Township has operations to brag on
JOHNSONBURG — Frelinghuysen Township is traditionally a farming community and two of its farms recently received the distinction of River Friendly, joining many others around the state.
The two new River Friendly Farms are the Lazy K Ranch on Lincoln Laurel Road which is planted in maple trees for a future maple sugaring operation and Ruthie’s Farm in Marksboro which produces hay and grains and is set to be the site of an artisan mill.
They join another Frelinghuysen farm in the program, Genesis Farm, a community supported garden affiliated with a conservation and education center founded by the Dominican Sisters, also in Marksboro.
These three farms are representative of the variety of farms in the program. Other River Friendly farms include Alstede’s in Chester, a vegetable farm and orchard with a large farmstand and frequent festivals; Readington River Buffalo Farm which breeds bison; the historic Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown which has a long-standing relationship with the Union Square Farmers Market and Woodsedge Tree Farm in White Township.
George Kuhn, owner of the Lazy K Ranch accepted the designation from the North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development at the Frelinghuysen Township environmental commission’s September meeting.
He said his son, Christopher, started the Lazy K before moving to Arizona. The father decided to keep the ranch going and go after River Friendly status.
The 22-acre farm, which has a forest management plan, is also recognized by the American Tree Farm System.
While presenting the honor, Tim Dunne of Woodsedge Tree Farm, who serves as a consultant to the RC&D, explained Kuhn is mostly managing the forest for sustainability and for keeping the soil healthy.
It is along a small, unnamed tributary to the Paulinskill. The Kuhns have kept adequate buffers and runoff control, Dunne said.
He noted there is a township-owned pond upstream from the farm with a dam that has partially failed. He said the township might consider breaching it eventually.
Ruthie Perretti owns and operates Ruthie’s Farm which has cropland right along the Paulins Kill. She is currently overseeing the renovation of a former tractor repair shop into a mill for organic grain.
Local organic growers now have few choices for milling. A small facility in Long Valley, River Valley Community Grains, will relocated to the Markboro building which was for years H. G. Rydell Farm Equipment, known familiarly as “Cappy’s” after Harold Rydell’s nickname.
Ruthie’s Farm was used at various times for dairy, hay and corn, Perretti told the environmental commission. She is now working with organic grain consultant, Elizabeth Dyck. She is committed to organic practices and to creating a pilot program for small grain production.
She said there are a few farm buildings on the property and a few streams run through it. Perhaps some of the buildings could be used for workshops, she said.
The River Friendly Farm Certification was set up by RC&D to recognize farmers who protect local streams and rivers.
According to Laura Tessieri, executive director of North Jersey RC&D, explained the certification provides a third party recognition that can demonstrate to customers and others a farmer’s commitment to conservation and environmentally sustainable agriculture.
Tessieri was at the presentation along with Christine Dunbar, Paulins Kill Watershed Coordinator of the Foodshed Alliance, and Autumn Sylvester, director of planning and economic development for Sussex County.
The Foodshed Alliance works with RC&D on certifications which are voluntary and are based on five criteria: Soil Health, preventing erosion while building soil quality;
• Nutrient Mangement, using crop nutrients as efficiently as possible;
• Pest Management, preventing the spread of pests and reducing pesticide use;
• Farmstead Management, managing runoff and wastewater to prevent detrimental impact, and
• Water Conservation and Waterway Protection, existence of riparian buffers, livestock, stream exclusions and irrigation water management.
Besides Warren County the North Jersey RC&D area includes Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Sussex and Union counties.