‘Family-friendly’ Silverton Farms hoping to promote preservation
TOMS RIVER — Tom and Dawn Nivison may not have room on their 8-acre Silverton Farms for an apple orchard, but during a recent interview both owners sat under an original 100-year-old apple tree that was once part of a past orchard.
That’s what happens when you try to keep the past alive while bringing it into the present. It’s like a museum.
One can really appreciate the display, the true worth.
This a paradise surrounded by a busy Garden State Parkway, and Routes 9 and 70. “And (Route) 37 is over that way,” says Nivison. “This was all farms when I was a kid,” says the 59-year-old Nivison with a wave of his hand.
He is the 10th-generation in his family, they have been in the area since the American Revolution.
Silverton Farms has been in Nivison’s family for over 30 years, and it is family-friendly and offers pick-your-own fresh produce including corn, strawberries, and much more. “It (keeping the farm alive) means as much to me now as it did then, getting those packs of seeds,” he says, reflecting back to his youth, when his neighbor was the head of the Ocean County 4-H Club.
She was an avid organic gardener, and that encouragement wore well on Tom.
“My mentor (Jane) was way ahead of her time. We’re talking the early 1960s organic.”
In fact, being best friends with that neighbor’s son breeded friendly competition to see who could grow the best garden.
He and his friend would go to the local garden center and buy seed, back then a financial challenge for both at .39 cents a pack.
All of this introduced Nivison to organic gardening, something he employs year-round at his small, family-owned, Silverton Farms in Toms River.
It’s a life he loves, and he considers himself fortunate to farm the land he lives next to.
Nivison said he knew the moment he made the decision to buy the property which was in disrepair and hadn’t been farmed for years, that it would work, even though when people hear “Toms River” they think Route 37 to the shore and Seaside Heights.
“Nothing’s changed, really. It’s still just as exciting, still actually more gratifying now because I have my grandkids living down the road, and we’re preserved so we know this isn’t going anywhere.”
He stops and thinks, then says, “It’s hard to describe what it means.”
This is hard work, and Nivison can attest to that. But the reward you can read in his eyes, hear in his voice, is wonderful.
He wants others to experience the wonderful experience of yesteryear farming that has been lost, that he and his family are keeping alive. “It takes a lot of energy,” says Tom.
“We have a giant customer base,” adds Dawn.
“I like to think of it (farming) as the miracle of soil. There’s not too many things in the is world that if, just taken care of, even minimally taken care of, will produce for centuries,” Tom says.
“It’s a happy spot. Even in the winter people come and walk around,” says Dawn.
The goal from the beginning was to have a farm, a farm market for the public, that families could visit, look around in comfort, and enjoy — like it’s their farm.
In fact, family visitation is encouraged, to see how a local farmer works his land, and the miracle that hard work and nature produce, and as well to enjoy the farm animals who also live on and enjoy the life.
“For the kids,” says Tom, “to connect with the land a little bit.” Visitors come to pick flowers to, all grown in three greenhouses, which will soon be joined by a fourth.
In addition to Tom and Dawn, Silverton Farms also is home to four goats and a flock of chickens (who supply the farm with a daily abundance of eggs of varying colors), as well as son Clifton, 11, Erik, 33, and Thomas Jr., 36.
“It’s hard to believe they’ll eat all that hay before bed,” says Tom while smiling, his eyes on the four goats sharing and munching on small bales of hay. Nearby soil is being prepped to for pumpkins, watermelon and sweet corn.
“Eat your vegetables,” says Dawn, overlooking acreage that soon will be all planted and down the road bear fruits and vegetables.
“We’re trying to promote farmland preservation. I was on the board for ten years in Ocean County. Basically, we’re trying to be environmental stewards, not just farmland.”
“Just Mow It,” says Tom, regarding his campaign tending to lawns minus pesticides.
Silverton Farms is located at 1520 Silverton Road, in Toms River, New Jersey.
The farm is open May through October: Tuesdays through Saturdasy, gtom 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on weekends only in November.
For more information, visit www.silvertonfarmsnj.com.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925