Our Farm History
Frank and Michelina Pastore established our family farm in 1906 with their purchase of 25 acres of farmland in Camden County, New Jersey, which included raspberries and peaches. Frank Pastore was a stone cutter by trade and did not farm full-time. Frank and Michelina’s son, Neil, took over the farm. Similar to his father, Neil did not work on the farm full-time. Neil graduated from Drexel University with an Electrical Engineering degree. During the Depression, Neil was laid off from his job at General Electric and went back to school for his teaching certificate. After finishing school, Neil became a high school Physics and Chemistry teacher in Hammonton, New Jersey and worked on the farm part-time. In the early 1940s, Neil expanded the farm to 35 acres, and with this acreage, he planted more peach trees.
Neil Jr., continued the farming tradition. Neil Jr. graduated from Cornell University in 1955 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After college, he took a job at RCA in Camden, New Jersey. While working at RCA, Neil worked part-time on the farm. In 1974, Neil Jr. left his engineering career after nineteen years, to work on the farm full-time. Peaches became a major crop for New Jersey in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this time, Neil and Neil Jr. expanded the farm to approximately 250 acres, and with this new land, they planted more peaches.
Photograph taken by Ralph Ginzburg.
The late 1980s and throughout the1990s saw many challenges for the farm. New Jersey saw a decline in the peach industry due to bad weather and more competition from other states. In the mid 1990s, Neil Jr. faced health problems that made him unable to run the farm. In 1995, after working alongside his father through his childhood and adolescent years, Neil III, at the age of 19, took over managing the day-to-day operations. During this time the farm was experiencing extreme financial hardships due to the last ten years of peach crop failures and competing markets. Realizing that peaches were no longer going to be a successful crop, Neil III decided to diversify the farm by growing vegetables and decreasing peach acreage. In 2003, Neil III took the farm in a new direction by planting 10 acres of blueberries. In 2006, after successful seasons on the farm and at the roadside market (See "Our Roadside Market"), Neil III was able to pull the farm out of its financial hardships and secure a path for its future.
In recent years the farm has expanded. New technologies have been implemented, such as, GPS guided systems for tillage, planting and land leveling, modern fruit and vegetable packing lines, plant triggered automated irrigation and most recently, high tunnel blackberry production systems. These technologies have improved crop performance, quality and production efficiency on the farm. The farm has also continued to diversify and grow in size with the addition of both purchased and leased land. Currently, the farm consists of over 400 acres, including over 100 acres of blueberries and 255 acres of vegetables, with the primary crops consisting of sweet potatoes, tomatoes and sweet corn. In 2016, blackberries were added and today 12 acres are grown on the farm. As for peaches, the initial crop for which the farm was named, 30 acres are still actively farmed for our roadside market.
Our Roadside Market
In the early 1940s Neil Sr. and his wife Eleanor started a small roadside market where they sold strawberries and peaches. The market stayed relatively small, selling homegrown fruits and vegetables until Neil Jr. and his wife Bonnie, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, took it over in the early 1980s. During the decline of the peach industry, Neil Jr. and Bonnie focused their attention on expanding the roadside market. In addition to hiring outside help to improve the market, they began selling additional local produce from other farms and out of state produce. These changes improved the market and made it an important part of the farm.
In the mid to late 1990s when the farm was experiencing financial difficulties and Neil Jr. was unable to help run the market, Bonnie began managing the market on her own. During this time, Bonnie expanded the market again by participating in a tailgate market in Camden, New Jersey. The Camden market continued for over fifteen years and just recently ended in 2015. Around the same time the Camden market began, Bonnie also started growing annual flowers to sell in the spring. These advances further improved the market and made it an essential part of the farm during its financial troubles.
In 2011, Neil Jr. and Bonnie’s daughter Jennifer came back to the farm full-time after completing an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Jennifer grew up working at the roadside market, and since her return to the farm, she has worked on improving and promoting it. In recent years, the market has made a presence on the internet with a website and social media and the market has hosted events as well as participated in local events aimed at promoting the market and the produce grown on the farm.
Currently, our roadside market is open from May until the beginning of November. The season starts in the spring with flowers and continues throughout the summer and into the fall with a large variety of homegrown and local fruits and vegetables. See our "Produce We Grow" page for the entire list.
Today, Pastore Orchards is a fourth generation family owned and operated farm. Neil III is the manager of the farm; his wife Dawn manages the office and food safety programs. Bonnie and Jennifer run the roadside market. The Pastore family has operated the farm for over 100 years and in 2019, they were awarded the NJ Agricultural Society's Century Farm Award.