and across the country. People also need to understand that prices at a farm market are not going to be lower than at a chain store. You don’t get rich farming. You have to love farming to be a farmer. 

MercerMe:  Any last words for our readers?

Sansone:  Support your local farms.

Below is a list of several local farm markets and farm stands in the Valley.  If we have accidentally left your local farm market or stand off of this list, please contact MercerMe at [email protected] and we will add it. Take a drive. Meet your local farmers. Buy local. 

Sansone’s Farm Market, 245 Lambertville Hopewell Road, (609) 466-1323

Beachtree Farm, 105 Crusher Road, Hopewell, (609) 466-0277; (cell) (609) 468-4145

Blue Moon Acres, Pickup at 11 Willow Creek Drive Pennington, (215) 794-3093

Chickadee Creek Farm, 80 Titus Mill Rd, Pennington, NJ   (609) 462-3854

Double Brook Farm, products sold at Brick Farm Market, 65 East Broad Street, Hopewell, (609) 466-6500  (moving in December to 130 Hopewell-Rocky Hill, Road, Hopewell.)

FairGrown Farm, Watershed Farm: 260 Wargo Rd, Pennington, NJ

Honey Branch Farm, 11 Moores Mill Mount Rose Rd, Pennington (609) 466-3500 

Hopewell Farmers Market  – 52 East Broad Street, Hopewell.

John Hart Farms, 91 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, (609) 947-3325

Kerr’s Corn Stand – Titusville, 1132 Bear Tavern Road, Titusville (609) 947-6559  

Kerr’s Kornstand, 317 Pennington Rocky Hill Rd, (609) 730-1609              

Marchese Farm, 327 Hopewell Amwell Road, Hopewell, (925) 223-7698

Pennington Farmers Market at Rosedale Mills, 101 Rt. 31, Pennington, NJ

Quaccia Farms Produce, Across from 1411 Bear Tavern Road, Hopewell Township, NJ

North Slope Farm, 386 Rock Road East, Lambertville, (609) 647-9754

Sweet Sourland Farms, 90 Lambertville-Hopewell Rd, Hopewell, NJ (609) 466-9241

Stonybrook Meadows, 82 Stonybrook Road, Hopewell, NJ (609) 577-8344

Wildflower Farm Pennington-Harbourton Rd., Hopewell Township, NJ

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Hopewell, New Jersey 08525

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