Howell Farm is currently closed to visitors, but the spring work continues! Below you’ll find photo and video updates on corn planting, sheep shearing, and other projects happening around the farm.
We look forward to reopening as soon as possible, but in the meantime please remember that hiking, biking, and horseback riding through the farm—including on Hunter Road—are prohibited.
For the latest information on current park access and future reopenings, please visit mercercountyparks.org. Thanks for checking in – we hope to invite you back soon!
Weeding the Oats
Using a special machine designed to lightly scrape the surface of the ground, Howell Farm horses Peter and Paul are weeding the oat field, upsetting tiny weed sprouts without damaging the well-rooted oat plants.
This work is performed several times per season—ideally on hot, sunny days when the tiny upended weeds are scorched before they can reestablish their roots—until the oats grow high enough that little weeds don't stand a chance!
Plowing the Market Garden
This year's "market garden"—the small field nearest the sheep barn—will be planted with paste tomatoes and other seasonal crops destined for local food banks. The first step is plowing under a crop of clover that was planted to fix nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil.
Sometimes called "green manure," the clover is thick enough that farmers attach a special "weed chain" to the front of the plow—which drags behind and lays down the tall clover grass on its side to be fully buried in each furrow.
This year's corn field has been plowed, packed down, and will soon be harrowed and planted with yellow dent field corn—the kind that's ground up into corn flour and animal feed—then cultivated in the summer, and finally picked by hand in the fall. This year, we'll also be adding sweet corn to the mix, and planting winter squash between the rows.
Old farmer's wisdom tells us that corn should never be planted before May 15th due to the risk of frost. Unlike oats, which love a brisk night or two in the early spring, corn seedlings are decimated by sub-freezing temperatures. As for now, the field is prepped and the farmers are counting down the days!
Donating Crops in 2020
In addition to donating eggs, whole wheat flour, oats, and seasonal garden crops, the farm will be donating this year's potato harvest (¾ – 1 ton if all goes well!) to food pantries and soup kitchens in the Trenton area.
We will also be increasing production of sweet corn, popcorn, and the field corn that’s used for corn meal, as well as sharing farming and gardening information and resources with anyone interested or in need.
To learn more, check out this new article on NJ.com!
It's shearing season!
During the months of April and May, farmers will shear the farm's 24 adult sheep, and care for this year's 5 new lambs.
Though the farm remains closed to the public, the annual work of harvesting and processing the wool has begun, with several fleeces already sent to a mill to be spun into skeins of yarn.
This year, members of the Pleasant Valley Stitchers' Guild will knit the wool into mittens, hats, scarves, and socks to be distributed at local community centers next winter.