Meet the Farmers
Adrian is a trained chef who has over 20 years of experience working in the restaurant industry. He has always found enjoyment through home gardening and taking care of plants, and while living on the New Jersey shore he would grow his own food in planters in his small backyard. When looking to move and buy a house 12 years ago, finding suitable land to grow food on was his top priority. He eventually settled on a 5-acre property in Mays Landing, NJ.
Around this time, Adrian transitioned careers and became a trained social worker, assisting people with disabilities to find employment opportunities. Leaving the restaurant industry provided him with the time and energy to build a greenhouse on his property and experiment with different growing systems, such as incorporating vermicompost and aquaponics to increase the nutrient-density of the soil. Growing a variety of fruits and vegetables, Adrian was on a mission to find out what crops would work best for him, the land, and the surrounding ecosystem. In this process of experimentation he uncovered a passion for growing tomatoes, a realization that would guide his next life chapter.
In 2017, Adrian founded Helping Hand Farm to grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on their heirloom tomatoes. Adrian knew he wanted his farm to have a purpose beyond growing and selling food. He was inspired by his experiences as a social worker and set out to create a farm that can provide opportunities for people with disabilities to learn agricultural skills and find rewarding farm jobs. He currently employs two part time workers, with plans to expand to a team of six as the farm grows. Thus the name Helping Hand Farm emerged, with the mission of focusing on a broader reach through growing and providing a valuable social resource for the community.
Through trial and error, Adrian has fine-tuned the optimal growing system for greenhouse grown flavorful heirloom tomatoes, specializing in black cherry tomatoes among other uncommon varieties. The farm combines modern and traditional regenerative practices to boost soil fertility and nutrient-density in their fruits and vegetables. Adrian currently grows out of two greenhouses with one in the works, and plans to expand to at least two additional greenhouses to meet an escalating local demand. While his energy is primarily channeled into growing tomatoes for the time being, he hopes to introduce a couple of varieties of heirloom eggplants in the future.
Sustainable Agriculture Practices
Helping Hand Farm combines modern growing techniques with long-established practices to enhance soil fertility, boost nutrient-density, and contribute to building a stronger local food system. Their regenerative and sustainable practices include:
- Growing all naturally without the need for synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. For example, using minerals in ocean water to enhance flavor, increase nutrient-density, and extend produce shelf life.
- Employing vermicomposting to utilize 55 gallon drums to compost all food and produce scraps on the farm. Adrian has maintained the same red wigglers for 8 years!
- Utilizing biochar made from wood chips on site. Biochar is a carbon-rich charcoal that boosts the soil’s fertility and its ability to withstand drought or flooding, increases yields, and sequesters carbon.
- Reducing water and energy usage by optimizing their greenhouse system. Adrian is able to cut back on water usage and harness sunlight to help power the farm’s energy needs.
- Strengthening the local economy by providing learning and employment opportunities for people with special needs. Helping Hand currently employs two individuals, with the goal to expand the team to six as the business grows.
- Minimizing food waste by donating surplus crops to local food banks. This diverts food that would otherwise end up in the compost while supporting efforts to increase access to fresh, healthy foods.