OLD TAPPAN, N.J. — If he were alive today, Isaiah Stokes would be proud that his farm is among the 9,000 that have withstood the test of time in New Jersey.
His great-great-great-great-grandson Ron Binaghi, Jr. and his wife, Jeanine Binaghi, take pride in developing all 17 acres on Stokes Farm in Old Tappan.
The Binaghis would be millionaires if they sell the property, but they know that without it, they'd have nothing.
“We’re still in business because we really love what we do,” said Binaghi, pointing to the thousands of farms that have closed down in the last century
“People think we’re stupid or crazy — we tell them we’re both," he said. "We could sell it and never have to work again, but what would we do?”
The farm will open on April 13 for the season.
Stokes purchased the land in 1873 when only 300 people lived in Old Tappan. Years passed before his son took over, and then his daughter, Madeline — who married a Binaghi.
She and her husband built the original farm stand that kept the Binaghis in business through the gas crunch of the 1970s.
That was the turning point for then-17-year-old Ron Binaghi, Jr.
“The whole economy went down before my father was approached by a gentleman from New York City,” he said. “He told us to try the Greenmarket, 'a thing where farmers sell right to the public.'”
The Binaghis are among the first 12 farmers who began selling in the New York City Greenmarket, now comprised of almost 200 farmers.
Next year will mark the family’s 40th year in the NYCGM. Their home-base is in Union Square, with two other tables in Tribeca and Lincoln Center.
After Ron Binaghi, Sr. suffered a stroke in 2000, things changed again for the farm.
Jeanine Binaghi took over the stand — something she swore she’d never do — and helped transform it.
“It’s an opportunity and a lifestyle,” said Binaghi, who was named Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year for the state of New Jersey.
When Ron Binaghi, Jr. was a child, Stokes Farm was only growing six items. It now offers 65.
“We’re a family of six generations… we jumped into it with both feet,” the farmer said.
“Now my kids and maybe grandkids will want to be involved.”