Join our Master Gardener Class. The Master Gardeners are community volunteers trained in earth-friendly gardening and environmental principles. The hands-on garden classes meet weekly from April through mid-September (every other week in summer). During these sessions, new students will create and care for demonstration vegetable and herb gardens.
Topics covered in the program include: sound gardening techniques; composting; creative methods of conserving resources, and horticulture therapy.
Agriculture and Natural Resources Division
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) of Middlesex County is committed to providing practical educational programs and research to benefit county residents, especially the 35 million dollar agricultural industry and the 45 million dollar landscape industry. There are over 19,000 acres of land devoted to agricultural crop production in the county. This is approximately 10% of the total land in the county.
The department provides horticultural and environmental information and services to numerous Middlesex County residents annually. Our office processes thousands of phone calls, e-mails, letters and one on one contacts regarding the following issues:
- identification and control recommendations for pest problems of landscape and agricultural plants;
- nuisance animal control recommendations;
- proper selection and care of horticultural plants;
- procedures for testing soils for nutrition and / or contamination;
- procedures for testing drinking and surface water for contamination;
- tick identification and prevention of Lyme Disease.
The department works with commodity groups, government agencies and agribusiness to conserve and manage natural resources, promote agriculture, and maintain a healthy environment for county residents.
The extension service provides important gardening resources for the residents of the county. Available at our office, the E.A.R.T.H. Center, are Soil Test Kits, Pesticide Application Training Manuals for the state pesticide program and information on upcoming extension seminars, short courses and meetings.
In addition, we perform basic diagnostic work on various problems including insects, plant diseases, tick identification, and plant identification. Diagnostic services at this County office are free but subject to seasonal ans in house staff availability. For Diagnostic Services that are condsidered an emergency, needed in a more urgent timeframe. residents should consider the The Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Lab (located on Ryders Lane. near Rutgers Gardens ). This for a fee service can do a more extensive analysis of the problem if necessary.
Follow this link to learn more about acquiring a Soil Test kit and our County Diagnostic Service
for the identification of plant pests and diseases.
The Agriculture Division's E.A.R.T.H. Center Educational Tours
Middlesex County's EARTH Center invites you to learn about local agriculture and the environment. Now your school group, Scout Troop or senior's club, can take a guided tour at the Middlesex County EARTH Center to learn about these topics and more. Please call us for scheduling availability.
The EARTH Center demonstration areas include a 1000 square foot vegetable garden, a 13-bed herb garden,
native plant displays and an arboretum. These demonstrations are used to spark conversation about local agriculture, basics of horticulture, Integrated Pest Management, earth-friendly gardening techniques and many topics that are the focus of the Extension Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Division.
Alternative Energy & Bio-fuels - Solar panels, hybrid cars and alternative fuels, are all becoming
increasingly common. Learn more about them, to see if they’ve a place in your greening efforts.
Rain Gardens - Experience how a simple addition to your landscape can help to replenish our state’s clean groundwater supplies.
Compost Demonstration - Extension staff and volunteers conduct composting/recycling demonstrations and educational programs. There are several types of compost bins on display at the EARTH Center which help us to promote composting and the recycling of organic materials. The extension office has received support since 1994 from the Middlesex County's Division of Solid Waste Management in order to conduct solid waste/natural resource programs and activities.
Butterfly House- Our Master Gardeners have built and maintain a butterfly house through the growing season. It is open on weekends from 10 AM - Noon in June July and August. Come marvel at the pollinators while learing how you can help support them in your backyard.
The History of Middlesex County Agriculture
Middlesex County was primarily an Agricultural community in the early 1800s with about 16,000 residents, primarily of English, Dutch or Scottish descent. Both sides of the Raritan River were then covered with pastures or grain crops. By the end of the 1800's, the population soared from 45,000 to 80,000. Up until the 1960's potato and dairy farms were scattered throughout the county. Middlesex County farmers consistently produced some of the highest potato yields in the country. In fact, the soils throughout the southern portion of the county are still considered some of the most productive in the nation.
Productive well-drained soils are also ideal for building lots, and the building boom over the past four decades has exploded into a population of over 800,000 people in the county.
However, agriculture is "alive and well" thanks to the hard work and determination of our farmers. The fact that two farmers (Jim Giamarese in 1989 and Bobby VonThun in 2001) have been selected for the National "Outstanding Young Farmer" award in recent years is a testament to the quality of farming in our county.
There are over 100 full & part-time farmers in Middlesex County, farming over 19,000 acres of land. Most of the farmland is located in the southern portion of the county in the Cranbury, Monroe and Plainsboro area. Farmland comprises about 10% of the 203,000 acres in the county. Farming practices are changing to reflect the decreasing farm size. Many farmers are turning to more intensive agriculture, such as vegetable or fruit production. The advantage of this change lies in the ability of farmers to directly market their produce to the consumer, thus eliminating the middleman.
The direct marketing approach has been tremendously successful for the grower and the consumer. It allows consumers the opportunity to buy high quality, nutritious produce and enables the farmers to market their crop locally. Roadside markets and "Pick-Your-Own" operations are very popular throughout the state.
We are now in the age of alternative energy and fuel technologies, which provide the need for grain crops like corn and soybeans. New markets and crop usage have increased production of certain commodities. Many farmers are now embracing alternative energy technologies including solar, wind and bio-fuel crops. Our farmers are kept on the cutting edge of new use technology as a result of working with agencies such as the Cooperative Extension Service, Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, and Natural Resource & Conservation Service. Our farmers are committed to economically and environmentally sound farming practices, securing the future of farming for generations to come. Support the future of farming in Middlesex County by seeking out and buying locally grown farm products. Become a friend of agriculture and help preserve our proud tradition as stewards of the Earth.