Celebrating the four seasons at the orchards of Terhune is a long-standing tradition on the farm
FAMILY TRADITION: “We are so happy to be able to raise our children here and have a business that our whole family could be involved in. It has been wonderful to do something with our lives to make the community better and that people enjoy and enjoy. It’s very special. Pam and Gary Mount, owners of Terhune Orchards, are shown with the second and third generations of the family, all doing their part on the farm.
By Jean Straton
Jerhune Orchards is a favorite not only for Princetonians but also for many other loyal customers from further afield. People come from all over to enjoy this special haven at 330 Cold Soil Road. Up to 500,000 people a year visit and return again and again.
Focusing on the unique bounty of each season, this country farmhouse is a year-round local treasure. The community and families come together to enjoy great food, fresh fruits and vegetables, friendly farm animals, and wine tastings in the farm’s vineyard wine barn.
The evolution of Terhune Orchards into a leading example of modern agriculture began 47 years ago when Pam and Gary Mount purchased Terhune’s, which had been established in the early 1920s. Right home after three years in the Peace Corps in Micronesia, the Monts saw a “For Sale” sign in the orchard and decided to buy it.
Make the difference
“Our experience in the Peace Corps made us realize that we could have a huge impact if we focused on a small community, and that could be rewarding,” says Pam Mount, a Princeton native.
“Gary had grown up on a farm in West Windsor, but it was very different – a wholesale operation,” she says. “I had never thought of having a farm or an orchard, but we knew how to work. And we thought all of our friends could come, and we’d invite the public in.
“Also, when we bought it, nobody was buying farms. Instead, they were sold off to developers, turned into malls and parking lots. We thought we could help save the earth and make a difference.
At the time, Terhune focused on apples, peaches and cider, and was open from July to October, she adds.
“Gary raised money from the bank to buy it, and since we now had a strong incentive to pay it back, we decided to stay open seven days a week and expand the farm shop. Very early, we started to have dwarf apple trees. They were much more productive and easier to maintain. We tried to keep the look and feel of the place and modernize it at the same time. We added bakery and vegetables, and started growing organic produce.
“One of the reasons we grow so many different things is that we are not dependent on one crop for weather issues etc. This summer, with its heat and lack of rain, has certainly presented its challenges. We find that we always have to improvise.
Together, the mounts expanded the scope of the original orchards of Terhune and introduced safe and up-to-date agricultural practices. They studied a range of innovative farming techniques, including the use of integrated pest management. Gary Mount has received numerous accolades, including “Apple Grower of the Year”, which recognizes “his progressive approaches, hard work and dedication to learning”. Today, customers can find many kinds of apples to satisfy all tastes.
60 different cultures
And the Monts have expanded not only the fruits, vegetables and other products they offer (now more than 60 different crops), but also their area. “We actually have three farms,” explains Pam Mount. “One, the original. Two, the Pick Your Own area at Van Kirk Road, and three, 57 acres. also on Van Kirk, where we grow organic fruits and vegetables, and grapes for wine. We recently added 50 acres to bring our total to 250 acres, and now the farms are all contiguous. In addition, the land is permanently preserved.
The farm shop is a big draw for shoppers, and they’ll find plenty to choose from. Among them: the delicious pies, donuts, crisps and breads with farm fruits. Other items are homemade salsa, chili and guacamole from Terhune Orchard, hot soup, cider, and gourmet items. A wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are always available, and shoppers will find the perfect tomato to take home.
Gift baskets, filled with all of Terhune’s goodies, are a favorite of many customers, especially during the holidays. Boxes containing apples, cider and other specialties can also be shipped, and this continues to be a big part of the business.
Also popular is the opportunity to pick your own flowers from the range of colorful wildflowers planted by Pam Mount. As she says, “I’ve always been interested in gardening and started growing flowers for the farm shop. They have become so popular that we have launched the Pick Your Own flower program.
It’s become a real favorite, with similar programs for cherries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, peaches and pumpkins. It’s always a favorite with kids, notes Pam.
Special events play a major role in Les Vergers Terhune’s activities, and many are family-oriented. Now that fall is almost here, apples and pumpkins are on display, and many fall family weekends are planned.
Children will enjoy treasure hunts, rubber duck races and pumpkin painting, plus the chance to visit the sheep, goats, donkeys, ducks, chickens and guinea fowl. They are also happy to see that ice cream is now on the Terhune menu at Barn Door Café. There is always something at Terhune to entertain and enlighten visitors of all ages, you can count on it!
Variety of wines
The adults came to enjoy the variety of wines now offered at Vergers de Terhune. Sips & Sounds wine events are held throughout the summer and into September on Friday evenings, including local bands, and they are very popular.
“We started growing grapes in 2020, and now we have 18 different types of wine,” reports Pam Mount. “A popular fall choice is our apple wine, made from our fresh apple cider. Also, light fare of cheese plates and salsa and home fries are available in the cellar.”
Gary Mount, whose book, The life of a peasant was released this summer, found winemaking to be a new and engaging activity. As he writes in his book, “Winemaking opened up a whole new world to me. My life has always been linked to agriculture, that is, to growing something. I grew up on a farm near Princeton, then became an agricultural adviser in the Peace Corps; growing coconuts was my specialty. I have been a farmer at Terhune Orchards for 47 years. With all this experience, you might think there isn’t a whole lot of new stuff to learn. Not so.
“I love cultivating vines and making wine, because a lot of it is new to me. We produce a lot of wine from our apples, blueberries and peaches, but most of it is made from grapes. When it comes to growing and processing grapes, I’m still at the bottom of the learning curve. Growing good grapes is a must. Winemaking doesn’t always go smoothly, but somehow there’s always something new to learn.
Learning something new has always been a hallmark of Terhune, while retaining the engaging atmosphere and essence of a real working farm. There is something very real in the orchards of Terhune.
Pam Mount likes to remind a particular incident. “As Terhune evolved, we realized that we were the neighborhood farm. The story I like to tell is about a woman from Princeton who came every Tuesday with her granddaughter. She said: “I can take my granddaughter anywhere – to New York, to museums, to the theater etc. But, Pam, it’s the only place we’ve come from that’s real. Things are grown here.
“So, we decided to stick with what’s real.”
She is proud of Terhune’s loyal and long-standing staff, which now numbers 70 people. She is also very happy that the orchard has become a real family business, with her two daughters Reuwai and Tannwen now full-time members of the operation.
“It’s wonderful to have them involved,” says Pam. “They bring new energy and new ideas to work here every day. Their husbands and children are the present and the future. I’m so grateful to have the whole family together in the business. Even our grandchildren love to help out and enjoy the farm. I can’t wait for this to continue.
“We feel so lucky to be here. We believe we are stewards of the land. We are privileged to care for the farm and share it with the public. Over the years we have seen people from all walks of life and from all places. They are all ages and we see parents, grandparents and children every day. It has been a great joy.
Jerhune Orchards is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (609) 924-2310. Website: terhuneorchards.com.