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 on Feb. 6.
“The Abmas have long been known for their hard work and positive influence on agriculture in New Jersey,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said. “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 8. 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 also includes a greenhouse that is open from mid-March up until Christmas that features homegrown annuals, perennials, herbs, soil, and pottery. The farm has educational tours throughout the school year and camps for school-aged children during the summer, winter, and spring breaks. Their newly renovated “Barnyard” Petting Zoo allows the community to interact with and learn about livestock including goats, sheep, alpaca, rabbits, ponies, donkeys, and more. It’s all part of the Abma’s philosophy to help people learn about agriculture.
“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 1 and 4.
“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.”
Jimmy and Anna Abma also serve in the community. Jimmy has been on the Bergen County Board of Agriculture for the last five years, a member of the Wyckoff Volunteer Fire Department for 12 years and has provided live nativity and on-farm fall festival hayrides to two local churches for the last several years. Anna has been on the Wyckoff Volunteer Ambulance Corps for 10 years.
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 and recognizes local citizens’ contributions. 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, the National Association of Conservation Districts, and the US Junior Chamber of Commerce.