AmericanFarm.com

Bryans a living link to Mercer County’s ag history

By RICHARD SKELLY
AFP Correspondent

LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP (Feb. 15, 20116) — If you have questions about farming in Mercer County, and more generally the rest of New Jersey, Dorothy Bryan and her husband, Charles are likely to have the answers.
Charles turned 92 and Dorothy turned 90 in January. While both are now fully retired, they have vivid memories and many good stories from their years on the state and Mercer County Boards of Agriculture.
Dorothy’s eight years of work on a book about the history of the New Jersey Farm Bureau was only part of the reason why she was selected to receive the 2015 Arthur West Distinguished Service Award.
Dorothy was born in Bergen County and moved to Hopewell with her family when she was two. Her father and mother were dairy farmers and she grew up on a dairy farm on Scotch Road. She attended the one-room Harts Corner Schoolhouse for four years, a building scheduled to be moved and preserved, and she freely admits both she and her husband were raised on raw milk.
“We drank raw milk forever until we finally sold our cows and retired in 2000, then we had to find someplace else to go buy milk,” she said.
Dorothy said since she is still driving, she frequents the Halo Farms market in Trenton to buy milk.
Starting with Charles’ father, the family farmed about 200 acres of leased land for 73 years and looked after about 50 head of dairy cows on land across from their home on Federal City Road.
“We raised all the crops the cows ate to make the milk and we raised soybeans and wheat as a supplement to our paychecks,” Dorothy said.
The farm was known for many years as Meadow View Guernsey Farm, and in the 1960’s the family changed breeds to Holstein.
“We switched to Holsteins because you get a larger quantity of milk, and the quality was roughly the same, but you don’t get as high a butterfat content and that’s what they were being paid for in the Guernsey market, the butterfat,” she said.
Shortly after they got married in September, 1951, they moved into the house they still occupy.
That land is now dedicated Mercer County Park land, known as Mercer Meadows Park.
Her daughter and son-in-law are Evangelical missionaries in Peru, she said, noting she and Charles still attend services every Sunday at the Presbyterian Church of Pennington.
Charles Bryan was president of the Mercer County Board of Agriculture for many years and Dorothy served as treasurer for many years as well, she recalled, adding that she served on the legislative committee for the New Jersey Farm Bureau in the 1970’s.
“Charles worked on farmland preservation issues for the state,” she said, “so we don’t have houses all over the place or retail strip malls or corporate office parks.”
Given the wealth of experience and knowledge between the couple, what advice can Dorothy Bryan offer young people considering a farming career?
Bryan stressed the need to work with other farmers and the need to work as a family.
“You have to work as a family, you have to work together,” she said. “You have to be able to work with people, and other farmers, and get along with them. You need to have a strong interest in farming and knowing where your food is coming from. You have to work with the weather. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you keep it on your list for the following day.
“You need a plan, know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to get there.”