Readington River Farm is river-friendly
READINGTON TOWNSHIP — Erick Doyle first discussed turning Readington River Buffalo Farm into a River-Friendly Farm when the North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council began the program.
“I loved the concept,” he said in a recent interview on the 235-acre farm. However, it wouldn’t have worked at the time.
Doyle’s parents bought the property because of a desire to raise bison. On a visit to Erick, then living in Colorado, they stopped at a bison ranch and restaurant. In 1998, keeping bison was a new idea.
While the Doyles would have liked to convert their existing farm in Bedminster to bison, it wasn’t conducive. Fortuitously, the former dairy farm just 10 minutes away was in preservation and for sale.
The farm was far from perfect, however. There were gullies more than 6 feet deep carrying topsoil into streams after heavy rains, according to a NJRC&D press release from Bridgett Hilsnhey.
The grazing patterns of bison’s naturally regenerate soil health, Hilsnhey said. They eat lush grasses, clovers and other plants.
But the bison couldn’t do the job alone.
Doyle entered into a series of contracts with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement measures that would protect the streams that cross his land and enter into the south branch of the Raritan River.
The first contract with NRCS helped Doyle install piping from two silos to a 1,500-gallon buried tank. The leachate in the take can be pumped out and spread on fields with the manure spreader.
“When it’s dispersed it acts as fertilizer,” Doyle said.
He also pulled out invasives such as wild roses and grapes and planted native species like viburnam and elderberry which were recommended by the National Audubon Society. The plants border one of the streams.
Doyle also re-fenced one of the pastures used by some of the horses he boards.
“We lost some grazing land,” he said.
The contract he just finished was for a water and sediment control basin which required a lot of engineering, earth moving equipment and money.
The pastures drain into Pleasant Run before the water reaches the South Branch. Doyle noted the river was just named a C1 trout production stream.
“It would have been nice to know a year or so in advance,” he commented, but he said he has no plans to add any buildings to the farm anyway.
On May 2, the NJ RC&D presented Doyle with the River Friendly Farm Certification.
Doyle said the government programs were the only way he could afford to do all the work required to gain the certification.
“The contribution from the NRCS was invaluable.
He said he is also especially proud that he was able to partner with the NCRS and RC&D as well as a non- profit organization like the Audubon Society.
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