Store hits stride as business after three generations as farm
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Bright flowers filled baskets and flats in the front of the Feisty Pepper Farm Store on a recent sunny Saturday morning.
Proprietor Tom Galfo sprayed green paint on the gravel to delineate somewhat formal parking spaces while his wife and business partner, Hazel, helped customers pick out flowers.
The store went up last September at the Weldon Road farm as a way of increasing the Feisty Pepper’s sales for this season. The Galfos also offer a 50-member Community Supported Agriculture program.
The farm is in its third generation but has only been a business for three years. Galfo’s parents and grandparents operated it as a hobby farm.
“They would sell their extra vegetables,” he said.
Feeling, “it’s in my blood,” Galfo felt he had to turn it into a full-time operation. Hazel worked off the farm for a while, but now is a full-time farmer, too.
“You’ve got to be passionate about farming,” she said. “When I was only half-time here, it showed.”
Intern Billy Pugsley, 17, is in his second year with the Galfos.
“I’m thinking about farming as a career,” he said.
Hazel’s daughters, Dana, 18, and Pia, 13, Yaptangco, who live in Morristown, also help on their days with Hazel and Tom. Tom’s parents, his Uncle Gordon and a niece also help out when they are needed.
The produce in the stand is still from South Jersey, with corn from Florida, but soon it will come from the 8 1/2 acres the Galfos own. They also stock jams from Sparta Mountain Farm, milk and cheese from Springhouse Creamery, local meat and their own eggs from about 98 chickens.
Early in the season, customers are perusing flats and choosing baskets. Hazel puts together arrangements in large and small pots.
Some of the pots recently spent an evening at the home of prom parents.
The mother told Tom she was unexpectedly expected to play host to pre-prom photos, so he loaned her several large pots with arrangements and she returned them the next morning.
“I do things like that for the community,” Galfo said.
Many Memorial Day arrangements were selling the Saturday morning before the holiday.
“I have family members who have served in all branches of the military,” Galfo said. He noted he cooks once a year for the Kenvil VFW where his uncle is a member.
Throughout the morning Tom and Hazel talked to customers who visited.
At one point, Tom was telling one family the CSA is for more adventurous cooks because of the variety of vegetables offered. Hazel was explaining the care of portulacas to another customer.
“Our specialty is the special attention we pay to our customers,” Galfo said. He noted the public can get flowers at other stores, but not the care and relationship they get from a local farmer.
“We remember their names and their kids’ names,” he said. “Customers feel like family members.”
Hazel said farm stands are an antidote to what is becoming a monolithic economy. She noted in other countries they have avoided an influx of big box stores.
“We have a culture of convenience and become slaves to time,” she said. She lamented the fact many children don’t know where their chicken or vegetables come from.
Serving on the Morris County Agricultural Development Board is another way Galfo exercises his passion for farming. He noted the board has protected 143 farms throughout the county.
“We can’t let farms go away because people see dollar signs,” he said.
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