Zabacks off to fresh start with organic vegetables
LAWRENCEVILLE — When it comes to the often tricky business of growing and selling organic vegetables, there’s nothing like having a supportive family. Z Food Farm on busy Princeton Pike is one such operation.
Owner-operator David Zaback also has the benefit of a good location for his farm stand. His retired father, Alan, oversees much of the day-to-day operations at the stand.
The father-and-son team is aided by David’s mother Lynn, who works nearby at Educational Testing Service in Lawrence Township. Alan has no farming background. He was raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and moved out to Iowa City, Iowa, after college, where his son David was born. The family spent 27 years in Iowa.
“I was working in counseling out there. We moved here in 2001 when my wife got a job at ETS,” Alan said, noting David moved to central New Jersey in 2004, prompted by his vocational interest in growing organic vegetables.
David farms on land leased that fronts on Route 206 from Oliver Hamill, the co-owner of nearby Cherry Grove Farm.
Both Route 206 and Princeton Pike connect Trenton and Lawrence Township with Princeton.
“David is leasing the land and I’ve been helping him out along the way,” Alan said one day while helping customers at the stand. “So this is my retirement, working six and seven days a week during the season.”
Z Food Farm marked an important 10-year milestone this year. The Zabacks credited Hamill for supporting the efforts of him and other area farmers with their retail store on Route 206.
Hamill and his brothers “just want to have the land in production and not developed, so they’re friendly landlords and also very good stewards of the land,” Alan said.
Prior to helping manage his son’s bustling organic vegetable growing operations, Alan was a counselor at an in-patient chemical treatment program for 24 years in Iowa City. David was not much interested in farming in Iowa City, his father said. But, after David attended Humboldt State College in Arcata, Calif., for his junior year and got involved with the college farm, he was intrigued with organic farming.
After graduating from Iowa State University, David came to central New Jersey to intern with Princeton organic farmer Matt Conver.
Alan and Lynn live in Hightstown and son David lives in Ewing Township, closer to the farm.
The Z Food Farm consists of 14 acres, with six to eight acres are being used for vegetable production.
“We just did the farm stand two days a week back when we started 10 years ago, and the Philadelphia market on Saturdays,” Zaback said. “In our third year we went into the initial phases of our CSA program.”
Z Food Farm offers an array of exotic, niche vegetables,
including a wide variety of fennel, leeks, unique fingerling, red and purple potatoes, seven varieties of hot peppers, and a wide variety of sweet peppers.
“These are things you normally can’t find in the grocery store, like chocolate habanero, jalapeno and Aleppo peppers.”
Z Food Farm also grows and sells Bosque, Shishito, Hot Cherry, Jimmy Nardello, Mad Hatter, Chocolate habanero, jalopeno, Espelette, Aleppo, Aji dulce and Trinidad peppers. In all, they offer 14 varieties of sweet and seven varieties of hot peppers.
Alan said with many other produce farms in the area, having a wide variety of peppers and herbs in their crop list has helped set them apart.
“We have a lot more herbs than any other vendor I’ve seen at the Rittenhouse market as well as among local vendors here,” he said. “I think we have more diversity in herbs and those kinds of things help set us apart from others.” The Zabacks also grow several varieties of Japanese salad turnips.
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925