Portraying Somerset County Farms, Part I

Throughout our careers, artists find a variety of avenues to exhibit and interact with the public. We show at galleries, museums, and festivals, we attend residency programs and develop teaching gigs… opportunities are wide-ranging and varied.

Somerset County's "Farm to Frame" Celebration

I’m in a new project, as one of many artists who’ve been accepted into a county-wide arts program called “Farm to Frame”. The project was developed by the Somerset County Department of Cultural Heritage, with the objective to pay homage to the history of the farming and 40 years of farmland preservation, in central New Jersey. We have six months (left) to develop work. In January of 2023, I’ll submit two pieces to be considered by jurors, with the possibility that both, one, or none of them will be accepted (it’s a bit nerve-wracking). All accepted work will be exhibited in the county gallery for around eight to nine months in 2023.  

Zhiwei and Yuekang Zhu in front of a chicken coop on the Princeton Hulu (Asian) Farm in Skillman, NJ


The Princeton Hulu (Asian) Farm

The F2F program assigned each artist to a farm in our county. I’ve been paired with a small, 60-acre organic farm in my town, The Princeton Hulu (Asian) Farm, which is owned and operated by a 1st-generation Chinese family. They specialize in traditional Asian vegetables, as well as duck and chicken eggs. I’m excited to be working with them - they were my first pick when I reviewed the list of participating farms. They’ve brought their country’s traditions and histories which are important in how they’ve chosen to take their place among the New Jersey farming community, and the ever-growing immigrant population here. 

I had my first tour of the farm last week - it was wonderful to learn about the different vegetables, some similar to the traditional American ones I find in my local supermarket. Zhiwei and I also talked about the specific challenges organic farmers face, as well as the struggles all farmers are facing because of the dramatic weather we've been having. I came home with an exciting bag of produce that my family has been enjoying, and I can’t wait for my next visit.

Why this project?

Farming runs deep on the maternal side of my family, and so this project resonates with me. My mom grew up on a dairy farm in central Illinois, and she brought her knowledge and experience to raising our family in southern Michigan. On 15 acres, we planted and harvested all of our own organic fruits and veggies, and raised chickens for eggs and eating. Frequently, conversations in our home revolved around natural health, and the importance of (organic) food. She also has a brother and sister who are organic farmers.

While I don't own a farm, I try to carry on the legacy of healthy eating and respect for the farmers who work so hard to provide for others. I live in an area where many farms, large and small, have been broken up and turned into subdivisions. In my home, we often discuss the importance of protecting farmland for our community, for our country, and our world. 

Stay tuned for more as this project progresses...

Yours in nature in paint, Karen