BY TINA PAPPAS
The best kept secret in Cedar Grove just may be Morgan’s Farm. Located at 903 Pompton Avenue (Route 23 north) in the township, the 14-acre site is an organic farm that was continuously cultivated and maintained by two families from 1845 through 1985. Today, the property is protected and still used to farm locally grown organic produce and other products, including offering a museum to the public at the Morgan House, which functions as it did in the early 1900’s. The Cedar Grove Historical Society keeps its headquarters at the house and continues to work towards preserving the history of the township.
According to John Ostering, farm manager who volunteers his time maintaining the grounds as a member of the Cedar Grove Historical Society, the Canfield family first owned the property beginning from the mid-1800’s. In 1910, the family sold the property to the Morgan family. Courtenay Morgan ultimately left his property to the township in 1985.
“When Courtenay donated the property to the township, it was his hope that his house would become the home of the Cedar Grove Historical Society,” said Ostering. “So he added a stipulation that the organization would create a museum to preserve Cedar Grove’s past. We are a one hundred percent volunteer run organization and we look to preserve everything historic in the township.”
Ostering added that the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the barn was renovated
several times, it’s base foundation and some walls are still original.
“Morgan turned down 2 million dollars back in the day because he never wanted to see this property developed,” he said, adding that the barn provides locally grown, organic products to the public
Ostering said among the items the indoor market sells is raw organic honey, made on right on the grounds of property, maple syrup and specialty jams. Raspberries, onions, peppers, kale, eggplants, beans, lettuces, melons, squash, cucumbers, romaine, tomatoes, radishes, arugula, corn, scallions, zucchini, and berries are among the locally grown produce. Also sold are Ostering’s handmade wood board creations, which contain a food grade seal and are ready to use.
According to former Cedar Grove Councilman Harry Kumburis, fields that are cultivated and maintained by hand are become more and more scarce in agriculture today, particularly those that are entirely organic.
“John has continued to preserve this type of farming and it’s wonderful to know that this is one of the few places where it’s still being done, and it’s being done right here in the township!”
Additionally, Ostering expanded the original small garden seven years ago in order to have a vegetable stand, located in the indoor market on the property. Besides produce, the lush garden also offers a variety of fragrant flowers, including zinnias, lavender, and even cafe au lait dahlias, including spices such as parsley. The honey production is located behind the flower beds. There is also milkweed grown to feed Monarch butterflies during their life cycle. It addition to milkweed, this area of the garden provides nectar sources and shelter needed to sustain the butterflies as they migrate through North America, and is certified and registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation.
“I built the garden over Thanksgiving Weekend around seven years ago,” he added. “It consists of all organic soil and it took me three years to build the 11 beds. In farming, you’re constantly replanting, directly seeding or transplanting so that’s why I have a greenhouse. You’re always thinking about four weeks ahead and where you’re going to be down the road with you plantings.
Ostering said the fencing on the garden was updated recently. He added that the society has invested into the farm to create many necessary updates.
Local florist owner George Cuellar, owner of Coqui Designs, feels the farm was the best thing that ever happened to the township.
“They have a very organic product here with no chemicals whatsoever,” Cuellar explained, “John is amazing and we
love him. He does this strictly on a volunteer basis and has put his own money into the grounds. He manages the barn and field by hand. I learned so much from him and we’ve exchanged mutually beneficial ideas over the years.”
Gala Belfer, a Verona resident, said she discovered the barn and its organic items fairly recently.
“I just moved here and I noticed it when I drove by,” she said. “John and other volunteers were so welcoming and they explained everything they do. I brought my husband here and we walked around the garden area. It’s quite beautiful and very pristine.”
Kumburis also added that the township floods the bottom of the field area by the gazebo during the winter season to create a makeshift outdoor ice-skating rink and during the summer it’s host to the township’s Concert in the Park series.
Ostering emphasized that the township was very fortunate to have this barn, garden and museum,
“We sell products all year long, and we have honey all throughout the year,” he noted, adding that the organic farm stand main season runs from May through to October. The hours are Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The inside season begins Dec. 1 through to the spring. The museum is open all year long by appointment from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Ostering said that the Historical Society and museum continues to dedicate its mission to the preservation of the township’s history.
“It’s really been a labor of love for me and I hope this property continues to be preserved and maintained organically. The society is dedicated to preserving this history in Cedar Grove.”
For more information, visit the Morgan’s Farm website, morgansfarm.org