Tomorrow morning, when you’re filling your cereal bowl, try to envision the origin of that gallon of milk.
Or, better yet, visit the farm itself. Really. They’re looking for an audience.
By Lynne Goldman
If you’ve never been to a working dairy farm, you owe it to yourself—and your children—to visit one before the endangered species becomes extinct.
From a safe distance, farming appears to be enjoying a return to glory of sorts. But come closer and you’ll see, as I did, that the reception may be warmer, but it’s still one of the hardest-earned livings.
Fulper Farm is a fifth-generation-owned dairy farm in West Amwell, New Jersey, just outside of Lambertville, that houses 120 Holstein cows. Mary Fulper founded the farm over a century ago. Today, Robert Fulper II and his brother, Fred, oversee the operation. It’s one of only 65 working dairy farms remaining in New Jersey. Robert and his daughter, Breanna, a recent graduate of Cornell, where she studied animal science, manage the products—and the “agri-tourism.”
Fulper grows its own feed and runs on solar power, but too much else remains out of their control: the international commodity markets (corn, soybeans), the cost of gas, the cost of milk, explosive economic growth halfway around the world, in China. In spite of such resistance, or maybe because of their survival in the face of it, the Fulpers possess a pride in their farm of a degree that few of us may ever know within our own careers.
Molly Pfaffenroth, the sales and marketing manager, narrated my recent tour of the property. Another Cornell graduate, Pfaffenroth is applying her two courses of study, animal science and communications, toward drumming up more awareness of—and, thus, interest in—the farm and the fruit it bears. It’s one of the precious few in the area that makes and sells its own yogurt and cheese—mozzarella, ricotta and string—she says. It’s sold at Stockton Market, in Stockton, NJ, and the Stangl Factory Farmers Market, in Flemington, NJ, as well as at Fulper itself (Thursdays, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and online at www.fulper
farms.com). In season, add eight more markets to that list. And count among its regular customers Triumph Brewing Company, in New Hope and Princeton, NJ, and Hamilton’s Grill Room, in Lambertville.
The cows are milked here twice a day, at 4:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., in a state-of-the-art milking parlor. They’ll produce 8,000 pounds of milk in a single day, most of which is sold to Dairy Marketing Services, or “the milk truck,” as it’s referred to around the farm. A lot of it will find its way to the refrigerated section of a Wegmans near you, Pfaffenroth says.
They feed their herd the hay, straw, corn and soybeans that they grow across 350 acres. Their cows and calves, it can be said, enjoy a good life. On another 850 acres, they grow the feed that they sell to other local farms. Liquid manure is collected in a lagoon and then used to fertilize the fields, which means that there’s zero runoff. The solid manure is used for cow bedding. The Fulpers rotate their crops and abide by other soil conservation practices. And, in 2011, they installed solar panels on three-quarters of an acre, which supply every watt of electricity used on the farm.
The Fulpers, you probably gathered already, are a forward-thinking family. Given the aforementioned conditions working against them in one way or another at all times, their innovation was likely born out of necessity, which makes it all the more impressive.