Moke, Briganti carry on Lindeken’s standards
WHARTON — Tom Moke, 36, and Joe Briganti, 35, were friends since their high school days at Morris County Vocational Technical School.
They were were also working full-time jobs in the construction industry.
The duo exited those jobs in April 2018 and became full-time farmers, leasing the Lindeken Farms stand located at 54 Route 15.
Moke and Briganti started their initial farming endeavor, Golden Grains Farms, a 380-acre grain farm, located in Long Valley, in 2012. “We have property in Long Valley and Mount Olive,” says Moke. “We did that part time – we both had day jobs in construction until this year – we did the grain and acquired more and more land and continued to get bigger. And last year (2017), Ken Stanlick, who is friends with my father-in-law, Harvey Ort (of Long Valley’s Ort Farms), announced he was retiring, so we thought it would be a good idea to step in and become full-time farmers.”
Both Moke and Briganti learned the farming trade at Ort Farms and recognize the importance of the Ort family’s support. “Harvey was our mentor,” says Moke. “I would say if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. They helped with equipment, land, and knowledge. This was our first year doing vegetables, and other than working under Harvey, we’d never done vegetables independently, so there was a lot of learning going on this year, mentoring from him, and he helped up with equipment we didn’t have, and we needed to borrow.”
When taking over Lindeken Farms, Moke and Briganti, both with young families, did have their numerous challenges.
“Oh yeah,” says Moke. “We quit our day jobs where we had steady paychecks every week. We had day jobs with health insurance, now we had to get our own health insurance. Also, Joe and I used to do everything ourselves when we had the grain farm, and now we had to find labor and manage a staff. Skilled labor, for anyone who knows anything about agriculture, is hard to find. There are difficult barriers to enter into farming including land acquisition and high equipment cost, so it’s very hard to start from scratch if you don’t have farming in your family. Just trying to find help, we went through high school kids, college kids, and they’re good workers.”
“We were faced with new challenges learning to manage a staff,” he continues, “manage a vegetable production and learn the ropes of a retail operation. Joe and I are the only men who run the tractors and trying to run the tractors, pick the crops and run the retail stand required lots of long nights and early mornings to get things done.”
Perhaps the most significant challenge was the 2018 weather. “It was probably one of the toughest years to start a farm, on the produce end,” adds Briganti. “The challenge is the weather and trying to provide the best product you can, a lot of people don’t understand how much the weather affects it.”
“You manage the crop as best you can, and the rest is up to Mother Nature.”
Growing grain carries Moke and Briganti through the winter season, although they also sold Christmas trees in Wharton during the holiday season. “We’re not established enough yet to make it through the winter without having grain in the bin and silos,” says Moke.
Lindeken Farms, which employs a crop share program and has a strong social media presence, also brought on many new products the former owners didn’t have, including dairy and meat products, as well as spreads like apple butter, jellies, preserves, and expanded fruit selection. All has helped Lindeken Farms continue to thrive.
This year, the duo is looking to increase the Farm Share Program memberships.
“I think we did really well, we made a lot of customers happy, and we tried really hard to give them the freshest, best produce we could,” says Moke. “I’m hoping to double our sales with our membership this year, which will help connect with our consumers.” Lindeken Farms “shakes hands” with the community, donating to the food pantry in Wharton a couple of times per week and also donates to local tricky trays.
Moke realizes that many Lindeken Farms customers may not realize that the stand is under new management, and they are doing their best to maintain the quality produce and customer service the previous owner provided. “I think a lot of the customers knew the Stanlicks for so long and knew what to expect, so we worked to please the customers as best as we could.” A key thing was retention of a lot of the old staff. “We were grateful to have some returning members to our summer team to help keep things status quo.”
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925