By Kyler R. Zhou
For more than 45 years, Gary Mount and his wife, Pam, have owned and operated Terhune Orchards, a staple farm of the Princeton area. After 35 years of writing for the farm’s quarterly newsletter, the Terhune Orchard News, Gary Mount has compiled his articles in his new book, “A Farmer’s Life: Notes from Terhune Orchards.”
“I wanted to write down what it’s really like to be a farmer. People have a lot of different ideas, but there are so many aspects that are very detailed and require painstaking attention,” Mount said. “It’s [the book] a mix of my farming experience and my family life, and I wrote it to share my delight in farming with our customers, the local community, and my colleagues across the country.”
A lifelong resident of Central New Jersey, Mount grew up on a 300-acre apple farm that his father, Bernard Mount, owned in West Windsor, and it was always Gary Mount’s dream to follow his family’s footsteps and become a farmer, just like his ancestors for the past nine generations.
“I was determined to go to an agricultural school, Rutgers or maybe Cornell,” Gary Mount writes in his opening chapter, “A Farm Boy Goes to Princeton.”
But when his father found out that Gary had the grades to go to Princeton University, he told his son “he had to go there.”
“There’s no place like Princeton University, and the opportunities it gave me engendered self-confidence I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere,” Gary Mount said.
However, his years at Princeton U. drifted him away from his childhood dream of being a farmer. After graduating in 1966 magna cum laude with a degree in physiological psychology, Mount was set to attend the University of Virginia’s graduate psychology program, when his father died unexpectedly at age 56, forcing him to return to West Windsor and care for his family.
A year later, Gary married Pam, his high school sweetheart, and the couple spent their next three years in Micronesia with the Peace Corps.
“One of the biggest impacts that Princeton had on me was the motivation to do something beneficial to the world with your abilities that came through education,” Gary Mount said. “Our three years with the Peace Corps led to big changes: more maturity, thoughtfulness, and understanding of what it means to find a place in the world. We learned that our impact didn’t have to be global to be significant.”
With his newly gained perspective from his time in Micronesia, Gary Mount rediscovered his love for farming, helping 400 people farm coconuts on the island.
Upon returning to New Jersey, he had his eyes on becoming a farmer, and in 1975, he bought a 55-acre farm right outside Princeton that has now grown to the 250-acre farm known as Terhune Orchards.
But farming was a “dying way of life,” as Gary Mount described it; no one had bought a farm for over 20 years at the time. Being just 28 years of age with a young daughter, Reuwai, Gary and Pam took a tremendous chance buying a farm in Central New Jersey with more money than they could afford.
Over the next 45 years, the Mounts expanded the farm from 55 acres to 250 acres, growing 45 different fruits and vegetables, and to this day, the farm remains a regional delight that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, he said.
“With this book, it’s important for me to leave behind the importance of community contribution, of sharing what you have with others,” Gary Mount said.
His daughters, Reuwai Hanewald and Tannwen Mount, have now joined the family business as the 11th generation of Mount farmers and the second generation to run Terhune Orchards.
“My daughters will undoubtedly have different ideas than me and Pam. Whatever they end up doing here, it might be quite different than what we’ve done, and that’s fine with us. So, Pam and I have left a lot of flexibility for them to follow what they want to do with the farm.”