The Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at Vernon Township High School are thriving and students are reaping the rewards of the educational opportunities that abound, this school year. Already planting ideas for next year, Vernon Schools’ Director of Special Projects Joseph Piccirillo recently contacted local farmers Steve MacLean and Chris Turse to strike up a farm-to-school partnership for Vernon Township High School students, as part of the school’s new Hospitality and Management CTE Program.
About two years ago, Steve MacLean and his wife, Candice, purchased the farm that sits right off of Route 565, just a short mile from Vernon Township High School. Surrounded by sprawling green pastures under wide, open skies, the farm at Glenwood Mountain harkens back to a time when farms were plentiful in northern New Jersey and the Garden State rang true to its name. Vegetable farmer Chris Turse recently joined the farm’s team, with plans to grow more than an acre of certified organic fruits and vegetables. Together, Turse and the MacLeans have brought the agricultural spirit back to the Vernon community with a new farm-market operation that extends over 170 acres, with plenty of grazing fields for free-range chickens, heritage breed turkeys, pasture-raised pork, 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, and certified organic produce.
This year, the farm will be offering its freshly harvested, organic fruits and vegetables for sale, in addition to free-range eggs, local honey, and grass-fed, pasture-raised meats at its on-site marketplace. With long, rustic wooden tables set against crisp, white walls and glass-enclosed, stainless steel refrigerators, the marketplace juxtaposes country living with an industrial design. Prior to venturing into the farming industry, MacLean cooked within some of New York City’s state-of-the-art kitchens as a restaurant chef. These professional culinary experiences inspired MacLean’s conceptualization of the upscale marketplace as well as his passion for local, sustainable food. He remarked, “Being parents of five children under the age of 10, my wife and I started this farm to be able to bring our food source closer to home. We want to know where the food that hits our dinner table comes from.”
Turse, meanwhile, obtained his teaching certification in Biology before finding his way to the farm. “Together,” Piccirillo stated, “Chris and Steve will become CTE advisory committee members and investor partners for Vernon’s Hospitality and Management CTE Program.” Funds awarded to the district through the Career Pathways grant will defer costs of the partnership, and will allow the program to grow and expand in subsequent years.
Soon, this partnership will allow Vernon Township Schools to offer CTE course pathways that include classes in business, culinary arts, and restaurant management. Internship and on-site job shadowing opportunities will also be available to Vernon’s high school students, under the guidance of MacLean and Turse. As more exciting partnership ideas begin to take root, there is even talk of opening up a pop-up restaurant as well as a food truck on school grounds, which Vernon Township High School students will entirely manage. Piccirillo envisioned, “The kids will do everything from the back of the house to the front of the house.” From design layout and advertising, to business transactions and culinary creations, every component of the pop-up restaurant and food truck will be student-led.
Ready to foster new growth into the CTE programs at Vernon Township High School, Piccirillo, MacLean, and Turse signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday, April 7th, 2017. MacLean commented, “We are excited to share our passion for what we do with the students at Vernon. It’s more than just farming; Chris and I are firm believers in educating our customers and their children about where healthy food truly comes from.”
For more information about the farm at Glenwood Mountain, please visit www.theNJfarm.com, or find them at
1801 Glenwood Road (565), Vernon, NJ 07462. The market is open from 11am-4pm every Saturday and Sunday.