Elmer Farmer Named NJ’s Outstanding Young Farmer

By: Morgan Reitzel, Follow South Jersey Intern

Dusty Lane Farms in Elmer. Photo credit: Dusty Lane Farms Facebook page.

ELMER, N.J. – The New Jersey State Board of Agriculture has awarded Michael Brooks, a Salem County vegetable and grain grower, with the New Jersey’s 2023 Outstanding Young Farmer award at the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention Banquet recently.

Michael Brooks and his wife, Emily, hold the NJ 2023 Outstanding Young Farmer Award. Photo credit: NJ Dept. of Agriculture.

Brooks has been involved in agriculture for about 20 years at Dusty Lane Farms in Elmer and wants to continue to build on his family’s agricultural legacy by increasing the operation and number of acres that are farming.

Dusty Lane Farms is spread across 2,000 acres that produced primary crops such as potatoes, peppers, vegetables, and grains. The farm has grown 500 acres and five crops in the last 10 years and 27,000 sq. feet of greenhouse space. 

In high school, Brooks has worked on his FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience Project which started with him raising one-half acre of strawberries and then moving on to growing spinach and green beans for a local frozen food processor. This was to assume a greater labor role in his parent’s farm. 

Embracing modern technology, Brooks combined two GPS guidance systems that conserves fuel and labor and three greenhouses for transplant production that contain automatic irrigation booms and computerized systems. This controls heat and ventilation giving them the ability to grow 22,000 trays of plans. 

Brooks expresses that even though his wife Emily has a professional career, she supports his career and would support her three children if they wanted to work for the farm when they are older.  

According to NJ.GOV, “Michael credits Emily for instilling the values of an agricultural background, the merits of self-sufficiency, and working together with family towards a common goal.” And Michael says how his goal now is to, “ have a viable operation if my children so choose to come back and work on the farm.” 

Brooks serves with multiple agriculture-related organizations such as the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey, the Salem County Board of Agriculture,  the Upper Pittsgrove Agriculture Advisory Board, the New Jersey Farm Bureau,  the New Jersey FFA Association, the Woodstown FFA Alumni Association, the New Jersey White Potato Council, the Potato Industry Leadership Institute, and on the Board of Directors for Farm Credit East ACA.

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to news@followsouthjersey.com with “NEWS” in the subject line.