Local Hero Award

Big News! We were voted the “Local Hero” award in the Farm/Farmer category by Edible Jersey readers! Check out the article below and read about other local heroes here.

Photo by Joanna Tully

Jess Niederer once described a chickadee as fierce, persistent, social-minded and cheerful. To me, that sounds just like her. When asked how it feels to be entering her fifth year running Chickadee Creek Farm, Niederer recalls her beginnings. “It wasn’t a sure thing that starting up a vegetable farm with a super-meager budget and minimal experience was going to pan out,” she says. In 2010, Niederer leased five acres of her family farm in Pennington and started growing vegetables on two of them. That first year, she sold produce at two farmers’ markets and had a small number of CSA members. With each year that flew by, the farm grew. Now Chickadee Creek sells its certified- and transitional-organic produce at five farmers’ markets and the CSA counts 130 members.

This growth is no coincidence. Niederer works like a wild woman, driven by fervent dedication to her farm, her community, local ecology and environment, and the people that work with her. She is tenacious, taking meticulous notes on her successes and failures and then, just as the pace of the season slows in the fall, incorporating her new knowledge into the next year’s plan. This is one of the great rewards Niederer finds in running a farm business: the chance to grow upon everything she has learned.

And somehow, she finds time to give to her community through off-farm activities as well. Every Thursday during the slower months, Niederer volunteers as an EMT for the Pennington First Aid Squad, and she attends monthly Mercer County Board of Agriculture meetings. She teaches a class through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey that helps beginning and aspiring farmers decide if it is the right career for them. And for all her apprentices, her door remains open after they move on from her farm. I know from personal experience, as I was a Chickadee Creek Farm apprentice in 2012.

When Niederer started out, she says, she was working toward financial stability, improved local ecology and human health, and the creation of a business that she could be proud of. Now, as some of these goals are beginning to be realized, she is adding a fourth goal: to get, as she says, “food to people who cannot afford it or access it but would reap great health benefits from fresh produce.”

Even with her success, she doesn’t forget her risky beginnings, saying, “I feel so lucky to have acquired what seems to be the most awesome group of farm members ever. I feel relieved that all this even worked.” —Helen Chandler

Helen Chandler, in her second year of farming at Whistling Wolf Farm, is a regular contributor to EJ.

The Winter Harvest

Read about Farmer Jess on a true winter harvest day, in this Star Ledger article.

organic pennington farm in the snow, princeton, flemington marketIn Season: Taking on turnips

By Rachel Weston
Let’s face it, turnips get short shrift compared to some of the other root vegetables. Leggy carrots and bossy beets jostle for a place in the sunlight. My mother always insisted on mashed turnips at our Christmas dinners. I would wrinkle my nose and take the obligatory bite. When I found myself traveling through Scotland last year, I began to appreciate the side of neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes) that came along with the haggis that I ate at every opportunity I could. Making the mash is a breeze and completely comforting to eat on a snowy evening. Substitute a few nice sizzling sausages which are easier to obtain than haggis.

When it snowed earlier this week, while we were sipping cocoa inside, Jess Niederer, a thirteenth generation farmer was out in the snow feverishly harvesting turnips at Chickadee Creek Farm in Pennington. As she pushed the row covers back, the verdant turnip greens popped out into the white landscape.
Continue to the full article, here.

Featured in the Princeton Eats blog

Winter Flavors Of Food

By Kim Palumbo
Central New Jersey is home to numerous grocery stores: large chain or local mom and pop, certified organic or not-so-much, we’ve got you covered.  With so many alternatives to choose from, health-conscious, budget-minded consumers may find it all a bit overwhelming.

Jess Niederer – Chickadee Creek Farm

A recent visit with Jess Niederer of Chickadee Creek Farm in Pennington made options a little less daunting, and a lot more attractive. We met with Jess to discuss her Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA, for short….click here to read more and to watch the short video.

Hot off the press:

Farm Living Is The Life: Jess Niederer
by Michele Alperin

Throughout the United States, about 30 percent of farmers were women in 2007, a 19 percent increase in just five years. They make much less than their male counterparts — $36,000 a year versus $150,671, and farm less than half the acreage per capita, yet the women are more likely to own their own land, according to Jenny Carleo of Rutgers Cooperative Extension

In New Jersey there are about 2,261 women-operated farms, about one-fifth of the total number of farms in the state. Their farms average 29 acres in size and produce, on average, $22,170 a year in products, way below the state average of $95,584.

Carleo says that a growing number of women are eager to start on the journey.“A lot of new farmers are women,” she finds.

Two local woman farmers — both Ivy League educated — who are currently treading that path are Jess Niederer, profiled below, and and Tannwen Mount, see story on following page…

In the NJ Spotlight

Check out Chickadee Creek Farm in this NJSpotlight article!

Jess in the spotlight
(NJSpotlight/Photo by Amanda Brown)

After graduating from Cornell University with an ecology degree, Jess Niederer ditched the research lab in favor of a new workspace: New Jersey farmland.

“I wanted to do something that had an instantaneous connection to people,” she said, “and feeding them seemed like a straight line.”

And, she said, she missed the family farm she grew up on in Pennington.

That was 2006. Now, as the head of Chickadee Creek Farm, she grows organic produce and flowers on land her family has tilled for generations.                                                         

Read the complete article by Annie Knox here.

The Chicks have arrived!

Our shipment of Black Australorp chicks hatched on Friday March 9th and arrived on the farm on the evening of the 11th. Here they are in action in their brooder:

Their job on the farm is to control insect populations in the vegetable blocks after we are finished with all harvests in an area. They are learning vicious bug eating behavior very quickly.