The South Jersey agricultural community is mourning the loss of farming giant Anthony Russo III, who died in a tractor accident on Thursday.

State Police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Flynn said Russo, 73, the owner of Russo's Fruit & Vegetable Farm and the Trenton Farmer's Market was struck as he worked on a field by a tractor pulling seeding equipment operated by Joseph Casano. He was taken by Tabernacle fire and rescue to Virtua Hospital in Mt. Holly where he was pronounced dead. Flynn said the incident does not look suspicious but an investigation continues.

"He was truly a remarkable individual and a sad day for all of us," said Tabernacle Mayor Stephen Lee IV of Russo's passing. "We lost a cornerstone of our community. Russo's Farm Market, which sits in the very center of our town, has been there since 1940. They've been an integral part of our community over four generations and it's a huge loss for not only Tabernacle but for New Jersey agriculture as a whole."

"Tony was one of the nicest, nicest people you could meet," said Jack Ball, former mayor of Ewing and a member of the board of directors with Russo that runs Trenton Farmer's Market. "Tony had a cute saying: When in doubt, plant corn. And he planted some corn," said Ball who had seen Russo at a board meeting Wednesday night.

Ball said Russo told him he was looking forward to finally being able to get out in the field on Thursday after several cool nights. Ball said they spoke early Thursday afternoon on the phone about some Board issues.

"I got a call at dinner time to let me know that Tony had passed away. Believe me that just totaled the rest of my night I was so upset. You lose a good friend, someone you've known for 40 years. You couldn't ask for a nicer person, a caring person, a person who was a great farmer and an excellent member of the board of directors and a fantastic father and grandfather and family man."

"Today, we mourn the loss of our husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend and mentor," wrote Russo's Fruit & Vegetable Farm on its Facebook page. "Tony Russo was not only a pillar of family and our farm, but also the community. Tony truly loved what he did. His passion for our farm has propelled our business to what it is today. His sudden passing yesterday has left us all with a tremendously devastating void. We will all miss his knowledge, advice, wisdom and friendship. While we allow ourselves time to grieve, we will pick up the pieces and continue to carry on the legacy he loved so much."

Lee said that the Russo family went back to work at the farm on Friday morning "I'm not sure a lot of people could do that but they went back to work business as usual which is really a testament to the work ethic and legacy of their family."

Lee said that Russo's funeral service is scheduled for the Holy Eucharist Church in Tabernacle with the funeral on Tuesday. He did not know yet how the Burlington County community would remember Russo.

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