Ort evolving with ag for generations
LONG VALLEY — On the 175-acre Ort Farms, the quietest spot is a distant cow pasture, cows grazing quietly while, a few hundred yards away, non-stop busyness and business consumes the on-site farm market, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) stand set-up, and more.
Nicole Ort Moke drives a pick-up truck bearing the “Ort Farms” name along Bartley Road in Long Valley, the truck bed carrying many gallons of apple cider.
“We retail it, and we also have a CSA program which is a membership,” she says, “and so we’re giving it out this week and it’s part of the share this week.”
She then continues, “It’s kind of a nice description of how we’re kind of lucky in this area of western Morris County — all the farms around here somewhat work together, simultaneously supplying things when we have a need for them.
“And we don’t have apple cider here, so we buy ours from Melick’s (Farm in Oldwick).”
There’s much history here and includes lots of Orts. “I have a lot of cousins who have worked here, so it’s actually six generations of our farm family that have worked here,” adds Moke.
In the mid-1800s, Harvey S. Ort, son of William Ort, farmed on Spring Lane in the Schooley’s Mountain, and Jacob W. Ort, Harvey’s son, started farming primarily as a dairy farmer and raising livestock on the current 25 Bartley Road location in 1916.
In the 102 years since, dairy farming continued, growing hay and grain began, and during the 1970’s, Harvey Sr, son of Jacob, sold the dairy portion of the business but constructed the current roadside farm stand to encourage an entry into fresh produce industry.
“My grandfather worked the dairy farm, but he also started setting up a roadside stand with vegetables, and then when my Dad (Harvey Ort, Jr.) got out of high school he started growing vegetables full-time,” says Mort. She then adds with a smile, “Sometimes Grandpa likes to make sure his role is noted.”
Ort Jr, born in 1956, eventually became a full-time farmer, vastly expanded the vegetable production via retail and wholesale outlets while continuing to farm grain and hay. In the early 1980s, Ort Farms unveiled one of the first pick your own pumpkin sections in the area, and community farmers’ markets, increased farm stand products, selling Christmas trees, expanding the greenhouses, and offering guided tours to schools were repertoire added.
The new century to the current has seen continued growth and evolvement as Harvey Jr’s daughters, Sarah and Nicole, have now added the CSA program, summer programs, birthday parties and corporate events.
“It’s changing,” verifies Ort Jr, when asked about the status of Garden State farming. “When I grew up there were many dairy farms. Now there are very few left in the state. There are a lot of smaller start-up vegetable farms. My friends who were dairy farmers are all growing vegetables now because we have more directs sales to people, and that’s where we’re growing our own beef, and other people are growing their own beef, because that’s where the market is right now.”
Adds Moke, “That’s how a lot of us are continuing keeping the wheels turning is diversification. There’s not a farmer who just grows peaches and wholesales them. That profile is very limited nowadays.”
The future for Ort Farm? “My answer is apples,” says Moke.
She and Zach Miller, a farmer on-site, are hard at work planning and developing an apple orchard.
“Zach and I are working on five acres of apples; we don’t have an apple orchard. So that’s our next venture,” Nicole said.
“Well,” adds Ort Jr, “I think that’s one of the other things that’s moving us to another level, changing it for the future, making it more viable.”
And, as a Mom to young children, and as a person who recalls her early days on the farm, Nicole Ort Moke feels the gift of spending time on Ort Farm is best for her children.
“When I think about my childhood and the freedom we had on the farm, I think it helps kids learn how to make proper decisions, learn how to be self-aware and self-confident, and accountable for things,” she said.
The time is now to visit for Halloween and to trek through the Ort Farm Corn Maze, something that has been a yearly event since Superstorm Sandy. “We have had charities benefit from our corn maze. Last year we did Seeing Eye, two years ago we did Goryeb Childrens’ Hospital in Morristown, and this year were working with Operation Chillout, as well as the Army and Navy relief societies. Each year we donate anywhere between 3 to 5,000 to those groups,” says Moke.
Ort Farms is open seven days a week. For more information, visit https://www.ortfarms.com.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925