TRENTON, N.J. — Tor Andersen, a Sparta vegetable, hay and corn producer and garden center owner, has been chosen as New Jersey’s 2017 Outstanding Young Farmer by the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture. Andersen was presented with the award at the 2017 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City. Andersen is also one of 10 finalists for the National Outstanding Young Farmers Award.
“Tor Andersen is a hard-working, creative farmer who always has had a passion for farming since his introduction to agriculture at a young age,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “He is setting an example of what it takes to build a successful agricultural career even though his family did not own any farm land. It is farmers with this type of determination and dedication that will help keep New Jersey agriculture alive well into the future.”
The fact that his family did not own land did not stand in the way of Andersen realizing his agricultural dream. Andersen now owns 400 acres, a garden center and produces more than 20,000 tomato plants, 20 different kinds of fruits and vegetables, 100 acres of field corn and 300 acres of hay on his Sussex County farm.
Andersen’s agricultural education started when he worked on his best friend’s dairy farm cleaning stalls and milking cows. In high school, he worked on Ideal Farms, where he learned to operate machinery as well as grow different kinds of plants, vegetables and hay. He went on to graduate with a degree in Agronomy from SUNY Cobleskill. Then, in 2003 he began growing greenhouse tomatoes that he eventually began to sell wholesale to restaurants and farmers markets.
In 2008, he opened a garden center in Sussex and started growing annuals and perennials. He then purchased a farm in Sparta in 2014, which was put into farmland preservation to permanently preserve the property. He also eventually bought a farm market that had been in business for over 50 years. That helped expand his business to having two farm stands, a garden center and attending weekly farmers markets in several local communities.
Andersen Farms employs more than 30 people annually and also sells local honey, cheese, glass bottled milk, eggs, Christmas trees and other items. The farm also benefits from Agritourism as it has had thousands visit its 15 acre Sunflower Maze and Scavenger Hunt.
“I started this business 13 years ago with the dream to become a first-generation farmer,” Andersen said. “I love everything about farming and knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Andersen is thankful to his parents for helping him as they sold their house and bought a 120-acre farm to get the business started. He also says he is constantly learning and depends on Rutgers University to help manage plant disease as well as do pest management. He added that the farm preservation grant helped the family pay off loans and expand its business.
Andersen says he is also thankful for the support he has received from the local community and other farmers.
“There have been so many knowledgeable farmers with generations of experience that have always been generous and willing to give advice and help whenever needed,” Andersen said. “I also credit our community for their support which has helped tremendously in our success.”
Water and soil conservation have also played a major role in his farm’s success. Soil conservation practices allow him to build up organic matter, which creates environmentally rich soil so plants can thrive. Andersen also receives a detailed soil report each spring which helps him understand what is needed to make the best growing conditions.
The support from his wife Nicole, who also has a passion for farming, is also vital to the family business. She is active in the community, including speaking at local schools about the importance of healthy eating and supporting local farming. Nicole and Tor have four daughters Anya, Greta, Elsa and Elin between the ages of 9 and 4.
Andersen is also active in the community, having been a member of his local church for more than 30 years and he has been a member of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce since 2014.
The OYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, with the first group of national winners selected in 1955. The goals of the OYF program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy. The OYF program encourages a greater interest in agriculture through the appreciation of the farmers’ contributions and achievements and recognizes local citizens’ contributions and encourages better urban-rural relations. The National OYF program is sponsored by Deere & Company, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America Fraternity, and supported by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and the US Junior Chamber of Commerce.
For more information on the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html or call Joe Atchison, OYF Program Manager at 609-984-2223 or email email@example.com.
— New Jersey Department of Agriculture