Abers Acres: Fresh and Table Ready

John Abers, co-owner of Abers Acres.
John Abers, co-owner of Abers Acres.
John Abers, co-owner of Abers Acres.

Article Contributed by
Emily Wynne

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same thing” a handmade sign at the Abers Acres farm stand proclaims. Abers Acres, owned by John and Sue Abers, has provided local residents, restaurants and Wegmans supermarkets with produce since 1984.

“We specialize in the fruits like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but we also grow a lot of vegetables like tomatoes and sweet corn,” Abers said. Sweet corn will be at its peak starting this week, so be sure to stop by for a few fresh ears.

Abers Acres offers pick-your-own produce as a way to reduce purchase cost, enjoy time outdoors with family and build appreciation for agriculture. Come spend an afternoon in the fields harvesting berries, peas, beans, or flowers.

“We’re a certified organic fruit and vegetable farm,” Sue Abers said. Obtaining organic certification involves a huge commitment. The USDA regulates and inspects all organic farms to ensure that no synthetic materials, such pesticides, end up in the food.

The Abers family underwent a three-year transition period — in which all of their agricultural techniques had to meet a long list of USDA standards — before they could advertise their produce as organic. Sue keeps careful records and sends in reports on a regular basis, and the farm is inspected annually in order for Abers Acres to remain certified.

Abers Acres, a certified organic fruit and vegetable farm.
Abers Acres, a certified organic fruit and vegetable farm.

So why go organic? Abers feels that organic farming creates “a safer product and a safer environment for the employees. I’d rather keep money in the community and pay local employees to weed than [pay] a big chemical company.”
The idea to pursue organic certification came from Adam Abers, the son of Sue and John Abers. “He was one of the driving forces,” Abers said. Adam graduated from SUNY Cobleskill with a degree in agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production. “We’d always tried to do things as low-spray as possible, but when Adam came back from college he was very interested in [going organic], so we went ahead and took the plunge.”

Though people often associate the word “organic” with less desirable produce, this isn’t true. The produce may be slightly smaller, but tends to have more tender flesh and vibrant flavor. “We want to make sure to keep the younger generation interested in farming, and [they are] interested in the organic,” Abers said.

This is evident through the social-media-driven UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign that celebrates non-perfect fruits and vegetables in an effort to eliminate waste associated with supermarket cosmetic standards. “We don’t throw out anything,” Abers said. She followed up by saying that small blemishes function as an informal visual guarantee that produce is organic.

Abers Acres is truly a family-oriented local business. John’s father stopped in during the interview to inform Sue that he had finished mowing acreage for the day. John’s mother bakes pastries that are sold at the farm stands. The farm stands sell eggs, popcorn, tree fruit and more from other neighboring farms.

Sue spends most of her time planning and scheduling, and John is responsible for the bulk of the growing and irrigation. But Sue always finds time to help weed and pick. “Taking care of the plants is the part I really enjoy,” Abers said.

CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, gives consumers the opportunity to buy small shares of a farmer’s product. Each week the consumer receives a bag containing a variety of fresh, peak-season fruits and vegetables. Abers Acres supplies four CSA groups in the area, one of which provides local restaurants with produce.

Abers Acres has three main farm markets: the home farm, on Route 394 in Kennedy; the Grubb Hill farm, at 409 Grubb Hill Road in Kennedy, and the Warren, PA location.

Sue Abers, co-owner of Abers Acres; Sondra Johnson, employee.
Sue Abers, co-owner of Abers Acres; Sondra Johnson, employee.

Though the farm stands close in October, Abers Acres runs all year round. A Sales Room right in John and Sue’s house provides late fall crops such as apples, squash, onions and potatoes. The hardier vegetables are sold all winter, along with maple syrup, honey and frozen hand-picked berries.
Their five-acre Christmas tree lot of pre-cut and cut-your-own trees provides families with opportunities to start or continue the tradition of selecting a real Christmas tree. Customers can even pre-tag one of five varieties in early fall to ensure that the perfect tree is waiting for them come December.

Growing the same crops in the same fields every year drains the soil of essential nutrients and nitrogen. Normally chemical fertilizers add back nutrients, but Abers Acres uses cover cropping to increase soil fertility the natural way. A cover crop is any plant grown with the objective of revitalizing worn-out soil.

Though Abers Acres has more than 100 acres of farmland, only about a third actively grows produce at any one time. The other two thirds are planted with cover crops such as rye, peas, beans, or alfalfa, selected to balance the soil’s chemical makeup and reduce erosion and weed growth. Once the cover crops have infused the soil, they are plowed under so that the mulched plant can compost.

“You end up having more ground to manage, but you’re managing the land without using chemicals, which is more responsible,” Abers said.”

The home farm market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Warren, PA location is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 a.m. Abers Acres attends the Lakewood Farmers Market on Tuesdays, the Downtown Jamestown Farmers Market on Thursdays, and the Westfield Farmers Market on Saturdays. Sue and her employees are friendly and excited to talk about their farm. “Come see us and get quality fruits and vegetables.”

The Jamestown Gazette is proud to recognize our dealers, outstanding corporate citizens of our county. This week, the Gazette especially thanks Abers Acres for the faithfully carrying The Jamestown Gazette, The People’s Paper, for the benefit of their customers, our readers.