There is this farm stand on Rt. 206, on the Southbound side and anyone who lives south of the Columbus Market, or uses Rt. 206 to and from the shore, know it: The Corn Stop. It has been there as long as I can remember. Last weekend, I was teaching a class and needed some peaches for a recipe I was making, so I went there so I could at least get something local. The woman behind the counter was wearing a Specca Farm shirt so asked where the farm was and when she told me, I remembered why I knew the name. Many years ago, I took my children strawberry picking there. They are located just outside of Mt. Holly, NJ and grow very fine produce.
Later in the week, I had the opportunity to talk to Lisa Specca about the farm. Her husband’s grandfather, Romeo Specca came from Italy after World War I and started work in this country as a gardener. After some time, he was able to purchase some land in Philadelphia (where Franklin Mills Mall is today!) and begin his farming career. In 1958, when his property was purchased to make way for the great new North-South Interstate 95, he purchased land in Burlington County, New Jersey, and founded the Specca Farm we know today. His son David continued the farm and passed it on to his son, David (that’s David II), who runs the farm with his wife Lisa and their children, David (that’s III) and Steven.
The farm began as many in NJ, as a truck farm, taking produce into Philadelphia markets. David I began the “U-Pick” as a side business that gained popularity over the decades. They are not open all summer. The crops they grow for U-Pick are not harvested all summer, so for example, right now, in July, they are closed. In the early spring they open for a variety of greens, including Broccoli Rabe, of which they have four varieties, each with its own fan-base. Later in the Spring they have strawberries.
They open again in late summer, mid-August, which is really when the harvest in New Jersey kicks into high gear. Tomatoes and cucumbers are peaking, okra and green beans are plentiful. And they stay open until Christmas allowing for the wonderful fall vegetables NJ has to offer, like cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower that all thrive in the cooler temperatures of autumn.
The farm is a conventional grower because they are not yet able to produce enough compost and manure to use as fertilizer in their fields. They use an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system that includes minimal spray, and only sprays that are labeled “Next Day Harvest”. David II’s off-farm work at the Burlington County Eco-Complex keeps him well aware of the environmental issues facing our county and holds land stewardship as a high priority.
What does The Corn Stop have to do with any of this? Well, when the previous owner retired, and the business became available, the Speccas decided to give retail a try. Lisa is excited about the new opportunity. The Corn Stop is not selling exclusively Specca Farm produce, but produce from a variety of sources in order to provide more variety in what they have to offer. If it can be grown locally, and is in season right now, The Corn Stop has it.
If you want more information about the U-Pick, you can check out Specca Farms on Facebook. Not into Facebook? You can call them at 609/267-4445 and listen to a recording of what will be available for U-Pick.