South Jersey Family Outings: Visit Fernbrook Farms & Eat Lunch at Properly Fueled

Fernbrook Farms and Properly Fueled are family-friendly destinations offering locally-sourced, healthy food and fun.

IMG_6448
Properly Fueled’s Jasmine Green Tea ($2)

Highlights:

  • Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield, New Jersey (near Bordentown) offers a CSA program, kids’ summer camp, hiking trails, and a farm market selling produce and other locally-sourced goods
  • Downtown Bordentown boasts a vibrant downtown area with a number of restaurants, including Properly Fueled
  • Properly Fueled serves locally-sourced, healthy breakfast and lunch items, kids’ meals, smoothies, coffee, tea, and baked goods. They also cater.

Fernbrook Farms

This year, I discovered something new. Well, really only new to me. I’ve lived in New Jersey my whole life, and until 2018, I’d never explored Bordentown.

It started as a quest to find a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program. In the spring, we went to Smithville Park’s annual Earth Fair where we met the friendly people from Fernbrook Farms just outside Bordentown. At their vendor table, we learned about Fernbrook’s CSA. After reading some positive reviews about their program, our family enrolled.

Fernbrook isn’t close – about a forty-minute drive –  to where we live in Medford. But throughout the whole season of shuttling back and forth to Fernbrook for our CSA share once a week, I never minded the drive. In fact, although I usually loathe driving, I almost always looked forward to the scenic trip up Route 206.

Yesterday was our last visit to Fernbrook for the year. I’ll miss cooking with the fresh produce we got there each week, but our final haul was much bigger than I expected. In fact, I hadn’t realized just how many crops could still thrive in New Jersey when the temperature drops so low. My son and I brought home bags of deep green kale, cabbage, butternut squash, potatoes, parsley, sage, turnips, radishes, carrots, and celery.

When we arrived for our final CSA pickup, the Fernbrook Farms staff had a campfire burning outside. As always, they greeted us upon our arrival. Beside the campfire sat a picnic table offering free samples of lavender-spiced cookies. (I’m still undecided on whether I like lavender in food.) Beside the basket of cookies sat a decorative fall centerpiece and a few bourbon pecan pies for sale. Inside the shop, Fernbrook also sells locally-sourced goods like dairy products, meat, frozen ravioli, eggs, potato chips, iced tea, coffee, and barbecue sauce.

Before we picked up our produce, my son (who is almost four) wanted to go hiking one last time despite yesterday’s bitter temperatures. (Okay, maybe not bitter, but I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold.) Fernbrook does a lot more than just grow vegetables. In fact, they do a little of everything – from weddings to summer camp for kids. The farm’s’ property is also home to a number of scenic hiking trails, and as a result of walking the trails each week, my son has a newfound passion for hiking.

Fernbrook is also home to a number of farm animals. Earlier in the season, we got to see the pigs they raised for meat. Explaining to my son why they were no longer at the farm in an age-appropriate way provided a bit of a challenge, but I’m glad he knows that his food doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store. The rest of the animals at Fernbrook – goats, sheep, chickens, a cow, ducks, and rabbits – are for educational purposes only. We said our final goodbyes to the animals as my son petted the friendly goats.

IMG_6437
Saying ‘goodbye’ for the year to Fernbrook Farms’ cow

Properly Fueled

Driving away from the farm, I got one last look at the unique historic buildings on the farm (shown above). By the time we left, we were both famished. Over the summer, we had enjoyed a meal at Properly Fueled in downtown Bordentown, so I suggested we dine there again. After I reminded my son about their kids’ fruit kebobs, he agreed.

Bordentown has a beautiful and vibrant downtown area. Although we had to park a distance up the street from Properly Fueled, we didn’t mind the walk. But once we got to Properly Fueled, we were grateful for how quickly our food arrived.

Properly Fueled is a small, cozy cafe-style eatery that specializes in locally-sourced health food like quinoa and vegetable bowls. Their menu also offers breakfast items, smoothies, sandwiches, and seasonal specials. A wall in the cafe boasts a list of their local partners that supply everything on their menu – from honey to vegetables to coffee. (Fernbrook, of course, is one of their local suppliers.)

My son ordered his kids’ Fruit Kebobs ($5) – strawberries, bananas, and apples served with a side of sweetened cinnamon yogurt for dipping. I opted for their Rad Thai Bowl ($10.50). Although I didn’t enjoy it as much I enjoyed the Asian bowl I ordered there earlier in the year, it was still a tasty choice. To drink, my son had iced water served in a Mason jar, and I had a mug of hot jasmine green tea. Before we left, we both ordered to-go items: a gluten-free smores cookie for him and a decaf coffee for me.

IMG_6446
Properly Fueled’s kids’ fruit kebabs ($5)
IMG_6447
Properly Fueled’s Rad Thai Noodles ($10.50)

Right now, we’re undecided on whether we’ll join Fernbrook’s CSA again next year. As my son gets older and participates in more activities, a weekly forty-minute drive might prove too hectic for our family. However, I highly recommend Fernbrook to anyone who lives close to Bordentown (or who doesn’t mind driving there each week.) The CSA is not only affordable but also great for families who want to teach their kids more about where food comes from.

You can signup now for Fernbrook’s 2019 CSA program, which costs $660 for 26 weeks, from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving, approximately $25 a week. We always had plenty to eat each week – and some leftovers too.

Even if we don’t join the CSA again, I’m positive we’ll be back to Fernbrook for a visit in the spring. Afterward, I look forward to another relaxing lunch at Properly Fueled.  If you love to eat local, make the trip to explore Bordentown. I can’t imagine anyone would regret it.

Fernbrook Farms:

142 Bordentown Georgetown Rd
Chesterfield, NJ 08515

Properly Fueled:

1 1/2 Crosswicks St
Bordentown, New Jersey

Monday – Friday: 7 am-8 pm

Saturday: 7 am-3 pm

What are your favorite things to do in Bordentown?

Easy Fall Sweet Potato & Chicken Bake

Whip up this easy sweet potato and chicken dish for a tasty autumn meal.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

Easy Sweet Potato & Chicken Bake
Whip up this easy sweet potato and chicken dish for a tasty autumn dinner.

 

Sweet potato & chicken bake

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in. cubes

3 leeks, roughly chopped

2 tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, mashed

2 tbs. Lemon juice

½ tsp. CinnamonIMG_5940

1 tsp. Salt (or to taste)

¼ tsp. Black pepper

1 inch. Piece fresh ginger, minced

½ c. orange juice

1/2 tbs. Grainy, old-style mustard (I used Maille brand)

1 lb. chicken breast tenderloins

Parsley, fresh or dried (optional)

Jasmine rice

2 c. white jasmine rice

2 c. chicken broth

1 tbs. Butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients for the sweet potato and chicken bake in a large, oven-proof glass casserole dish. Make sure sweet potatoes and chicken are coated.

IMG_5941

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft and tender and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Cook the rice while the sweet potatoes and chicken are baking. I used an Instant Pot for our rice, cooked at high pressure for 4 minutes with a 10-minute release time.

Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with rice.

Fernbrook Farms is one of many Community-Supported Agricultural (CSA) farms in New Jersey. Thirty-five minutes north of our home in Medford, Fernbrook is outside of the Pine Barrens. While it’s a bit of a drive, our family chose to become CSA members at Fernbrook this year for two reasons.

Fernbrook Farms (CSA) in Bordentown, NJ
Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield (Bordentown), NJ has a CSA program and a number of hiking trails and animals for kids to see.

First, there’s a lot there for kids to do, including seeing animals like goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs, and I always bring my three-year-old son with me. Also, there are lots of scenic hiking trails, and when we go each week to pick up our farm share, we usually spend an hour or two hiking.

The diverse produce we’ve gotten at Fernbrook has always been fresh and delicious. Fernbrook provides a variety of vegetables from which we can pick each week. In fact, I think before we became CSA members, I was a bit ignorant as to how many different crops can grow in New Jersey.

Most people are familiar with Jersey tomatoes and corn, Jersey peaches, and Jersey blueberries, and other Jersey staples like cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon. I was surprised, though, by the high-quality kohlrabi, large variety of peppers, napa cabbage, and okra Fernbrook grows.  

Burgundy sweet potatoes and leeks
Burgundy sweet potatoes and leeks are fall crops in New Jersey.

I also didn’t know sweet potatoes came in so many varieties. Recently, we picked up ‘burgundy’ sweet potatoes and leeks as part of our farm share. The flesh inside burgundy sweet potatoes looks and tastes just like any other sweet potato (albeit maybe a tad sweeter). But the skin on the outside is a purplish color. These sweet potatoes were also much smaller than sweet potatoes we usually buy in the grocery store. I don’t know if their size is due to their variety or to the time of year.

I came up with this recipe one night when I needed to prepare a quick dinner. While it takes about 40 minutes to bake, the recipe is hands-off once you get it in the oven. I used that time to clean up the kitchen, so we’d have extra time after dinner to sit outside by our campfire with a cup of hot tea to tell ghost stories. Have I ever told you how much I love fall in South Jersey?