Mary Jo Herbert grew up in a farming family and community. Her family ran a seed store in Milltown, and she learned to care for and ride horses on her grandparents’ peach farm in East Brunswick. She went to college to become a teacher, and there, met the man, Michael, who would become her husband. The couple moved to Trenton and had five children, while Michael grew his law practice.
Mary Jo yearned to return to farming. So the couple bought a farm in Hopewell, where she kept and bred Arabian and Thoroughbred racing horses, grew hay, raised chickens and taught riding. The farm, at its height, produced more than 3,000 bales of hay and had more than 36 horses, many of which raced at the track. Watching a foal become a successful race horse gave her an incredible sense of accomplishment.
Mary Jo was a trailblazer, becoming the first female president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the State Board of Agriculture. She also was honored by the National Breeders’ Cup. She serves on the New Jersey Farm Service Agency and the Mercer County Agriculture Board.
Mary Jo and Michael felt driven to support Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton about 30 years ago after attending church at the Blessed Sacrament in Trenton and seeing firsthand how many people in the city struggled to provide for their families.
Fighting hunger and food insecurity
She organized food donations from local farms to Catholic Charities. She supports Catholic Charities’ food pantries, saying healthy food is necessary for communities to thrive.
“Now with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that people have a healthy diet,” said Mary Jo, who has supported Farmers Against Hunger initiatives that facilitated gleaning (a practice in which leftover crops, picked from farmers’ fields after commercial harvesting, get donated to people in need).
Getting involved with Catholic Charities has been a family affair for the Herberts. Michael served as president of the Board of Trustees and was honored as a Light of Hope for Mercer County in 2004. Eldest son Michael W. Herbert is a current Board member.
Mary Jo still runs her 57-acre hay and horse-boarding farm, known as Hopewell Heritage Farm. She is a parishioner at Saint James Church in Pennington. She has five grown children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Mary Jo Herbert will be honored at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s Guardian Angel Benefit of Hope on Wednesday, September 30th. Comedian and actor Joe Piscopo will host this virtual fundraiser and celebration of our supporters. It’s free to tune in! Register today here.
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