Traylor has quest to save 578-acre farm
WANTAGE — On a recent, well overcast summer day, Lusscroft Farm is silent except for the patter of raindrops hitting the pavement.
You may not feel any presence, but you can hear past voices, urging the abundance of activity to return to the property which includes 23 buildings, its fields, pastures and ponds, and forest area.
“We have a big laundry list of things that have to be done,” says Donna Traylor, who runs the Sussex Farmer’s Market. “It is a process, will take a long time, and has taken a long time already. Would we like to see more progress? Yes.”
Lusscroft Farm is a gem from the past, one not ready to pass away.
The goal is to restore and refurbish the buildings so Lusscroft Farm can reopen on a regular schedule.
Located on public land, people can walk the lands and trails at any time; the buildings, however, are shuttered unless there is an event.
Traylor and a host of other concerned volunteers are making it their goal to see that the property both gets saved and has a regular schedule of events. Lusscroft Farm is part of High Point State Park, New Jersey’s highest elevated land. Traylor and her group hold events in the former cow barn, especially item and book sales, to raise funds to save the structures from falling apart completely. “We’re a very small volunteer operation,” she says. “We look for grants. It’s a beautiful location; we’re right on the Kittatinny Ridge. This was part of over 1,000 acres that James Turner owned, a stockbroker who decided he wanted to have a state-of-the-art dairy farm.”
Turner donated the land and its buildings to the state of New Jersey in the 1930s, and there is a historical significance to this: it was on this spot that artificial insemination of dairy cattle was started.
“It made things a lot safer for the dairy farmer,” Traylor states. In the 1970s, Rutgers 4-H took over the property to use it as a 4-H camp, and enrollment eventually dwindled, and the service terminated in 1996.
The eventual goal is that the buildings are safely open for a three-legged stool: agriculture and environmental education, and agritourism.
The land is also currently farmed by a local farmer. The Heritage and Agriculture Association was formed to serve as a “Friends” group for the property. “It is our job as a “Friends” group that sooner or later,” Traylor attests, “we’ll have more events, have the buildings open to the public. There’s a very important historical aspect to these 578 acres, and part of it you see in the buildings.”
Traylor, who worked for Sussex County for 25 years, has met many farmers.
“I’ve always been grateful to work for farmers,” she says. “They are some of the hardest working people I have been associated with.”
She has spent much time in old barns, and inside the Lusscroft cattle barn, the poles to the cattle stalls are still present, and you can harken back to a time when cows were present here. Birds also abound in the nearby trees. “As you and I are standing here,” she says, “in the trees outside, I was just hearing Chimney Swifts. And that’s important, because the Avian Wildlife Center is right down the road. This is very similar probably to how it was when James Turner was here.”
There is a forestry component as well. When storms hit and trees are downed, the wood is used for benches and tables, and much more. “Each of these components,” Traylor says, ‘is working together. And what little things we can do, slowly but surely, to restore the land and refurbish the buildings to get them open for more purposes, we are aiming towards that.”