NOFA-NJ to host first ‘Festomato’ event on Sept. 7
PRINCETON — While the 400-plus members of Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Jersey host many meetings and smaller events throughout the year to which the public is invited, an upcoming event on the plaza in front of the busy Princeton Public Library is designed to offer something for everyone.
Backyard gardeners and conventional farmers who are curious about organic gardening and farming methods and organic food can attend the first “Festomato,” a day-long event co-sponsored by NOFA-NJ and Princeton Public Library.
This free celebration of tomatoes — and indeed, all things organic, including cooking demonstrations and lectures — is slated for Hinds Plaza in front of PPL on Witherspoon Street, Princeton on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nagisa Manabe, a Harvard Business School graduate and organic farmer who owns and operates River Stoan Farm in nearby Kingston — said “Festomato” is designed to be an event that will hopefully raise public awareness about the regenerative aspects of organic farming.
“We want to raise public awareness about organic food and the challenges facing Garden State farmers,” Manabe said.
“We thought a great way to do that is invite everybody out to enjoy one of the Garden State’s most celebrated crops, the Jersey Tomato.”
Manabe, chief operating officer for NOFA-NJ, worked closely with NOFA-NJ president Adrian Hyde, who lives nearby, and a small team of volunteers for months to make “Festomato” a memorable event.
It may become an annual event.
Chefs will demonstrate recipes using Jersey Fresh tomatoes.
Three bands will entertain patrons throughout the afternoon at Hinds Plaza.
Patrons shouldn’t let a little rain keep them away, as there will be plenty of tables and chairs underneath a large tent on the plaza.
“Many Princeton restaurants will be on hand serving food, including anything you can think of with tomatoes, like gazpacho and tomato sorbet,” Manabe said.
A number of area chefs will be on hand to demonstrate various recipes involving tomatoes and other organically grown vegetables.
They include Kim Rizk of Jammin’ Crepes, and PBS-TV chef Christina Pirello.
Rizk will serve up a tomato preserving demonstration, as most organic farmers and backyard gardeners are often faced with a profusion of ripe tomatoes in the same two or three week window each growing season.
Nate Kleinman from Experimental Food Network in Philadelphia will speak about saving seeds, she said, “so if you have a tomato variety you love you can learn how to save the seeds for next season.”
Participating farms include Jess Neiderer’s Chickadee Creek Farm in Pennington, Robert Muth’s Muth Family Farm in Williamstown, Abe’s Acres Farm, Hightstown, Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrence Township and Cherry Valley Co-Op, Skillman.
All of them will be bringing their tomatoes and other Jersey Fresh organic produce to the festival.
Patrons will be able to sample more than 50 varieties of tomatoes.
Al Johnson and Stephanie Harris, longtime members of NOFA-NJ and pioneering organic farmers from Titusville and Hopewell, respectively, will speak about regenerative agriculture.
Harris will speak about planting a climate-friendly victory garden, while Johnson will speak about how to cultivate healthy, living soils through the power of composting. Judy Robinson from NOFA-NJ will be on hand to discuss pollinators and tomato growing.
Lectures are scheduled to be held on a quieter end of the plaza, because three bands will be performing throughout the day.
“We’re also presenting a wonderful kids program, where kids will be teaching other kids about organic practices,” Manabe said.
“People can learn a lot more about organic growing practices,” Manabe stressed, “and if you’re not an organic farmer or gardener, you can learn how to do it. If you’ve been growing organically for a while, we’re going to have several organic ‘doctors,’ there. If you’re having trouble with your tomatoes at the end of the season, you can get coaching from Stephanie Harris, Al Johnson, Tessa Desmond and others from NOFA-New Jersey.”
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