Suburban Acres’ goats aid farmers, neighbors
OLD BRIDGE — Like many smaller farmers around the Garden State, Izzy Ferluga and Adrienne Vento fell into their farming careers through their own self-interest.
They started raising goats in their backyard in Englishtown to have their own raw milk and soon they were off and running, using the milk to make soap and cosmetics and having the animals clean up poison ivy on a nearby 10-acre tract they lease near Raceway Park in Englishtown.
More recently they have added lambs for meat to the farm.
Ferluga, a stone mason who also worked with asbestos for a time, immigrated to New Jersey from his native Slovenia in 1992.
Vento, a graphic arts and photography teacher in New Brunswick schools, was raised in Montclair.
She has a few more years teaching before she plants to retire, and at that point, the couple said they may move full time to Wells, Vt., where they have another farm.
“We got into goats because their milk is very healthy,” Ferluga said. “We started out with two goats about 16 years ago and now we have about 30 goats and 40 sheep. We do the sheep for meat and the goats for milk.”
Because she has summers off from teaching, “I like to stay active through the summer,” Vento said, so she filled out a lengthy federal application and soon the couple was transporting a small flock of goats to Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, N.Y. each summer.
The cliffs are so steep there, conventional lawn mowers cannot keep the brush down, but the goats are happy to help clean the place up.
The couple also lease out their various teams of goats to clean up hazardous poison ivy on farms, parks, corporate campuses and public lands.
They were quick to credit the owner of the land they lease, David Zimmerman, with allowing them the open space they needed to expand their enterprise and raise more goats and sheep.
They currently have about 30 sheep and more than 40 goats on the tract just off busy Englishtown Road not far from Englishtown Auction flea market.
“For me, it’s a full-time job,” Ferluga said. Every year in July, he relocates some of the herd to Fort Wadsworth, where the goats munch away on weeds and brush on the cliffs of the historically well-protected entrance to New York Harbor.
Across the busy waterway is Fort Greene in Brooklyn. Suburban Acres goats will stay at Fort Wadsworth until the end of September.
“It’s not a big money maker because you have to build shelters for them and keep an eye on them while they’re out there,” Ferluga said of the government contract his wife secured for their business, “and when you’re working with your own animals, it’s different.”
Prior to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Suburban Acres had a contract with Long Beach Island, lending their goats out on the southern New Jersey Shore to help control outbreaks of poison ivy on the beach and bay sides of small towns there.
“We had a contract before Hurricane Sandy for all of Long Beach Island,” Ferluga said, “then the hurricane hit and threw all the poison ivy into the Toms River.”
The couple feed their lambs and goats a mix of quality grasses and grains.
The male lambs are sold for meat and many of the females are held back for reproduction.
“I can butcher the animal here, clean it up and sell the carcass the same day,” he said, “but I cannot refrigerate it, store it and then sell it.”
Ferluga said people who want fresh lamb come to Suburban Acres and pay him a small processing fee for the meat and cart it home to their refrigerators that same day.
He said a whole lamb typically sells for about $200, and some people want the animal’s head as well.
Other customers also buy live lambs from him and take them home to process on their own.
Suburban Acres also offers wool and chicken eggs.
“As long as the live animal is not in the trunk, you’re allowed to transport a live animal home and they can do it themselves two three days later,” he said, noting most of the sheep weigh in at 60 to 80 pounds.
Various species that Vento and Ferluga raise at Suburban Acres include Swiss Alpine, Oberhasli, Boer and Nubian goats as well as Dorset, Jacobs and several species of self-shedding sheep.
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925