Mike Rassweiler's 55-acre farm is a physical metaphor, sitting as it does on a slope that is slow to warm and is only partially in sunlight. You might look down from the top and admire the woodland and stream that drew him to the property, or up from the bottom and gain a more realistic sense of all that lies before a farmer before a season is done. Mike has done both, in fact, does both simultaneously. Farming's hard; he continues to farm.
"It's a nice mix of cropland and stream," Mike says of the land he sought in 1994 when he listed with local realtors. His parents are from Princeton, where he grew up, and he knew he wanted to be close– somewhere in the northwest quadrant of the state he calls "100 percent urban." He wanted between 30 and 60 acres when he bought his 55- Hopewell Township acres, the "least desirous" for farming, he adds, and named for the challenge they represent: NorthSlope.
Mike was in college when he made the decision to become a farmer. He attended the University of Colorado and then Rutgers University for a year as he debated changing his major from geography to agriculture. At the time, he said, the course of study at Cook College was geared more to horticulture, greenhouse growing and lawn care. He didn't make the switch. Instead he found mentors who taught him what he needed to know.
"I took a year off from college," Mike said, and Al Johnson of the Stony Brook Watershed Organic Farm took him on as an apprentice. "That was my first full growing season." Mike credits a south Jersey grower, George McNulty, as also teaching him in his formative farming years. He continues to learn, adding a new crop or new variation to his standard practices, although he relies on a basic mix each year. "As much as you can count on anything, you can count on them."