Farmer of the Year

Elias Oliveira

Born in 1956 in Barra de Mira, a small coastal village in Portugal where farming and fishing were the predominant ways of living, Elias Oliveira was by nature born into an agricultural life. Elias was the oldest child and therefore always assumed the responsibilities of provider and caretaker. He worked together with his family on their farm, raising cows, cultivating the fields, and managing their family-owned and operated bakery. Here, Elias’s gentle and good-natured persona was evident, where he was frequently seen bicycling through the town delivering bread and giving to the poor.

After leaving home at the early age of 16 for voluntary service for the Portuguese Navy, Elias embarked on journeys through many countries, where he immersed himself in the cultures and traditions of foreign locals. These life experiences prepared Elias for what was to come.

In 1984, Elias left Portugal to the United States, seeking better opportunities for his new, young family. Committing to their traditional values, Elias and his wife Maria sought local farms for their household groceries, including Dey Farm in Cranbury, NJ. They enjoyed their visits as customers and felt at home. Soon enough, Elias was working at Dey Farm, tending to the animals, participating in weekly livestock auctions in Pennsylvania, and working the land.

Elias’s work ethic, keenness to agriculture and tenacity to reach the “American Dream” led him to become partner and eventually business owner of Dey Farm at Oliveira Acres.

Elias dedicated his life to improving the lives of others. Even in the face of illness, Elias never desisted from fulfilling his life purpose. In his path, nothing stayed still. He worked so hard with so much passion to provide not only for his family but also to anyone and everyone he crossed paths with. His life was never easy, but with family he had it all.

Elias’s legacy and love for the land lives on as his wife Maria, and three children, Tiago, Jessica, and Melinda continue to honor Elias and his dream by operating Dey Farm at Oliveira Acres, a beautiful 200-acre preserved farmland in Cranbury.

Farmer of the Year

Inaugural Class

In recognition of the founders of the Middlesex County Fair Association

1938-1992 Albert F. Foerter
1938-1992 Lawrence J. Smith
1938-1992 Russell B. Herbert
1938-1992 Joseph J. Smith
1938-1992 Edgar V. Renk
1938-1992 Clarence Hunkle

Winners Since 1993

  • 1993 Roman Clark
  • 1994 Willets Griffin
  • 1995 Kelmer Keleman
  • 1996 Roy Etsch
  • 1997 Rudy Wellnitz
  • 1998 Robert VonThun, Sr.
  • 1999 George Conover
  • 2000 Arthur Danser
  • 2001 Donald Patterson
  • 2002 Byrne Brothers
  • 2003 James Etsch
  • 2004 John J. Hauser
  • 2005 William Griffin
  • 2006 Alan M. Habiak
  • 2007 Patricia Jaccoma
  • 2008 James Giamerese
  • 2009 Robert E. Hluchy, Jr.
  • 2010 Al Danser
  • 2011 Clarence W. Dey, Jr.
  • 2012 Roman W. Clark, Jr.
  • 2013 Bob VonThun Jr.
  • 2014 David Byrne
  • 2015 Robert Balz
  • 2016 Erik Hague