Harvest dinner honors county's farmers

New farm board president, Jim Hunt, presented

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  • Lori Space Day, Mitchell Jones, CeCe Pattison, State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), Jim Hunt, Steve Konar, Tom Brodhecker, Les Giles, Joan Snook-Smith, Glen Vincenzo and Doug Ricker Jr. Photo by Meghan Byers

  • Farmers to table, at the Mohawk House Photo provided by Mohawk House

By Meghan Byers

— The Sussex County Board of Agriculture officially presented their 2017 president, Jim Hunt, this Monday evening at the Mohawk House’s annual harvest dinner. Hunt, of Windy Brow Farms in Fredon, is just one of the many farmers that the Mohawk House collaborates with on a daily basis to create their unique, “farm-to-table” meals.

“The heart of Sussex County is farming,” said Steve Scro, owner of the Mohawk House. “I think it’s important for any business to support local farms. It’s important to know where your food is coming from, and know the people behind it.”

The harvest dinner, which has been a regular event at the Mohawk House for the past eight years, provides an opportunity for farmers to “come together and socialize,” according to Scro. “It’s not often that they all get the chance to come together, tell stories, share information.”

“We work with 40 to 50 farms,” Mohawk House executive chef Brian Saxton said. “It makes a huge difference in the quality of the dish; you can’t get anything like what we can get from our own backyard. You can definitely tell the difference.”

Hunt said that there has been “an uptick in interest among suburbanites” when it comes to farm-to-table eating.

“But we farmers have lived that life forever,” said Lori Space Day, of Space Farms Zoo and Museum in Wantage, NJ. “Your local farmer is your friend,” she added. “If you have a question, your local farmer will be happy to answer it.”

Although the farm itself dates back to the 1800s, Windy Brow Farms’ apple orchard was first begun in the 1940s, and has since evolved from a purely commercial operation to “diversified agri-tourism,” according to Hunt.

Windy Brow welcomed over 2,000 visitors in July of this year, for example, when it hosted an ice cream social featuring approximately 300 gallons of its own house-made ice cream.

“It’s part of the farming game now,” Hunt said of agritourism, citing Sussex County’s location as ideal for attracting visitors from the more populated areas of New Jersey and New York. “The education level of farmers has risen drastically. There are a lot more farmers with college degrees now.”

Despite the increase in educational programs and changing business practices of farming, the lifestyle, Day and Hunt agreed, remains the same.

“If you’re a farmer, you’re never bored,” Day said. “There’s always a challenge.”

“I come from numerous generations of farmers,” Hunt said. “It’s something in your blood.”

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