Pam and Gary Mount founded Terhune Orchards in 1975 growing just three crops — apples, peaches, and pears — on 55 acres on Cold Soil Road. It was the first time in nearly 20 years anyone had bought a farm in the area with the intent to farm it, rather than build on it.
About half of Terhune’s early neighbors thought they were crazy. The other half thought young couple with the idea for a community-centered, family-friendly farm was just what New Jersey needed.
Now, 36 later, Terhune Orchards grows almost 40 types of fruits and vegetables – most of which are organic – on 200 permanently preserved acres. Their daughter, Tannwen, now works full-time at the farm, and the Mounts’ six granchildren pitch in too. “We’re looking toward the future,” Pam Mount says.
Those early believers? They now bring their own children and grandchildren to pick their own berries or shop in the farm store, open year-round. “Over the weekend we had our Blueberry Patch Festival,” says Mount. “People picked about 5,000 pounds of blueberries.” Blackberries and raspberries will be ready soon.
Terhune still grows its three original crops too. Peach season begins – right along with corn and tomatoes – with semi-freestone varieties in July and ends with more than 30 varieties of peaches and nectarines in early September.
Blueberries and peaches might only grow in the summer, but they are just right for freezing — a great way to preserve the taste of summer all year long. Mount, who learned her freezing and canning skills from her mom while she was growing up in Princeton, says freezing blueberries is as easy as spreading them out, single-layer, on a baking sheet until they freeze solid. Then just put them in freezer bags or containers until you’re ready for them.
Peaches are also ideal for freezing, as is corn, Mount says. Both taste like their ripe, summer selves when defrosted, but you have to freeze them when they are at their freshest — “and it has to be Jersey!” she says. As for New Jersey’s most famous crop — tomatoes — freezing and canning work just great.
Mount teaches a free class in canning and freezing at Terhune every summer. The next is on Saturday, August 6, at 10 a.m. She will show the ins and outs of canning and freezing, offer tips on freezing peaches in pie-shape for filling. She also will share her mom’s canning recipe for her “garden special” — tomatoes, peppers, onions, and celery. “You just take it out and add meat or chicken or shrimp, and you’ve got dinner,” she says.
About eight years ago the Mounts purchased a 67-acre parcel on Van Kirk Road that gave them what they needed to go organic — flexibility. “The thing about organic is that you have to keep rotating the crops to stay ahead of the bugs and diseases,” Mount says.
For Terhune, it’s still the families that carry the day — sometimes four generations at once come to the farm to pick their own foods. Farmers around New Jersey now know the value of selling a variety of fruits and vegetables directly to the customer rather than growing one crop and selling it wholesale to who-knows-where.
Terhune Orchards has maintained its focus on the community and on families who might not otherwise know where their food comes from. “This is their exposure to what farms are all about,” Mount says. “It adds to the mosaic of the community.”
Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton 08540; 609-924-2310; fax, 609-924-8569. Pam, Gary, and Tannwen Mount, owners.