On Wednesday, the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture presented Meredith Compton of Pittstown with the 2013 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer Award. Compton, a top 10 finalist in the National Outstanding Young Farmer competition, owns a successful multifaceted business called Peaceful Valley Orchards with husband Jeremy.
Peaceful Valley Orchards features pick-your-own, community-supported agriculture, retail market, educational tours and charitable pursuits – all the result of hard-working first generation farmer, Meredith Compton.
Compton's career in agriculture began when she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy and Environmental Science from Delaware Valley College of Agriculture. After graduating, she worked for Rutgers Extension as a tree fruit pest management specialist, spending 10 years at Snyder Research Farm.
After three years of farming on her own while working at Rutgers, she and Jeremy decided to pursue farming full-time at Peaceful Valley Orchards, the 150-acre preserved farm they lease. Winter cover crops are planted on sloped fields. Contour strips are utilized in the orchards. Conservation strips are in place throughout the farm. Mulch film and drip tape are used to conserve water.
Peaceful Valley Orchard is a founding member and the main farm for America's Grow-A-Row, a non-profit organization established in 2002 to provide people in need with fresh and nutritious produce. More than 1,000 volunteers help plant, pick and deliver the fresh produce they grow.
This unique model heightens awareness of the importance of local farms, says Jim Giamarese, president of New Jersey's State Board of Agriculture. It also exposes volunteers to the hard work it takes to grow our food and teaches people the value of feeding their struggling neighbors.
Contribution to agriculture and service to her community are important to Compton. She serves on the New Jersey Horticultural Society and America's Grow-A-Row Board of Directors and is Vice President at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. She previously served on board of the New Jersey Farmers Direct Marketing Association, the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, and the Foodshed Alliance. She was a 2007 graduate of the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program.