In 2017 Dr. Cynthia Hall and her husband Micaiah decided to start their own farm to plant, harvest and sell organic fruits and produce grown on their property in Lawnside New Jersey to support their healthy lifestyle. Neither was a stranger to farming and growing crops. “I’m from Lawnside my husband is from Connecticut, we met and got married in Atlanta and started growing food because I was in school, and we didn’t have a lot of money. I was a vegetarian, and I ate a lot of organic and my husband grew up growing food for his family. At the time we were living in an apartment and when we bought our first house he said, ‘You know I can grow food in the back,’ he did and we just kept going and eventually we said, we wanted to do this full time.”
Originally, they started selling excess fruits and vegetables from their home garden, but they live on a dead-end street that is difficult to find. So, they joined several local farmer’s markets and flea markets in South Jersey and in Philly. They were doing well until COVID hit last year. They were forced to shut down or curtail their normal schedule. They had an abundance of boxes they used to deliver their produce, so they started doing direct deliveries to their customers in the absence of farmers markets. They would personally deliver a box of fruits and vegetables to select customers. This year they are doing both.
“Last year COVID hit and we already had these boxes where people would subscribe for the whole season and get a box every week. Last year that was all we did because the farmers markets shut down or had modifications. Now we are doing both. We still have our boxes for people who subscribe for the season, and these are our primary customers because they’ve invested into our farm and our flowers and things we have in abundance we sell here at the Lawnside Farmer’s Market” shared Dr. Hall.
In addition to the one-acre plot on their property they also lease five acres in Pemberton, Burlington County, New Jersey. Currently, they are selling flowers, plants as well as asparagus, kale, lettuce and collards. As the season progresses they will add tomatoes, strawberries, seeded watermelons, peaches, peppers, eggplant, okra, cucumbers squash and zucchini. Later in the summer, they will plant and harvest pumpkins for the fall and squash.
“Everything is organic, we don’t use any chemicals, we rotate the crops we’ll also have root crops beets, garlic, onions. We have a waiting list (for weekly deliveries). If a customer doesn’t sign up for the next month, we have an opening. We deliver locally to South Jersey and Philly” she added.
Dr. Hall loves the fact that she can sell their produce at the Lawnside Farmers Market, a new venture that opens opportunities for the couple to market their produce and share information about organic foods and produce. “My family’s from here, my grandparents moved here in 1947 so this is my home. The significance of this is our farm is Free Haven Farms so we’ve tied in our mission with the history of Lawnside. (Lawnside is an incorporated self-governing Black town that was known as Free Haven at one time because it was a refuge for escaping enslaved African-Americans). We’ve been serving all these neighboring farmers markets but now we have our own home farmer’s marketplace its African-American run. Normally we were the only African-America vendors at those farmers markets, we’re still the only African-American farmers but we’re home. It’s nice to be literally right around the corner from our farm, where everything is super local and our customers are our neighbors and some of them are family so it’s nice to be here serving our community. It’s nice to be able to serve the community at large but to come back home, that’s what we always wanted.”
Part of their mission is to educate and inform the community about the benefits of organic, healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables. “It was a lot of education in the beginning. Social media has been helpful. We’ve been educating our marker through social media and using that as a platform to be able to impact younger people. It’s been building, every year we get a little bit bigger.
We had challenges in the beginning with the farming but once we got the town council on board approving what we were doing that helped. Here in Camden County we don’t have a lot of farms, the USDA doesn’t even have an office here, and we have to go to Burlington County to get service. We’re not in a place that supports us, so we’ve had to create that and get some of the rules at the USDA level changed in terms of what is considered a farm; they just created a new department within the USDA for urban farming, so that has been helpful.”
As part of their educational mission the Hall’s operate a summer farming and science camp (Dr Hall is a geochemist and a tenured college professor). “It’s called The Free Haven Summer Science Camp. Kids get to come out and we teach them about science, nature and agriculture. It’s a hand’s on learning experience. It’s a science camp and a farming camp we do both because I’m a scientist and a farmer.
I get into the science of nature and growing food. With the older kids we do a research project throughout the week. Science is infused in everything I do. There a four one week sessions in July and August. The children are broken up into age groups five to eight year olds and nine to twelve” Dr. Hall explained.
Dr. Hall is looking forward to a lengthy partnership with the Lawnside Farmers Market and hopes the word will get out about it and what they are doing. For additional information about Free Haven Farms or their summer camp visit: https://freehaveneducationalfarms.com , check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FreeHavenFarms or E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates.