Sep 23, 2019

Living History Farms

By Lori Draz

Historic Cold Spring Village nj

New Jersey is the Garden State, and with gardens come farms and, of course, animals. So as The Journal celebrates pets and animals this month, Historic Havens will take you to some historic places where animals are the center of attention.

These special places are called “living history farms.” They are fully staffed and functioning farms that operate using the authentic methods that farms did in the 1890s, hence the name “living history.” There are only a few in the state, but we are lucky to have Longstreet Farm right here in Holmdel.

Spending a day there is like taking a walk back in time as interpreters in period dress regularly lead tours and demonstrations to transport you back to farm life from more than a century ago. On any given day, visitors can see cows being milked, watch chickens, pigs and geese, hear sheep and donkeys bray, see horses pull hay wagons, as well as get a glimpse into life on the farm with cooking and animal care demonstrations. Expert craftsmen also use their skills at blacksmithing and woodworking using the tools of the time.

Holmdel Park Longstreet Farm

Longstreet Farm is located in Holmdel Park which offers lots of other recreational activities as well as nearby historic sites. Across Longstreet Road is Tenant House, and equally near is the Holmes-Hendrickson House, which is another historic museum operated by the Monmouth County Historical Association. Together, their combined amenities make for many full days of family fun, but it is Longstreet Farm and their animals we are visiting for this column.

Longstreet Farm’s mission is “to promote an appreciation for Monmouth County farm life at the end of the 19th century, preserving historic structures and practices through interpretive programs and tours. Livestock are an important component of this mission. The farm’s livestock are raised and cared for just as they were in the past – to meet the labor, food and material needs of the farm.”

According to the Monmouth County Park System, the animals are bred to ensure the health of the historic breeds and to provide visitors with a realistic window into the life cycle of working farm animals.

When the animals can no longer work, they are retired and replaced with animals that can. The park system welcomes placement offers for retired Longstreet Farm livestock. Inquiries may be made to Park Manager Philip Andras at 732-946-3758.

In addition to the daily chores of farm life, Longstreet Farm hosts many special events. Here are some coming up in the next few months:

Cookstove Demonstration – from 11 am to 3 pm on Saturdays, Sept. 14 and 28, Oct. 12 and 26, and Nov.  9 and 23.

Accordion Melodies of the 1890s – from 1 to 3 pm on Saturdays, Sept. 14, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16

Rug Hooking Demonstration – 1 to 3 pm on Saturday, Sept. 21

19th Century Woodworking Demonstration – 12 to 3 pm on Saturday, Oct. 26

The big event this month is the Harvest Home Festival on Sunday, Sept. 29 from 11 am to 5 pm.

This is country fair fun the way they did it in the 1890s, and you can join in the old-timey activities with wagon rides, pie-eating and corn-husking contests, live music and dancing, crafts and crafting demonstrations, needlework, baked goods and homegrown vegetables.

Admission to the park and parking are free.

You can find another living history farm in Morristown: the 200-acre Fosterfields Living Historical Farm.

Cape May is home to Historic Cold Spring Village, which is similar to Allaire State Park. It features more than 25 restored buildings, including a bakery, craft center, stables and even its own brewery. Historic Cold Spring Village offers a lot of programs including a Civil War Weekend from 10 am to 4:30 pm on Sept.14 and 15. The weekend includes a live battle at 2 pm each day. Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 am to 4 pm it’s the 28th annual Pumpkin Festival & Share the Harvest Food Drive with free admission with a non-perishable food donation. Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26 from 7 to 10 pm, things get chilly during their Ghoul Spring Village haunted walk.

Just around an hour from here, and just about 10 minutes north of Trenton is Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville.

Howell Living History Farm, Lambertville

Howell Living History Farm, Lambertville

Added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1977, this 130-acre farm is far from dormant. In addition to an ice house and fishing pond, you’ll see firsthand what farm life was like circa 1900 when you visit the sheep barn, chicken house, hog pasture, and watch the horses and oxen work the fields. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to get their hands dirty and participate in chores like collecting eggs, shelling corn for geese, watering horses, putting hay in the sheep manger, or putting straw in the calf pen. During the corn harvest, visitors pick and shuck the corn, then grind it and make cornbread. Some of their upcoming Saturday events are Sept. 21 ox-drawn fall plowing and manure spreading, Oct. 5 wheat planting, Oct. 12 fall hayrides, Oct. 26 corn harvest, Nov. 9 cider making and Nov. 30 Thanksgiving hayrides, wreath and sleigh bell sale.

Food is available for purchase on Saturdays only, but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic anytime. Admission is free.

Taking care of any pet requires work and planning, but imagine taking care of herds of animals that can determine the success of your farm. You’ll see just what real work is when you visit any one of these living history farms.