Oxford, New Jersey
At the end of a meandering, tree-lined drive in Warren County, New Jersey, sits the culmination of the dreams of two electrical engineers and their hopes for a simpler life. Their organic operation, aptly named Greenbytes Farm, is a nod to their former lives.
Despite challenges, the operation has brought more contentment and joy than the couple thought possible when they set out on this adventure six years ago. After more than 20 years in IT, owner Manish Chand found himself tired of the daily grind and thinking about the fond memories he had back on his grandparents’ farm in India. It was then that he realized he was missing something in his life.
“There was a point when I asked myself, ‘What am I doing, and is it working [for me]?’ ” he said. “When I started looking for an answer to that, I realized that we all came to this beautiful planet, and we have so much to see — so much to touch, observe and smell. And it was at that point that I decided to get out of that corporate mess … and what better way to do that than to get into farming and back to my roots?”
After purchasing land in Oxford, Chand and his wife Kiran set out to build a haven full of fresh, chemical-free food; flourishing wildlife; and all the beauty nature has to offer. Once the farm was up and running and Chand had learned as much as he could through books and YouTube videos, the first-time farmer reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to continue growing his operation. Chand first partnered with the agency in 2017 through an Environmental Quality Incentives Program contract to install a high tunnel (which has extended the growing season for his vegetables, such as kohlrabi, kale, tomatoes and peppers) and to create a pollinator habitat. Since that first meeting, Chand has continued installing conservation practices for both the benefit of his operation and the surrounding environment. A second high tunnel will be going up in the fall, and after developing a Forest Stewardship Plan, he has started implementing forest stand improvement practices, including installing birdhouses and owl boxes and creating a brush pile for wildlife.
While Chand is intent on helping the Earth through the implementation of conservation practices, he is also focused on helping his community. Greenbytes Farm donates any leftover produce to local soup kitchens and helps neighbors by donating fresh food to those who are food insecure. Chand also has created a paid intern position on his farm to help local students learn agricultural skills and pay for college all at the same time.
Selected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service — New Jersey