Sahl: ‘We are a fun family attraction’
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Strawberries and blackberries are now at their season’s end at Sahl’s Father & Son Farm, but fall is on the doorstep.
In Jeremy Sahl’s words, “We are a fun family attraction.”
The popular corn maze, pumpkin patch and hayrides will open the third week in September.
“One of our slogans is, ‘Everyone’s a kid’. I come from a really close family. I’ve got two brothers and dad, and we all still live on this farm. My sister lives in Smithville, and my youngest brother actually lives out in West Virginia on his farm. We are a close-knit family and we like to try and have activities that help families stay together.”
Sahl is a sixth-generation farmer, the family lineage on the farm going back to 1867.
“My great-great-great grandparents, Andrew and Amelia Sahl, immigrated from Germany. In 1867 is when they purchased the original twenty acres that the farm is on now; that the homestead is on now. At the time, everybody ran farms for their families, it wasn’t commercial.
“My granddad and great granddad actually made it a partnership, and that’s where (Joseph) Sahl & Son gets its name. I’m actually the grandson of the son of the original father-son farm.”
Jeremy and his wife, Melodie, run the current farm, and have lived since 2012 on the farm in the house that Jeremy’s great grandparents lived in. During the year they hire about eight to 10 people from their church to help out, especially to monitor the fall activities. Livestock are not raised here, but a few animals will be on-site for visitors to enjoy. “We will have pigs and chickens,” says Sahl.
“It all boils down to what I want to do,” says Sahl of his involvement. “There was no pressure for me to take over. My dad and his brother actually both went into the ministry, so as far as running the farm, it skipped a generation. They worked the farm growing up and my dad’s brother — my uncle — moved to Texas, and he’s got a good ministry down in Texas, and he’s lived in Texas my whole life. My dad took a church right here in Egg Harbor City and he’s the senior pastor there. But even while there he still worked the farm while my granddad ran it. In 2003 I started taking the reins but didn’t really run it — I made some of the business decisions and what not — but it was still under my granddad. 2009 is when my wife and I officially took control of the farm and made it an LLC — before that it was a sole proprietorship under my granddad.”
Sahl controls about 100 acres of farmland. Other family members own certain portions of it and Sahl leasing that land from them.
The area is gorgeous and fertile, located between the Brigantine Division of the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge and Renault Winery, the nation’s oldest winery. “There are a lot of small acreage farms — 5-, 10-, 20-acre farms — just scattered all over the place. So, I’m actually a large farm even though it’s a small farm,” he says with a chuckle. “In northwestern New Jersey you’ve got farms that are 4 or 5,000 acres, and in central jersey with the cranberry bogs — 1,000-acre cranberry bog farms — and Hammonton has thousands of acres of blueberries.”
Challenges are a few for Jeremy and Melodie — mainly holding full and part-time jobs in addition to the farm.
“We (he and his wife) like the idea of having a family farm. It’s been in the family for generations,” says Sahl, who also does work as a landscaper and is a bus driver for nearby Pilgrim Academy. “We’re keeping the farm going for another generation, we’re building it if any one of our kids want to take it over. That’s a long way away, but it will probably be here in a blink.”
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