The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholder’s announced Chesterfield’s Roseann Greenberg as the recipient of this year’s annual award for farm stewardship.
Greenberg’s philosophy on land management is best summed up by the name of her property: The Forever Green Farm.
It’s more than just a name. Located off Iron Bridge Road near the Burlington-Mercer County border, the 100-acre farm is renowned across the county for both its picturesque beauty and the innovation employed there by its owner.
Across the farm are erosion-controls and underground irrigation systems that help conserve water and soil so that not a drop is wasted or lost. Solar panels are attached to the roofs of a barn, and there’s even a 100-foot foot tall wind turbine that generates 10 kilowatts of electricity for her home and the farming operations.
Recently, Greenberg planted rows of native hedgerows and other pollinator plants to help attract bees and butterflies critical for the produce grown on her land.
“It’s important to me to make the farm better. If something I do improves the soil and helps get a better yield, that’s a good thing,” Greenberg said this week. “I have one little farm and I want to make it the best it can be.”
In recognition for her stewardship efforts, Greenberg was selected by the Burlington County Agriculture Development Board to receive this year’s Bill and Dorothy Pettit Farm Stewardship Award.
The award is presented annually to a preserved farm owner in Burlington County who demonstrates a strong commitment to agricultural production and land stewardship.
Her example is incredibly important in a county that prides itself on its dedication to preserving open space, particularly farmland. More than 60,000 acres of farmland has been preserved in Burlington County during the last three decades, ranking the county No. 1 in New Jersey for total acreage and No. 7 in the nation for preserved acres devoted for agriculture.
While preserving land is important to help keep farming and agriculture a vibrant industry in New Jersey, County officials say the stewardship of preserved lands by owners like Roseann and others is also critical since maintaining the land and keeping it viable for agriculture falls to them.
“Good stewardship benefits the landowner, the public and our entire county and state,” said Freeholder Linda Hynes, the Board’s liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation. “It takes a lot of time, hard work and even money. Roseann has set an example for landowners across the county to follow. We can’t thank her enough for all her work and her commitment to keeping her land green, beautiful and productive.”
It’s a labor of love for the Pennsylvania native, who acquired the farm with her mother and father in the mid-1980s after she completed her studies in large animal husbandry at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa. She was working on a farm in Arneytown and fell in love with the area.
“Growing up I thought New Jersey was someplace you drove through to get the Shore, but I fell in love with this area. It was a real farming community. I told my mom it was so cool going to the bank here and it was full of pickup trucks,” Greenberg said.
Originally, Greenberg operated a dried flowers business at the farm with her mother and father, but most of the land is leased to other farmers to keep it productive. Currently the Mansfield-based Stillwell Farms grows fresh produce and cut flowers on a portion of the land and Stern Farms of Cream Ridge, grows grain and hay there.
Keeping the land productive and fertile is important to Greenberg, who works with the tenant farmers on the stewardship projects that can benefit their operations.
“I try to work with them. If I have pollinators here and they help pollinate the Stillwells' produce so they get more tomatoes and watermelons, that’s a good thing,” she said. “If the cover crops we plant helps improve the soil and they get a better yield, that’s a good thing too.”
Greenberg also doesn’t mind trying new and innovative things.
“I was the first preserved farm to go renewable,” she said, citing the wind turbine she had built in 2003. “At the time I had to go through the County Agriculture Development Board and get state and county approval. They were concerned it wasn’t agriculture and would take land out of productivity. I told them ‘No, it was going into my peonies (flowers) patch … I get a kick out of it because now they’re practically begging farmers to go renewable.”
Roseann Greenberg was the recent recipient of this year’s Bill and Dorothy Pettit Farm Stewardship Award in recognition of the activities and improvements at her Forever Green Farm in Chesterfield.