The Farm

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“Good Manure Smell- You Can’t Beat It!”

So said Miss Caroline Foster at age 90 when asked about her memories of the farm. Born in 1877,Miss Foster lived until 1979.  She resided at Fosterfields for 98 of her 102 years.  She wished to preserve her beloved home and to give future generations the chance to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the rural life she had grown up with -”the good manure smell” as she called it.  In 1974, she arranged to bequeath Fosterfields to the Morris County Park Commission so that it would be preserved as a “living historical farm,” the first in New Jersey. 

Fosterfields is not a replica – it has been a working farm since 1760 when Jonathan Ogden owned the farm.  General Joseph Warren Revere, a grandson of Paul Revere, bought the Ogden Farm and, in 1854, built the impressive three-story wood-framed, Gothic Revival Home he called “The Willows.” His occupancy of the site began an era of estate farming that continued well into the 20th century.

Charles Foster purchased the farm in 1881 and changed its name to Fosterfields. During the years of 1881-1915, Foster, a successful commodities merchant in New York, developed Fosterfields as a noted Jersey cattle-breeding farm.  In the early 1880s he introduced innovative techniques: the use of pit silos for ensilage, crop rotation to ensure soil nutrients, and the use of steam power to mechanize the farm.  In 1915, the old farmhouse burned down, and a new one was built. Also in 1915 a gasoline engine took the place of the steam engine.  In 1925, the nationally-known Jersey herd at Fosterfields was sold at auction. During its peak of operation (1881-1910), Foster employed as many as three domestics, a coachman, a resident farmer and his family, several farm laborers, and seasonal harvesting crews. The farm grew to nearly 200 acres, with 100 Jersey cattle, 200 chickens, pigs, and a fruit orchard.  Charles Foster’s life at Fosterfield spanned an incredibly active and important period in American agriculture.  He died in 1927, leaving his house, property, and holdings to his only surviving child, Caroline, who learned the business of farming from her father, and would eventually oversee a great deal of the farm activity.

 

 

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