BERKELEY – Mildred Moore gently weaves the tiny red pepper seedling into the pot filled with composted garden soil.
It’s just one of many she will plant this day, the second day of Moore’s Farm Market’s 2019 season. Mrs. Moore is used to it. She’s been planting seedlings for decades. She is 98.
And don’t ask her why she is still working. Stopping is not an option for her, her son Scott says.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “But we like it. It’s a life.”
“For her age, she’s doing pretty well,” Scott says. “She still points out what needs to be done.”
Berkeley Township may have problems retaining some businesses. But not this one. Moore’s is celebrating its 67th anniversary this year.
Mrs. Moore and her husband George, who died in 2010, opened the business in 1952. Bayville was very different then. The Garden State Parkway had not yet opened. Traffic on Route 9 wasn’t like it is today. There were only three businesses on the roadway.
“George said ‘I’ll put up a greenhouse,” Mildred said. “And here we are.”
The couple had three children – George Jr., daughter Frances, and Scott. All of them worked in the family business. When a fire destroyed the wooden farm market building back in the late 1980s, their father considered selling the lot.
But the family wanted to rebuild the farm market. They convinced him to keep it. The metal building is still in place today and the business is still going strong.
Unfortunately, the family was hit by a series of personal losses years ago. Frances died first in 2007. George Sr. died in March 2010 at age 89. Little more than a year later, George Jr. died unexpectedly at 65. George Jr. had always handled the produce and Christmas tree sales. Frances did all the bookwork and accounting.
Their deaths were crippling, both personally and professionally.
“It was very hard,” Scott said.
That left Scott, 53, and his elderly mother to try and keep the business going. They did. They hired several full and part timers during the business year to help.
“I always wanted go on as long as I could for my mother,” Scott said. “This is her life. She would be lost without it. I do it for me, too.”
Today Scott grows just about all of the produce and flowers in the seven greenhouses on the property. He has a degree in ornamental horticulture.
He starts in late February and ends the year selling Christmas trees.
“I take January off,” he says with a smile. “I’m tired in January.”
Right now the market is selling pansies and honey. Easter and Mother’s Day baskets will be available very soon. Once the produce starts coming in, the tables and benches will be packed.