Closter Farm and Livestock NJ: Organic spot similar to Whole Foods –

Jon Friedland, a retired money manager then living in Manhattan, just wanted to see a movie that didn’t require advance reservations. He found that at the theater in Closter. Friedland didn’t, however, expect that the trip also would lead to buying a farm in Closter.
More on how that happened later.
Today Friedland, a 53-year-old married father of four, owns Closter Farm & Livestock Co., a bucolic, 7-acre farm right off Closter Dock Road that he bought in the winter of 2019. His farm grows and sells certified-organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, flowers and chickens as well as grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, and organic milk, cheese and eggs. It is the only certified-organic farm in Bergen County, and one of only 68 organic farms in the Garden State, according to a 2019 USDA survey. New Jersey has more than 9,000 farms.
“Our goal,” said Friedland, “is to serve our local community,” And, apparently, be good to the planet at the same time. 
Closter Farm doesn’t use any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. It doesn’t use a tractor to till its vegetable beds. It rotates crops seasonally. It uses a variety of cover crops. It composts. And it doesn’t ship its products elsewhere. The farm adheres strictly to the practices of “regenerative agriculture,” a conservation and rehabilitation method of farming designed to ensure that the soil stays healthy in a natural and environmentally friendly way. And, of course, it helps make what’s grown taste divine.  
“People love our stuff,” said Friedland. “Our chickens do not taste like the chickens in your supermarket.”
Nor does just about anything else the farm grows taste like your supermarket offerings, for that matter.
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“Our lettuce is going to blow you out of the water,” said farm manager Jared Krawitz, 29, Friedland’s first hire who, unlike his boss, had actually worked on a farm (albeit not an organic one). “Everything on our shelves is of higher and better quality than anything you can possibly find on your grocery shop’s shelves.”
That is, if you can possibly find yellow carrots, starburst-hued tomatoes, purple kohlrabi or salt-and-pepper cucumbers at your neighborhood grocery store. Bet your supermarket also doesn’t carry fresh red and green shiso, za’atar oregano, anise hyssop and edible flowers like violas, nasturtium and borage.
Still, the farm doesn’t just grow fancy gourmet stuff. There’s also mint, onions, garlic, spinach, potatoes and blueberries (a new item this year) that are, said Krawitz, “so much better in quality by virtue of our process.”
A process — a no-synthetic-chemicals-, no-fertilizer-, no-antibiotics-, no-hormones-, no-GMOs farming process — that they had to learn from the ground up. In Friedland’s case, farming — digging, weeding, planting, cutting, harvesting — was all new.  
“I always had aspirations, but I never farmed,” he said. “I always wondered, ‘Why aren’t I a cattle rancher in Montana?’ “
He grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland. Nowhere near a farm. His mom was a judge, his dad an attorney.
He graduated from Vassar with a degree in political science and eventually worked as a professional money manager in New York City for 20 years. He retired in 2017 at age 48. “I was done sitting at a desk with recirculated air,” he said.
That fateful movie excursion took place two years later, when, thanks to a Google search, Friedland found himself at the CMX Cinemas in Closter, sitting comfortably beside his son, the screen just the right distance for the two. “In the city, without planning in advance, you end up sitting in the two front rows with your son nowhere near you,” he said.
The movie (an Avengers flick) was fine, Friedland reported, but what really thrilled him was Closter. It reminded him of Cleveland. 
“I fell in love with Closter,” he said. 
So much so that he began to look for a house in town. During the search, he learned that a farm, one that barely anyone seemed to know, was available, “a mere mile from the movie theater,” he said. “The farm was a well-kept secret.” 
It was owned by a family that owns Schaller & Weber, a near-century-old butcher shop in New York City known for its German sausages and twice-smoked bacon. The family raised sheep as well as apples. 
“There are all types of apples here — Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Red Delicious,” he said. “We don’t know what some are. But it’s been a fun tasting game trying to figure it out; they’re all freakin’ delicious.”
He and Krawitz worked long days installing irrigation, creating beds, building a chicken coop, removing blacktop, building a walk-in refrigerator and moving the driveway to turn the well-kept secret into a highly visible, sustainable farm that offers not only what it grows but also classes for adults (composting, herbs) and kids (beekeeping) as well as a CSA-like program (members purchase a market card for a fixed amount and then use it to buy products at the farm), farm tours and various events (farm-to-table dinners among them). 
“I go home these days without having to hose myself off,” said Friedland. “I used to be covered in muck all the time.”
He added, “I loved getting filthy. It’s like being a kid again.”
Liza Hughes is grateful for what Friedland and his staff have done.
“Closter Farm is a game-changer,” said Hughes, a former Tenafly resident who today lives in Piermont, New York. “They are using clean-growing practices. It is so exciting. It is such a treat to have a local farm selling its local products. So many farm stands are selling crab cakes from Maryland.”
She said she was at the farm’s door the minute it first opened. “It’s so exciting. It’s an actual working farm,” she said. “It could have become a housing development.”
Todd Adelman of Demarest is thrilled, too.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Adelman said. “To see something like this come into the area is wonderful. It’s relevant to what we now all talk about — climate change, sustainable ways of living, buying local, helping our local businesses. I’d rather shop at Closter Farm than give my money to a large entity that’s out of state. I’m helping my local farmer.”
Adelman added that thanks to the farm, his kids are learning how food is created. Last fall, at a farm event, they helped plant garlic. “It’s not just Whole Foods or Stop & Shop,” he said. “I’m grateful our kids are being exposed to this.”
Brian Hatton of Harrington Park said his 2-year-old daughter also appreciates the farm. 
“She loves to run around seeing the vegetables growing and pointing at the chickens,” he said. 
He loves the products.
“The farm is only a few minutes more of a drive than Whole Foods, and absolutely better than Whole Foods. It slays Whole Foods,” Hatton said. He highly recommends the garlic and carrots and anything “that’s green.”
As for Friedland, he’s had a very busy “retirement.” No, he hasn’t been back to the Closter movie theater.
Esther Davidowitz is the food editor for For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.
Twitter: @estherdavido