Dreyer Farms upholding retail rep
CRANFORD — Because Dreyer Farms does such a booming value-added business, the New Jersey Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association decided to hold its spring meeting here on June 11.
Located on busy Springfield Avenue in suburban Cranford in busy Union County not far from the Garden State Parkway, Route 22 and other major highways, farmers came from all over the state to see the extensive retail operation here and the nearly six acres out back where John Dreyer and his staff grow numerous kinds of vegetables, some fruit and some home landscaping plants.
Not unlike nearby Schieferstein’s Farm Market in Clark — also surrounded by housing — the farm was here first. In fact, it’s been here for 115 years.
While Union County is still home to many large expanses of open space in the form of public parks and public and private golf courses, there are few farms left here, given that Union County is just 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan via New Jersey Transit train.
John Dreyer’s daughter, Jessica Dreyer, told the group that her great-grandfather bought the land that holds the farm market, nursery and farm fields, which includes about 40 parking spots to accommodate customers.
The retail farm stand at Dreyer Farms includes extensive areas for refrigeration and its own commercial kitchen with a staff of dedicated workers who are always preparing new creations with vegetables grown at the farm.
“Our biggest problem with our new cooler is it’s hard to keep it full all the time,” Dreyer explained of the family’s investment in a new large, walk-in fridge.
The retail stand also has its own bakery and a staff of three bakers make breads, cookies, donuts and brownies. As much as possible, Jessica stressed, “we let the customers tell us what they want.
“We had a couple of people that were already on staff that were already good cooks,” she added, “we had a little refrigerator last year and tried out pre-made salads,” and they discovered demand for them was huge.
Dreyer Farms’ retail stand carries a large variety of value-added foods from other nearby farmers, including gourmet pot pies from Griggstown Farm Market.
They also sell top-shelf, cream-rich, pasteurized but not homogenized milk from Springhouse Creamery in Sussex County, about two hours northwest of Cranford.
The Dryers credited store manager Justine Gray for her social media skills and website updating to keep patrons informed about all the things going on at Dreyer Farms.
“We do all the social media functions, yes, to sell things, but also as a way to make our customers feel special,” Gray said, citing a photo they posted on Dreyer Farms’ Facebook page of a young boy sitting on one of the farm’s tractors.
Patrons at the meeting included Pam and Gary Mount of Terhune Orchards, Lawrence Township, Bob VonThun and his son from South Brunswick, and Angelo and Ann Trapani of Trapper’s Honey in Millstone.
At the close of the meeting around 7 p.m., patrons were free to avail themselves of an array of good salads, sandwiches and to tour the facility.
Reached in the growing fields behind the farm market, adorned with 12 hoop houses, owner John Dreyer said his entire six-acre property is surrounded by deer fencing.
Dreyer Farms on Springfield Avenue is not far from the open space of Union County College and Nomahegan Park, part of the Union County Parks’ system.
“We have over 300 deer within this square mile,” he said, noting he lives in a house about half a mile away.
“You come home at night and you find deer in your driveway, it’s crazy.
“It’s basically your bedroom community for New York, our school system is phenomenal,” he said. “Here in downtown Cranford, it’s all mom-and-pop stores, none of the big chains. That’s why I love it here.
“We’ve been here enough years to know who grows the better stuff,” he said, for supplying their value-added line of products.
Dreyer Farms is open seven days a week during the season and then closed from Christmas until the weather breaks in the spring.
“The smaller the place you have, the more handwork it is,” he said, “here, little areas mean a lot; it’s all hand planting, hand weeding and hand fertilizing, so it takes up a lot more time,” Dreyer said, noting the dozen hoop houses he has allow him to keep growing the wide variety of produce he sells at the farm store.
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