AnyThyme Farm offers visitors trip back in time

AFP Correspondent

BROOKSIDE (March 15, 2017) — The quiet and affluent village of Oldwick takes visitors back a century.
A white clapboard Lutheran Church surrounded by Victorian houses and several that date from an earlier time anchor the village, but almost as soon as a visitor turns onto Church Street the road narrows and becomes rutted and worn.
It winds up a hill and suddenly the rolling hills of the 1,000-acre Johnson farm appear.
The Johnson farmhouse remains, though the last member of the family with a life right to live there has died.
The farmer who leased a small portion of the land left the state, leaving Emily Hennelly and her AnyThyme Farm the sole farmer on the land.
Hennelly hopped out of her truck on a chilly morning still rumpled from relocating some Nigerian dwarf goats whom she suspects are much too big for their breed.
She led a tour of the small plot she uses for her CSA. The two fields total about three acres. She hopes to build up to 10 acres.
The CSA had 45 members in 2016. Hennelly’s goal is to have 60 members. She started with 15. Two other CSAs closed down so she thinks she may get more members from them.
She started out as a one-woman show, but Hennelly had someone to help on CSA pick-up days last year.
She has a pick-up location in the center of Califon and makes some deliveries from there. “You need two people on pick-up days,” she said.
A second pick-up site is at the Mendham Post Office and she has plenty of Mendham members. Her farthest members come from Gillette.
That’s because she started her farming in her parents’ backyard in Mendham. The goats were living there as well, but preferred the back porch of the house, which is why she moved them.
Another one or two workers will be hired for the field this season and Hennelly is considering offering a workshare, “maybe five hours a month of work for a reduction in the cost of a share.”
At the end of the season volunteers glean the fields for the Chester food pantry. “Last year we had a whole Boy Scout troop.”
Hennelly sells her surplus at the Long Valley Farmers’ Market on Thursdays during the season.
She grows 20 varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of eggplant and eight of peppers, many kinds of head lettuce, winter and summer squash, strawberries and 45 to 50 different vegetables. She tried four varieties of corn last year to the pleasure of a local raccoon, but didn’t get much for herself or her customers.
Like most farmers in this area of affluent housing developments Hennelly is in touch with the NRCS on the topic of deer fencing. An agent is also helping her with the transition from conventional to organic farming.
“The soil is changing, there are so many worms,” she said
As for the deer, she is not as bothered as she thought she might be, but she will be starting to work on fencing. She does have frequent visits from rabbits.
She said she hopes additional bug netting will help this year, she said.
A family of foxes living under the Johnson farm house, which is being renovated, might also help with rabbit control, she added.
When she expands this spring she will add more flowers. She had some flowers with sturdy stalks in the past but will add more lavender, enchinacea, snap dragons, coleus, larkspur, bells of Ireland, zinnias, scented basils and lemon verbena. She is thinking of offering flower shares as well as flowers with the regular CSA share.
A walk through the garden showed some of the cauliflower, spinach, bok choy and a few root vegetables overwintered quite well.
“Maybe I’ll be able to offer an early share,” she said.
“I’m getting antsy to get out” in the unseasonable weather, she said, but she knows if she plants early there will be April snow.
Hennelly started farming early. She was born on a horse farm in Northern Michigan. “My parents were hippies,” she said. Her first job, back in New Jersey, was also on a farm. She was an English major at the University of Tennessee, but she worked on an organic farm there and researched high tunnels and biodegradable mulches. She then moved to Nantucket and finally returned to Mendham where she “dug up my parents’ back yard.”