If you are ever looking for Chris Mumford, check the garden behind his Allenhurst home.
Chances are good you will find him among the rows of lettuces, destined for the kitchens of local restaurants, and heirloom tomato plants, asparagus, peppers, Brussels sprouts and herbs of all kinds. He moves from one plant to the next, pointing out that the parsley needs nitrogen to mend its yellow leaves, and the tomatoes could use some warm weather.
Two beehives buzz nearby; honey will be ready in the fall.
Mumford, who gardened long before his 30-year career owning farm-to-table restaurants in Monmouth County, has turned his passion for growing food into a business. Hay Mumford launched last year, three years after closing Cafe Mumford’s in Tinton Falls.
The 61-year-old grows more than 200 plants, including 74 varieties of tomatoes.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m ok with it,” he said. “It’s a joy. I’m just reinventing myself.”
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Potted fig trees pepper the garden; Mumford uses cutting from one plant to grow another. Any plants left over after the season become compost.
“I come from the school where I don’t throw anything out,” he said, pointing to a bucket filled with rhubarb in need of a little TLC.
On Saturdays in May and early June, Mumford opens his home garden to the public. They buy leek, eggplant, onion, squash and beet plants for their own gardens, and maybe a bag of compost. He also sells his plants, which are grown from seed, at Asbury Fresh farmers markets in Asbury Park and Holmdel.
“Lots of commercial growers don’t have this stuff,” he said, flipping through a book he made to teach people about the tomato varieties they purchase: Indigo Kumquat, Lucky Tiger, Citron and Hillbilly, among them.
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“… I’m trying to educate at the same time,” said Mumford, whose shed is lined with buckets of worm castings and fish meal he’ll give to customers whose gardens need help. “If I can get them to grow more, if I can get them to compost, if I could influence people to grow a little bit…”
Orders can be placed at facebook.com/HayMumfordFarm or instagram.com/haymumfordfarm. For more information, visit haymumford.com.
Sarah Griesemer joined the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey in 2003 and has been writing all things food since 2014. Send restaurant tips to email@example.com, and for more Jersey Shore food news, subscribe to our weekly Jersey Shore Eats newsletter.