Walking through the doors of the greenhouse with husband-and-wife team Nick and Sarah Culver, the warm air engulfs you and the sweet smell of earth and growing plants intoxicates your senses.
Row upon row of tiny sprouts and leafy greens span the central part of the greenhouse, while swaths of basil occupy about half the space. In a long row against the wall are Nick’s test projects, where he is experimenting with the best ways to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and squash vertically.
Culver Family Farms grows a variety of produce both in the hydroponic greenhouse and, during the season, on their large property in Mannington, New Jersey.
The land has been in Nick’s family since the 1890s and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
The farm was passed down through generations of Hancocks (Nick’s mom’s family). It has been farmed for four of those five generations, and now, Nick and Sarah carry on the agricultural tradition.
The couple’s Delaware roots run deep: They met as students at Wilmington Friends School, but they didn’t begin dating until after college, when they reconnected at Catherine Rooney’s in Trolley Square.
After marrying at Greenville Country Club, they decided to move back to Nick’s family’s farm to build a business. During the pandemic, they switched from a wholesale operation to a retail business model.
“We have had experience with wholesale and with other Community Supported Agriculture—or CSA—programs, but we wanted to do something different,” Nick says. “We wanted our customers to be able to select which products they wanted instead of just being handed a box which may include items they would not use.”
And, they deliver right to your door or to a location convenient to you.
“We wanted to be customer-focused, so we deliver to southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and northern Delaware to allow our customers to know when to expect their weekly farm box,” Sarah says.
They also partner with local purveyors and growers, offering coffee from M&N Roasters, barbecue sauce from Billy B’s, bratwurst and meats from Sickler’s Circle View Farm and cut flowers during the season courtesy of Nick’s mom, Suzanne Culver, who lives nearby.
“It has been a lot of fun to meet and work with other local growers and it takes some of the pressure off us to provide all of the products,” Sarah says.
Thanks to Sarah’s passion for cooking, they also offer recipe boxes with everything you need to make a gourmet dish at home.
Sarah is handy outside the kitchen too, and during the pandemic, she taught herself how to make candles that she now sells.
“It was really a self-serving project,” Sarah says. “I love candles and they can be very expensive, so I decided to learn how to make them.”
She has several scents available made with coconut and soy wax, and she plans to use beeswax from her father-in-law’s hives in the future.
“Farming has been a tradition in my family for five generations. Sarah and I are proud to continue in that tradition on some of the same land farmed by my family,” Nick says.