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New Jersey Department of Agriculture names 2019 Outstanding Young Farmer

James Abma Jr., a Wyckoff vegetable producer, has been chosen as New Jersey’s 2019 Outstanding Young Farmer by the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture. Abma and his wife, Anna, are one of 10 finalists for the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award. He will be recognized for the New Jersey honor at the 2019 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City, NJ, on Feb. 6.AbmafamilyJimmy and Anna Abma with their three children.

“The Abmas have long been known for their hard work and positive influence on agriculture in New Jersey,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “In following in his father’s footsteps, Jimmy has continued to enhance the agricultural experience at Abma’s Farm and has it well positioned to succeed long into the future. I congratulate Jimmy as he is well-deserving of this honor.”

Abma has been involved in agriculture since he started helping on the farm at age eight. By age 18, he was overseeing the farm’s vegetable production after having spent several summers working in the fields.

Jimmy Abma fully understands that his family paved the path for his agricultural career, including his dad, James, who won the New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer Award in 1991.

“When I was younger, I was looking at my dad’s desk and saw his plaque for winning the Outstanding Young Farmer Award and I always thought it would be neat if I could have a chance to win it someday,” Jimmy Abma said. “I’ve always had a passion for farming. Working with produce was my starting point and it always took precedence. My goal is to bring more vegetable variety into our market and give our customers a high quality, fresh product from the fields to the market.”

Abma’s Farm works a total of 150 acres, selling produce retail at their on-site farm market, and wholesale through a local supermarket chain.

The primary crops grown by the Abma’s include sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers. The farm includes a greenhouse that is open from mid-March through Christmas that features homegrown annuals, perennials, herbs, soil and pottery. The farm also has educational tours throughout the school year and camps for school-aged children during the summer, winter and spring breaks.

“We work hard to be informative about where food comes from, not only in our own market but also through our wholesale accounts by having our farm’s name and information available to the consumer,” Jimmy Abma said. “The consumer has the ability to contact us and learn about where their food comes from and what our growing practices are. During the growing season, we offer educational walking farm tours to show and explain vegetable production.”

Water and soil conservation have also played an important role at Abma’s Farm. Abma said he is very careful with how much water is used for irrigation.

“I think every farmer tries to be a responsible steward of the natural resources on their farm,” Jimmy Abma said. “We are certainly no different. We rely heavily on rotation of crops and the use of cover crops both for soil health and to reduce soil erosion in the fields. We also use drip irrigation so that fractions of water are put right where it’s needed just below the soil surface.”

The support from his wife Anna is also vital to the family business. Her daily work includes doing payroll, bills, account balancing, decorating the farm for the seasons, leading the farm’s CSA program and overseeing the petting zoo. Anna and Jimmy also have three young children between the ages of one and four.

“My wife wears many hats around the farm and she plays an essential role in our success,” Jimmy Abma said. “She is willing to get her hands dirty any time of the day to help and she is an amazing mother to our three children.”

The National Outstanding Young Farmer Award will be presented in February at the National Outstanding Young Farmers Awards Congress in Bettendorf, IA.