Farm Fresh Café: Our Story
Our cafe menu - full of delicious, local, thoughtfully crafted food - is located HERE.
Food at Duke Farms: healthy food and food systems
We are passionate and committed to providing a unique food experience that brings high-quality, locally produced dishes to visitors. These lovingly crafted epicurean delights are created through the support of a culture of shared environmental values, all to strengthen the local food system and reduce our ecological footprints.
Essentially, we know that food systems - the growing, distribution, processing, marketing, access, waste, and policy, involves people who may have never heard about the term "food system" but are participants in the system. We believe that the more visitors know about food systems and the positive or negative impacts they can have on the environment, the more informed choices visitors can have about what to support with their dinner, their wallets, and their advocacy.
Good food starts with good agricultural practices
Our ever-expanding cattle operation is part of our commitment to stewardship and sustainability. Not only do our cattle provide quality beef, but they make a great stewardship team! Through intentional rotational grazing, the Duke Farms herd grazes through our thriving farm fields while preserving habitat for resident rare grassland birds, who are often overlooked as members of the farm ecosystem. This grazing method balances pasture health, animal health, and habitat health.
It's not just cattle as environmental stewards though. Our farmers raise a flock of chickens in a rotational mobile coop that allows them access to fresh pasture throughout the growing season. These hens provide our cafe with nutritious, quality eggs while fertilizing the soil. A win-win-win for people, animals, and soil health.
Even the vegetables that are grown in the fields, under hoops, in the demonstration garden, or in the permaculture garden, are all seasonally produced using management practices that focus on soil and ecological health.
Each product the farm team provides the cafe - beef, chicken, eggs, produce, are all incorporated into an artist's palette of ingredients, of which Chef Lauren skillfully creates amazing seasonal dishes.
Farmers at Duke Farms: caring for animals, crops, and ecosystems
Our farm staff includes Ron Dziembowski, our manager of Sustainable Agriculture. As a lifelong farmer, he knows agriculture and cattle. Ron and his staff manage the herd of docile and content cattle, healthy hens, and grow healthy vegetables of all kinds. The farm team includes Lauren Salvatore, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, Von Scully, Sustainable Agriculture Education Assistant, Anthony Barbetta, Livestock Assistant, and Neil Marchesi, Vegetable Grower.
"It’s a beautiful day to get better—and eat your veggies!”
Chef Lauren Owens has over 20 years of experience in professional kitchens. Born and raised in the Garden State, her love of local food began in her parents' own garden and has flourished throughout her career. Using local, in-season ingredients, Lauren plans her menus to showcase the natural flavor and integrity of each ingredient. When she isn’t working at the Farm Barn Café, Chef Lauren is busy running her own personal chef business which is built to bring happiness, awareness, and knowledge through her food, classes, and seminars.
Our seasonal café menu reflects Chef Lauren’s vision, offering a variety of dishes that are sure to appeal to everyone’s palate. Our café is committed to locally sourced, seasonal food with many of the ingredients grown or raised right here at Duke Farms!
Staff who feed us - from farm to fork and plate
Our café team is led by Visitor Experience Manager, William Wilson, and Coordinator, Debbie Thomas. Both William and Debbie are passionate about Duke Farms and believe that every interaction is an opportunity for a high-quality, transformative experience. Together, they lead a team of dedicated people who prepare and plate Chef Lauren's creations. Stop by and say hello to our present and future environmental advocates- many of the cafe staff are students in environmental studies programs at various area colleges.
Get into the Zone 7 zone!
Our farm produces vegetables, meats, and eggs that are used in the cafe. In some instances, our supply can't fill the demand, or Chef Lauren creates a dish that includes other seasonal crops. In those instances, Duke Farms orders supplemental produce from Zone 7 in Hopewell, NJ. Zone 7 is an organization that passionately connects farmers with chefs who have a shared vision for healthy local food systems. Zone 7 works with an impressive 120 sustainable farms in NJ, NY, and PA.
Feeding our community
At Duke Farms, we love food. We love growing it, making it, talking about it, educating on it, eating it, and sharing it with the community. One way we do that is through the cafe, but another way is by donating high-quality, sustainably raised beef and eggs, and sustainably produced vegetables and fruits to area food banks. We carry that theme of connection throughout our operations and even work with our community garden to facilitate donations from our almost 500-plot garden. Each year we expand this program to more recipient organizations and grow the total amount donated. Our latest donation total for 2020 includes: 1,168 dozen eggs, 2,221 lbs beef, and 5,070 lbs produce, and 6,300 lbs of community garden produce.
If you are in a position to donate either food or monetary donations, we urge you to contact our partner organizations directly to understand their specific donation requirements. For more info on how to do this, click here.
We also know that fresh, local food produced by smaller farms and businesses can be unaffordable for those on a tight budget, and this is especially true for low-income residents of New Jersey. To help make sustainably produced food more accessible, we partner with City Green's Garden State Food Network, which helps federal food benefit recipients purchase local produce at our Farm Market on Sundays. Not only can recipients use their WIC and SNAP dollars to buy produce, but City Green doubles the values of those dollars, allowing consumers to expand their purchasing power and support local growers. For more information on the City Green/Garden State Good Food Network at Duke Farms, click here.
After the plate: back to the soil
Out of 262 million tons of waste generated each year in the US, nearly 30 percent is compostable food waste. Out of that 30 percent, only 9 percent of waste actually gets composted. Organic matter that goes to landfills breaks down more slowly and generates high amounts of methane gas, which is a large contributor to climate change. Composting on the other hand breaks down food and biodegradable products in a way that doesn't produce methane and recycles organic matter into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer for crops.
At Duke Farms, we are committed to cradle-to-cradle sustainability, even in our cafe waste. In the cafe, you will see several waste stream containers: composting (all food waste and kitchenware using Eco-Products kitchenware), recycling, and non-compostable waste.
All compostable waste is transported to our Rocket Composter and then to the community garden and permaculture garden, where the nutrient-rich soil is used to fertilize crops and plantings.
So, as you can see - the cafe isn't just about the food. It's about farming, food systems, people, and sustainability.
But if you're just looking for the cafe menu, you can find it here.