Pam and Gary Mount, the owners of Terhune Orchards in Lawrence Township, have worked to make the connection between farms and schools for years, and this week their efforts were acknowledged when they were presented with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s inaugural Jersey Fresh Farm to School Farmer Recognition Award.
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher presented the award to the Mounts and their daughters, Tannwen Mount and Reuwai Hanewald, in celebration of Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, which was held Sept. 24-28.
“Terhune Orchards is an amazing place. You can always point to Terhune Orchards and how a farm should work, how it relates to children and the community. I can’t think of a farm or a family that is more deserving of the award,” Fisher said of Terhune Orchards.
Students benefit from consuming healthy local produce, but they can also learn from farmers about how their food is grown, Fisher said. The Farmers Recognition Award highlights how farms can work with schools to teach farm-to-school activities and to encourage more farmers to connect with schools, he said.
The 200-acre Terhune Orchards, which is open year-round, hosts classes from schools and hands-on activities for children. Through its tours, Terhune Orchards shows children how crops grow, beginning with seeds.
Children learn what life is like on the farm by visiting the apple orchard, the pumpkin patch and the children’s garden. There are farm animals, too.
For 13 years, Tannwen Mount has organized “read and pick” programs for preschool pupils. Terhune Orchards staffers read stories about farm produce and activities, and then the children and their parents can pick fruits and vegetables at the farm. There is also a summer camp.
Reuwai Hanewald, who is a former science teacher, joins local chefs in the schools and provides fresh fruits and vegetables from Terhune Orchards, introducing the children to the growing, cooking and tastes of fresh farm produce.
The hands-on educational activities offered by Terhune Orchards is the reason the first award was presented to the Mount family, said Beth Feehan, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program coordinator.
State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Hunterdon and Mercer) presented a resolution to the Mount family. She said she was “just delighted” to attend the recognition program. It is a privilege to be able to salute Terhune Orchards and the Mounts, she said.
“They know the importance of getting children involved in agriculture, if we want to continue to keep the ‘garden’ in the Garden State. You are the jewel in our crown,” Turner told the Mount family.
Lawrence Township Councilman Michael Powers agreed and told the Mounts that Terhune Orchards is “really the jewel of Lawrence Township.” It has been that way for decades, he said, and it will continue to be a jewel because the land has been permanently preserved as farmland.
Gary Mount, who was obviously pleased, said that when he and his wife bought the farm in 1975, they agreed to share the farm with the community. Since that time, thousands of people have visited Terhune Orchards, he said.