‘Skeba Way’ kept family on course since 1912
MONROE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (Oct. 10, 2017) — Between his long-established Red Wagon Farm Market on nearby Route 33, the 850 acres he farms, and the way other farmers rave about his corn, Joe Skeba isn’t planning on retiring any time soon.
His son Daniel, Joe’s wife Laurie, and several crews help Joe manage his 50-plus acres of sweet corn and the huge variety of other vegetables and fruit he grows.
He has sold off some of his land over the years but still owns 400 acres and leases another 450 acres.
“My grandfather was a farmer, my father was a farmer, and I’ve been farming all of my life as well,” Skeba said. His son Daniel, 38, the fourth generation to farm the land, has been helping out since he was five.
“I’m still in the house my grandfather lived in. I raise all types of vegetables and have a farm market on Route 33,” he said, noting the Red Wagon has been in various locations in its four-decade history, mostly along Route 33, a road that runs from Trenton to the Jersey Shore.
Joe Skeba, 74, said he attended Trenton Catholic High School, as did many from Monroe and Cranbury back then, and then attended Mercer County College and Rider University.
He never got a four-year degree. His grandfather, Louis Skeba, came from Poland as a farmhand and later bought the land they now own in Monroe Township. His father Stanley Skeba continued the farm’s operations.
“When my grandfather bought this farm in 1912, he paid about $9,000 for it, which was an extremely high price at the time,” Joe said.
He’s sold off some of the land over time and there’s even a ‘Skeba Way’ in the nearby housing development. The street is named for his late mother, Agnes, he said, who passed away three years ago at age 95.
What makes Skeba Farm unique is his large corn growing operation, Joe said.
“We’re kind of famous for our sweet corn,” he said. “Most of the other farmers, when they run out of corn for their road stands, they come here. According to many of them, my corn is the best.”
The Skebas grow sweet corn on about 50 acres but the rest of their land is used for other vegetables, including soybeans.
“We’ve always grown a little bit of everything: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, acorn squash, sweet corn, broccoli and cauliflower.”
Daniel went to Middlesex County College and has some real estate training as well. Asked about changes they’ve witnessed in once-rural Monroe Township, Daniel said housing and traffic have increased on many once-rural roads.
“Moving equipment down the road is a challenge because some of the equipment is now wider than the roads, and there are some roads with guard rails that restrict your access,” Daniel said.
“Over the years, I kept experimenting with different varieties of corn and how and what to feed it. Eventually it turned out bigger and better than everyone else around here,” Joe added.
With his Red Wagon Farm Stand that he founded 40 years ago and has been in various locations on Route 33, Joe said, “I learned a long time ago the price for vegetables was not high enough, so I had to open a retail stand. I put a red wagon out there with a cover.”
Laurie, his wife, oversees the vegetable stand most days during the season. Their two daughters and two other sons aren’t involved in the farm, though one son, Joe, owns his own farm in East Windsor.
At 74, Joe said to a great extent, farming is the only life he’s ever known and has little interest in doing anything else.
He’s sold off some of his land, but he loves working outdoors every day.
“I’ve been working seven days a week since I was 10. I like the life. This is it, no boss, no rules, I just have to show up every day in the same place,” he said.
“And, no commute.”
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