Pathways of shells and shrubs surrounding garden beds of chives, rosemary and thyme greet you upon arrival at Beach Plum Farm. Flourishing beds of lemon verbena and sage weave through the grounds, intermingling with tulips, lettuce, carrots and dragon tongue beans. This is only a fraction of the 62 acres of farmland that Cape Resorts’ Director of Agriculture Christina Albert oversees daily—and it’s there, on those 62 acres, where Beach Plum Farm’s Farm-to-Table Dinner process begins.
Christina’s passion for fresh food at Beach Plum Farm comes from a love for the land, and a love for what it offers. That love began when she transformed a vacant lot in Philadelphia into a community garden. Pregnant at the time, it was important for her to know what she was putting into her body, and what better way than to grow it herself? She carried those values with her.
“I wanted to have done all the work to know what it takes to get food to the plate,” says Christina. “How on earth can I have an opinion on how food is raised without doing everything it involves myself?”
In season, Beach Plum Farm’s 13 varieties of tomato make star appearances on the Farm-to-Table Dinner menu
Christina earned certifications in the Breakthrough Leaders for Sustainable Food Systems program from the University of Vermont, in US Food Systems from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and is a Rutgers Master gardener and a certified Market Gardner. Her education helped her get started at an organic farm in Egg Harbor Township where she gained hands-on experience as Assistant Farm Manager. In 2015, she moved on and began traveling south, knocking on every farm door she encountered until Beach Plum Farm welcomed her in.
Starting as a Crew Leader with only one season of farming under her belt, Christina managed the greenhouse as well as the daily tasks of the field team and harvesting team. She was promoted to Farm Manager in 2017 before stepping into her current role as Director of Agriculture. “I’ve been able to plant, grow, harvest and deliver the product while also getting to be a part of serving it to our guests,” says Christina. “It’s an awesome feeling to provide the best food that I can in the best way I know how that honors the land, the plants and animals, and ourselves.”
Christina and her team’s farming practices are sustainable and regenerative. Over the years, the team has gotten to know the seasons and the fields, including the four 100 foot hoop houses and when and how which plants will grow best. They experiment with new plants in the 40 raised beds. Community days bring together team members from across Cape Resorts to help harvest, maintain the fields, or—Christina’s favorite—plant new crops.
“It’s one of those things that you get to look behind you and feel accomplished,” she says. “It’s all at the beginning of the process, so it’s a field of hope.” That hope turns into a full crop, season after season, year after year. From that crop, the planning begins—and that’s where Beach Plum Farm General Manager Ed Hackett comes in.
Beach Plum Farm General Manager Ed Hackett—host of each Farm-to-Table Dinner—picks a crop of carrots from the garden for his evening menu.
Ed was a fan of Beach Plum Farm long before he joined the team. His relationship with Cape Resorts began when he and his wife would travel from Philadelphia to Cape May in the fall for weekend getaways at Congress Hall and The Virginia, which led him to the farm where it was love at first sight.
“The farm is an extremely special place and I’ve always wanted to work somewhere like this,” Ed says. “It’s truly a farm-to-table experience. The team that we have now is really focused on taking it to the next level of hospitality.”
Months of planning goes into each Farm-to-Table Dinner. Ed and his culinary team, along with Christina, Livestock Director Andrew Halbruner and In-House Florist Kerry Crowley, create new menus, tablescapes and an inviting environment for guests. The dinners run weekly, beginning mid-March through December with special holiday dinners sprinkled throughout the year. As the seasons change, so does the experience. Some are inside, some are out; some cooked over open fire and others in our kitchens. All integrate the freshest of foods from the farm or from our local waters.
The menu is printed and the table is set - ready for guests to arrive. Fresh lavender makes a beautifully scented centerpiece.
Dinners are five to six courses with a menu focused on everything that is harvested on the farm that week. Spring tables boast tulips and daffodils with the soundtrack of bees buzzing, plus a menu of crisp vegetables and farm-fresh meats. Summertime brings sweet notes of lavender and honeysuckle, and—of course—our own Jersey tomatoes. If Andrew is harvesting chickens on Wednesday, BBQ wings and thighs will be on the menu for the weekend. Once fall rolls around, the headliners are squash and pumpkins. Closing the year is Cape May’s holiday season when the hoop house—the farm’s traditional greenhouse—is festooned with twinkling lights and Christmas trees for a multi-course feast packed with winter vegetables, pastureraised turkey and heritage pork. The evening also encourages guests to join in caroling and sip warm cocoa and cider around a crackling fire.
It’s the essence of farm-to-table in its purest form, and that same purity is reflected in the relationships that form amongst those in attendance.
“There’s something special about sharing dinner and forming unexpected connections with other guests by the end of the meal,” Ed says. “It’s rewarding to watch the relationships form and give guests an experience where they learn something and make a new friend. It gets them excited to return.”“There’s something special about sharing dinner and forming unexpected connections with other guests by the end of the meal,” Ed says. “It’s rewarding to watch the relationships form and give guests an experience where they learn something and make a new friend. It gets them excited to return.”
Christina harvesting radishes from the greenhouse—one of the first early spring crops at Beach Plum Farm.
CONCIERGE | THE CAPE RESORTS MAGAZINE