New Jersey Ag News
Allaire Community Farm a special place for children, animals
By RICHARD SKELLY
WALL TOWNSHIP (Nov. 15, 2015) — Reborn under new ownership in 2013, the Allaire Community Farm owned by Sean and Joann Burney has helped hundreds of special needs children and adults who benefit from a day with friendly farm animals.
Ironically, Sean Burney visited the facility as a kindergartener when it was a working dairy farm.
Since then, it’s changed hands at least three times, he said, and had fallen into disrepair.
“We were looking to do some organic growing and not really looking for a horse farm situation,” Sean Burney said during their Fall Harvest celebration when groups of special needs children were brought in to enjoy the petting zoo and hay rides.
Since their son Richard suffered for many years with an autism disorder “what soon evolved, after having some special needs kids here, our focus changed from growing to doing class trips and using the petting zoo.”
Working with other farmers in Monmouth County, Joann, who has a background in education administration at Rutgers and kindergarten teaching, and Sean, who has a background in commercial real estate, decided they could use their new farm for therapeutic purposes.
Plans are now in the works for organic farming and gardening workshops to be held at the facility in 2016 and 2017.
Once more greenhouses are constructed on the 22.5 acre property, all kinds of vegetables will be grown and sold at the facility, said Sean Burney, who owns the farm with his wife Joann. Together, the Burneys run the facility with assistance from their son, Richard, daughter Emily and a bevy of volunteers.
“We’ve spoken with Monmouth County Master Gardeners and next year we’re going to do two one acre plots of vegetables, one for food pantries and the other one will be for families who have their own individual plots,” Sean Burney said. “We need the Master Gardeners because there are so many rules to follow with eventually being Certified Organic.”
Allaire Community Farm hosts an organic cooperative every Thursday and due to the efforts of other area vegetable farmers, the co-op is feeding four area families with cancer patients.
Burney was also quick to credit fellow area farmers in Wall Township and surrounding communities for their help, including Don Carson, Art Summers and alpaca farmer Don Sherman, since they have “Al the Alpaca” in their petting zoo at Allaire Community Farm.
In September, the couple sold their house in Howell Township and will be moving to a house on-site — where they can keep better watch over their livestock in the petting zoo, their greenhouse operations and several horses, goats, sheep and other animals that came from abusive homes.
“The move will be much better for us, because we’ve learned we have a lot of predators in the area; we have coyotes, foxes, owls, raccoons, groundhogs and we think at one point we had some human predators too, ‘cause we lost over 50 chicks one night and there wasn’t even a feather,” Sean said.
The Burney’s altruism did not start with taking over the farm in 2013.
“After [Hurricane] Sandy we were involved in a lot of work on homes in the area and we had two families stay in our house for five months after the storm,” Sean said, “after the commercial real estate market went south in 2009 we wanted to do something where we were giving back to the community, not just making the almighty dollar.
“This place just fit.”
As for other future plans, Sean said they would like to have some at-risk teenagers working on the farm.
“We just met with Monmouth Cares last week and they’re going to start networking for us, and we’d like to make it where they could get paid and give it purpose,” he said. “We’ve already had four special needs days and have another one planned for Nov. 15 where any family with a special needs child can bring their family to the farm, ride the horses, go to the petting zoo and take a hay ride.”