If you’ve never been to a working dairy farm you owe it to yourself – and your children – to visit one – before they are all gone. The family-run small dairy farm is a vanishing breed.
I spent some time recently at the Fulper Farm in West Amwell, NJ, a 5th generation modern dairy farm with 120 Holstein cows. The Fulper Farm is special in a lot of ways.
Five generations and over 100 years old
It is over 100 years old, started by Mary Fulper, and it is still run by the family. Today Robert II and his brother, Fred, oversee the farm operations and Robert and his daughter, Breanna, a recent Cornell University graduate in animal science, manage the dairy products from the farm and agritourism.
The farm is one of only 65 dairy farms left in New Jersey.
The farm is one of only 65 dairy farms left in New Jersey. Although they grow all their own feed and recently installed solar panels that power the whole farm, the economics of the modern dairy farm are difficult, affected by international commodity markets (corn, soybeans), the price of gas, economic growth in China and the current price of milk, among other things. Many dairy farmers are finding it hard to make a living.
But the Fulpers are proud of what they have created. Molly Pfaffenroth, the sales and marketing manager, gave me a tour of the farm. Pfaffenroth is also a Cornell graduate, and she is using her degree in animal science and communications to help more people to get to know the farm and its products.
That’s the other special thing about the Fulper Farm. They are one of the very few dairy farms in this area to be selling fresh cheese products – mozzarella, ricotta, mozzarella string cheese (in two flavors: nigella seed and crushed red pepper and parsley), and yogurt and Greek Yogurt (plain and vanilla).
Their cheese maker, Jack Torranto, makes the cheeses from the farm’s milk. You can buy the cheeses at the farm on Thursdays from 5 – 7 pm. In season, Fulper also sells its cheeses at eight farmers’ markets in NJ. Go online to their website for cheese pricing. You may also see their name on restaurant menus at Triumph Brewing Company and Hamilton’s Grill Room.
Sustainability and dairy farming
But back to the farm. How do you take care of 120 cows and numerous calves? And how do you do it in a sustainable way?
The Fulpers have always improved their operations with new innovations and modern methods. They have received the Dairy of Distinction award, which recognizes dairy farms who have attractive, well-kept farms and promote a good dairy industry image.
The cows are milked twice a day in a state-of-the-art milking parlor – once at 4:30 am and then again at 3:30 pm. They produce approximately 8000 lbs. of milk a day, most of which is sold to Dairy Marketing Services (“the milk truck”). Molly says a lot of their milk ends up in Wegmans supermarkets.
The Fulpers grow their own hay, straw, corn and soybeans on 350 acres to feed the herd. On the remaining 850 acres they grow feed for other local farm animals and area farms.
The cows and calves live a good life with plenty of fresh air and feed. The farm also has 0% run-off; all liquid manure is collected in a lagoon that is then used to fertilize the fields. Solid manure is used for cow bedding. Crop rotation and soil conservation practices are also used to treat the land well. In 2011 they installed solar panels on ¾ of an acre that provide all the power that the farm needs.
Spend some time on the farm
The farm, which is just minutes from Lambertville, NJ, is all about education too. “People don’t know how a dairy farm runs,” says Pfaffenroth. “Education is a very important aspect of what we do.”
They are happy to provide tours to school children and adults alike. This month they celebrated their first Harvest Festival. They also offer a farm camp for kids in the summer, a one week experience of life on a dairy farm. Youth ages 8-13 can come out to the farm and take care of/wash/clip/lead their very own calf for the week. They also participate in farm chores, go on hayrides, and engage in all sorts of fun activities. They will have three 5-day sessions and two 3-day sessions this summer. (You can reach them at 609-651-5991 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information).
Fulper Farm is located at 281 Rocktown Lambertville Road, Lambertville, NJ.
Check out their website where you can also order products online. For general information, email email@example.com. For birthday parties, tours and summer camp, contact Breanna Fulper at firstname.lastname@example.org.