Guests In The Barnyard

Mary Jasch and Donna Traylor

Anyone who has traveled a country road in Northwestern New Jersey is familiar with stands abundant with an enormous variety of farm fresh produce. Many don't realize, however, that many farms welcome visitors into the fields beyond the roadside gate. In Sussex County, there is an active agritourism program to develop visitation at over 100 farms which provide a surprising range of products. The educational benefits to guests in the barnyard usually result in additional sales for the farmer and preservation of the long local agricultural tradition.

Since the economy of farming has changed, it's become necessary to reinvent what small-scale farms must do to thrive, and many have opened the barn doors to the public. "Agritourism" has taken root in Sussex County. Here are few farms to put on your list of Skylands destinations.

Dana Ray Farms, Branchville

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The Family Farm

The Family Farm sits like a jewel in the Lafayette landscape ­ painted barns among rolling fields, white cows and tree-topped hills. This old dairy farm is a small piece of a seventh generation farm that's been in the family since 1845, and remains in the Farm Preservation Program today, with fields now leased to a dairy and crop farmer. In the fall, giant rolls of golden hay sit on hillsides in the setting sun.

Joan Smith, "Daughter of American Agriculture", maintains a tiny gem of a store that sells what she grows and makes herself. Fresh herbs cut from her garden ­ French tarragon, Greek oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, mixed herbs and big-fisted bunches of basil for a dollar. Bouquets of flowers are nothing new to farm stands, but bouquets with perennials like peonies -- and the annual sunflowers at three dollars ­ make the trip well worth it. Besides, a visitor gets to see this slice of country that most folks don't. She bottles herb vinegars and jams, jellies and pesto made from fruits that she either grows or picks at a pick-your-own farm or from friends' trees. People travel to the stand especially for her baked goods ­ home-made old-fashioned cookies. She says some of her most faithful customers are the locals who drive by to work and bicyclists who often stop for the cookies ­ the kinds Grandma used to make. The store is self-serve.

136 Pelletown Rd., Lafayette 973-875-1447

Down the winding roads that follow the Wisconsin Glacier's landforms, three other dairy farms await the visitor ­ each one with a twist. Head on over near Space Farms on Rt. 519. Just beyond is The Farmer's Wife & Windy Flat Dairy. Holly Sytsema is The Farmer's Wife and she operates a business of that very name. At the stand, she sells eggs ($1.75 a carton) from her 30 Rhode Island Reds ­ freshly gathered by six-year-old Will, the farmer's son, every day ­ plus jams and jellies made by her mom and her sister's friend ­ scrumptious kinds like lemon-blueberry, white cranberry and wild huckleberry, and homemade salad dressings like buttermilk ranch and Vidallia onion. For all kids great and small, she's got an old-fashioned candy store with candy necklaces and licorice pipes, home-made cookies and ice-tea and soda in hot weather. Where else can you grab a cold one on a country road? Cut-your-own flowers or buy a bunch, including a striking bouquet of gladiolus. And while you're there, pet the farm animals ­ goats, rabbits, sheep and calves.

Across from her stand, a sign announces Windy Flat Dairy as a Dairy of Distinction, an award from the State Department of Agriculture for five years running for keeping a well-maintained farm. The dairy offers a dairy tour for $4 a person, kids three-years and under are free. Visitors learn it all, from the stages of a cow's life-cycle to the modern milking process. In October, the tours go to hay with the learning focused on veggies and root crops and fall farm fun. Call ahead to reserve a tour for schools and families. Next time you pick up a carton of Parmalot, remember The Farmer's Wife.

383 County Route 519, Wantage 973-702-7614


Rosina Byma's greenhouse at By-Acres Dairy is crammed with the hot color of annuals and the scent of their perfume. Dragon Wing begonias spread their dark leaves under pink blossoms that bloom all summer. Petunias...gerbera...Peek-a-Boo.... a few herbs and perennials. Some are in unusual Queen Anne style wire planters, She'll be open through June, then reopen on Labor Day with pumpkins and mums. Ever wonder how much a gallon of milk weighs? 8.6 pounds, and Byma sells it by the 100-pounds. Ever wonder if all spots on a Holstein were the same? Know what a Holstein is? "Each cow has a different fingerprint," she says. Byma tells these and other interesting facts about cows and milk on dairy tours at this Holstein farm. Outside the big barns, calves are chained to houses where they're weaned from mama. The line-up in back of them munching at a trough of hay, are heifers and milk cows. The cows among the farm's 300 head are milked twice a day at 4am and 4pm, so families, schools and groups should schedule their tour to catch the milking. By-Acres sells milk to Dairy Lea co-op.

601 County Route 519, Wantage 973-875-7445

Needmore Farm

Goats of various hues, sheep, Guinea hens, chickens and roosters, and dogs and cats roam and graze on this small farm just north of the town of Sussex, off Route 23. There, owner Gail Fatum pasteurizes goat's milk and turns it into cheese, fudge, and fancy soap. Aged goat cheese, like feta and cheddar, and spreadable fresh cheese, plain or with herbs, fill the fridge. Fatum makes extra creamy chocolate fudge from the rich milk, and on rare occasions, cannolis. When Fatum's not saying cheese, she's milking goats ­ all 95 of them. Each one gives an average of 3 quarts daily when they let her. "Yesterday they were just fighting like kids in the rain when I was trying to milk," she says. "They're like children when it's nasty. They get bored." This is her second time around with the critters. She got into goats at age 10 in 4H and got a state-license to sell milk when she was only 12. She sold the goats, went to college, bought two houses and became a cabinet maker for 40 years. "One day I bought a farm. Then I had to put animals on it that I knew. Goats... they can drive you nuts and step on your toes but they're like dogs ­ they paw you and want to be petted. They like their heads and ears rubbed. They'll follow you around. Some days they don't want to be bothered but they're much more personable than sheep." Leave a check or cash in the can at the self-serve store at the farm. If you can't make it to Wantage, make time for her goat milk goodies at the Olde Lafayette Village and Morris Plains farm markets.

24 Wantage School Rd., Wantage 973-875-0565

Stephens Farm

On the other side of Sussex town, Ted and Annemarie Stephens and their four kids run a 10-acre NOFA-certified organic farm, located on a Wantage hillside overlooking the Great Vernon Valley. The Appalachian Trail runs alongside the farm, which is situated in the center of a 150-acre plot owned by the National Park Service. Pine barns over 200 years old stand among the chickens, organically-raised pigs, cats and dogs, and Fred, the steer. He once was dairy but now he's beef, was small but now he's big.

Vegetable patches, greenhouse and small market mark the property as business. Stephens has lettuce and other greens, chard, kale, peppers, squash, broccoli, cauliflower and annual herbs. Specialties include heirloom tomatoes, jalapenos, patty pan squash and melons ­ "if it's a good melon year," he says. You'll know if it's hot and dry. You'll find fresh organic eggs here laid by the mixed-breed free-range chickens. There are very wooly sheep to look at. "I like them. They're fun. They're so peaceful. They were a present for Annemarie," says Ted Stephens. Pigs may be "obnoxious," but there's a waiting list for the organic pork and bacon that Stephens's raising. He ships the meat south to the only federally-inspected, organically-certified butchering facility in Jersey. Stephens also has chicken and turkey, but buyers must call for availability. Annemarie also runs an organic bulk buying club. "Pretend you're in a supermarket in a catalog," she says. So take a ride with some of the best views in New Jersey and pull in at the big sign on Route 284 just a skip before the New York border. Drive in, look around, and somebody will find you ­ perhaps the wild/domestic-cross tom turkey.

467 Rt. 284, Wantage 973-875-2849

Brickyard Farm

This 60 acre farm, located in Andover and Fredon Townships, is operated by its owners Carla and Michael Kostelnik. The primary focus here is sheep; however, hay is also produced on the acreage for use on the farm. Sheep and wool products are for sale to the public.

As in many cases, this farm's name has a rich history. The Brickyard Farm was actually a working brickyard in the 1830s. The Kostelnik family has called this home since 1972 when they began their sheep operation with 6 ewes. Their limited farming experience prior to this was in suburban Massachusetts where Carla was introduced to sheep shearing. She was happy to find that here in Northern New Jersey, the land lent itself to sheep. soon their children were also involved in 4H and showing their sheep at the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show.

The current operation is home to approximately 45 sheep, including 1 or 2 rams for breeding purposes. The sheep are breed for wool and meat quality. Lambing season runs from the end of December to late March. Some sheep operations will actually breed twice a year in order to provide lamb for Easter and Christmas. In Sussex County, there is a word of mouth network among sheep breeders for the lamb meat market.

Shearing occurs once a year in the springtime. The fleece is then hand washed in warm water and soap, cared and spun and some of it is dyed. Fleece is available at the farm in three colors - white, black and gray. Carla sells hand knitted, hand woven and hand dyed products at craft shows. Fleeces are also sold directly to customers and cost approximately $10 each. People who want to spin their own wool purchase them or they can be used for stuffing pillows and for a variety of craft projects. Tanned sheepskins are also for sale - their prices range from $30 to $50 each.

For further information on Brickyard Farm, including public visitation and sales, please contact Carla Kostelnik at 973--383-4028.

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03 Sep 2016, 16:40
Does anyone know where we can go to milk a cow in Northern NJ? My friend has it on her bucket list so we would like to take her to a farm to milk a cow!
05 Sep 2014, 19:18
I like to buy cow meat or veal meat , please contact or text me at 973-454-8960 thanks
24 May 2014, 09:24
I am thinking about getting goats. Maybe 4 of them. I know by research that Pygmy Goats would fit my goals best. We have a horse farm with Children's Riding School and Therapeutic Riding Center. My thinking is that the children would really enjoy the goats. I have been getting such conflicting advice. Such as some say only get females, because the males give off an odor and other say Get a mix of boys and girls and they will be happier and yet a goat breeder told us that males are happier and easier for the children to play with. Help... Plz and Thank You
17 Feb 2014, 07:17
I am looking to purchase seed potatoes. Is there a local (to NJ)farm that sells these?
14 Jan 2014, 10:50
Hello fellow farmers. I wanted to get the word out that we have an abundance of sawdust for bedding . It is avail for pick up or we deliver. Call if interested 973-862-0276
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Stephanie lenihan
07 Nov 2012, 17:32
Do you have any Guinea hens for sale in the NW NJ area?
Amy Battista
14 Sep 2012, 08:12
I wanted to know if any of these dairy farms offered the opportunity to milk a cow. Also, wanted to know about scheduling a group tour with older girl scouts.\r\n\r\nThanks,\r\n\r\nAmy
Paula Reed
25 Mar 2012, 15:22
I am looking to buy a 5-5 1/2 butterflied leg of lamb.Where can I purchase this or have it delivered to my home. Although I work in a meat dept.this year I would like fresh organic meat. Will you be able to steer me in the right direction.\r\n THANK YOU...Paula
Sean Doma
05 Feb 2012, 20:02
I would like to know of existing Dairy Farms in new jersey that invites/allows visitors to see how a Dairy Farm operates. would like to go in Marach or April. I would also be interested in seeing hand milking if it's possible.\r\n\r\nMany thanks,\r\nSean Doma
16 Dec 2011, 09:16
I would like to know of existing Dairy Farms in new jersey that invites/allows visitors to see how a Dairy Farm operates. would like to go in next month or so\r\n would also be interested in seeing hand milking. thank you
08 Oct 2011, 06:04
I am interested in finding a milking cow to raise on my farm for my family. Thank you.
11 Jul 2011, 09:50
I would like to know if there is a place in MIDDLESEX county where I can bring my kid to see a cow being milked. I saw it as a child and it was one of the most educational experiences. \r\n
29 Jun 2011, 19:16
Hi\r\nI m looking to buy about 3 or 4 sheep about 8-14 months old. Are there any available? How much will the cost be? Can we slaughter them at the farm?\r\nThank YOu
22 Jun 2011, 13:16
Do you sell cornish hens? or a small chickens? How much would it cost?
14 Jun 2011, 17:36
Hello I am also looking for hornless ewe and ram lambs for sale in the nj or pa area!!
Lisa Yorke
15 May 2011, 09:32
I live in Vernon, New Jersey and looking for information regarding the sale of guinea hens. Thanks,
10 May 2011, 19:40
i AM LOOKING FOR FARMS IN nJ OR PA that have hornless ewe and ram lambs for sale. anyone know of any?
13 Apr 2011, 09:24
Nicely done, Donna. It is such a joy to live here.
03 Apr 2011, 11:10
Hello \r\n\r\nI'm looking for a Goat please could you let me know how much will cost me one?\r\n
06 Feb 2011, 10:13
Is there any place in NJ, where children can actually be shown how to milk a cow by hand? I know that at some Amish farms in PA they provide that type of education.
Gene Eberth
09 Aug 2010, 10:58
I would like to know of existing Dairy Farms in Sussex County that invites/allows visitors to see how a Dairy Farm operates.
Pamela Moon
13 Jul 2010, 13:17
Do you sell sheep manure? I am looking for some for composting my gardens. Thank you.\r\nPam
19 May 2010, 18:26
i am trying to look for photos and info on a farm i was born at, it was called "oconomowoc farm" and was located in lafayette, new grandmother "maggie" burroughs and grandpa burroughs (fred), with 3 sons, my father=bill burroughs, his brother john and other brother fred lived here, among other places...they were very well known in the area. my grandfather died in 1932 and my grandmother sold the farm to the girl scouts sometime in the early 60's. i have such nostalgia for this farm and wish to find its location as i would love to go and have a look around.....any info would be very much appreciated....thank you toni
22 Oct 2009, 21:47
Could you please inform me that you are concern about the determination of pregnancy of your cows, because we have a cow-side Pregnancy Test kit in the name of "Preg-O-vet".\r\
07 Sep 2009, 10:28
I am interested in getting information for a hay wagon rental here in NJ. It may sound silly, but several years ago we had an annual party with friends and family in the fall that had autumn themed activities including a hay wagon ride. It was great fun, but after a couple years we could no longer obtain a wagon. I would love for this to still be possible! Thanks.
Ruth Ann Hawkins
02 Jul 2009, 15:54
I would like to know if there is a place I can bring my grandchildren to see a cow being milked. I saw it as a child and it was one of the most educational experiences.
07 May 2009, 09:58
Can you please let me know if there are any farms in Sussex County selling guinea hens. I live at the Jersey shore but I am looking to purchase them for my father in law who lives in Sussex County and he has not been able to find any.
11 Apr 2009, 06:59
I am interested in purchasing 5-6 hens for the purpose of having fresh eggs. I am just starting this process and prefer not to start out with chicks. Are there any farms selling hens?
29 Mar 2009, 12:29
can you please tell me if it is possible to milk a cow at one of these farms. i know it sounds crazy but i have never done that and i always wanted to. thanks
18 Nov 2008, 16:45
can you let me know which farms offer the sleighrides in Sussex county?
03 Jul 2008, 19:00
Can you give me information regarding the sale of guinea hens. Thank you

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