- History and Establishment
Nestled in the heart of the Pleasant Valley Rural Historic District, this 130-acre park was a working farm for over 240 years when its last private owner, Inez Howe Howell, gave it to Mercer County in 1974. The Park Commission is restoring the farm to look and operate the way it did a century ago -- a time when most of Mercer County was still rural and when farmers worked by hand and horse power to make the land productive. In keeping with Mrs. Howell's wishes, the Park Commission offers year-around programs that allow visitors of all ages to join in the work and fun of life on a farm.
Letter from Inez Howell, March 10, 1974
I am offering the farm as a gift to Mercer County in memory of Charley. To be used as a Living History Farm, where the way of living in its early days could not only be seen but actually tried by the public, especially children… milking a cow, gathering eggs in a homemade basket…helping to shear sheep, carding wool, spinning and weaving…
A farm has always been a great place for exploring. Perhaps 4-H groups and others could help people learn by actually doing. There could be tree plantings, riding a donkey, cleaning out a stable, and saving the manure to go back into the earth. Girls can do most of these things too. There would be ploughing and sowing and canning and pickling. And don’t forget rainbows and swinging on wild grape vines.
Could volunteers build the way they built in the early days with similar tools? And let the public watch and lend a hand?
Older people could teach the young how to sew a fine seam, or find hickory nuts to crack with a stone on the hearth, or find wild herbs for curing the miseries… or just go off fishing with a hickory stick pole. And what grandmother doesn’t like to rock the cradle with her toe while her knitting needles and her spinning wheel prepare for winter?
And the barn. The rugged old individualist, pigeons in its belfry, and bats, too, and barn swallows swooping in and out – because life lives on other life…wooden plough and oxen, treasured manure, sowing and reaping…Harvest Home and fiddlers… swing your partner and steal a kiss. Sleigh bells and up before dawn, fragrance of mint as you herd the cows up from the meadow, with the sun slanting across the Delaware. And church. And spring again.
Now what else can you think of?
- Facility Description
The farm features over 45 acres of period crops and gardens, numerous buildings listed on the NJ State and National Registers of Historic Places, and over two miles of lanes accessible on foot and by horsedrawn wagon. Historic breeds of horses, cows, sheep, chickens and other farm animals are kept as they were a century ago, creating daily opportunities for visitors to help with chores such as milking, mixing feeds, and collecting eggs. Eighty acres of pastures, meadows and woodlands complete the farm's historic landscape, which is enhanced by the preservation of adjacent Baldpate Mountain and stream corridors preserved by the Delaware Greenway. The farm's location in the northwest corner of Hopewell Township and its proximity to nearby park facilities such as the Valley Road Picnic Area, Belle Mountain Pond and Mercer County Wildlife Center make it an ideal destination for outdoor recreation.
Open throughout the year for self-guided tours, school group visits and weekend family programs, the farm invites visitors to join in the work and fun of seasonal activities such as ice harvesting, maple sugaring, sheep shearing, pumpkin harvesting and dozens of hands-on activities related to actual operations. The farm's annual calendar of events (below) includes monthly hayrides (or sleigh rides!), weekly craft programs for children and New Jersey's only horse-drawn plowing match. The farm is also home to New Jersey's longest-running corn maze, which challenges visitors to find their way through miles of green pathways with the help of game boards, clues, compasses and advice from a Maze Master perched high in a tower.
- 130 acre working farm with 45 tillable acres, 40 acres woods, 30 acres meadows, streams, pond and bridge located within the Pleasant Valley Rural Historic District
- 5 buildings listed on the New Jersey State and National Registers of Historic Places including 18th century farmhouse, 19th century barn, wagon house, corn crib, ice house
- ADA accessible Visitor Center with classroom and gift shop
- modern restrooms at reception area; porta-jons in barnyard area
- parking for 50 cars + bus turn-around; overflow field parking
- picnic area near parking lot
- 1/4 mile packed gravel lanes; stroller and wheelchair accessible
- 2 miles dirt lanes and stream crossings; accessible on foot
- 20-point self-guided tour through .6 miles of fields, meadows and barnyard; tour map available at Visitor Center, and on-line at www.howellfarm.org.
- Hours and General Information
Saturday Hours: 10am - 4pm with programs from 11am - 3pm, Saturday, January 31 through Saturday, December 5, except July 18, 25 (see Sat. Calendar)
Sunday Hours: Noon - 4pm, April through November for self-guided tours
Weekday Hours: 10am - 4pm Tuesday through Friday, February through November.
Closed: Mondays and Mercer County holidays
Cost: Free general admission and parking. Cost for food, crafts, unscheduled hayrides, school programs Maze admission: $8 adults (ages 13 & up); $6 children (ages 5-12)
Reservations: Required for groups only
Telephone: Farm: (609) 737 - 3299; Maze: (609) 397-2555
Internet Address, Friends of Howell Farm: www.howellfarm.org
Location: 1.5 miles east on Valley Road., off Rt. 29 two miles south of Lambertville, NJ. (For GPS directions the destination address is: 70 Woodens Lane, Lambertville, NJ 08530)
Maze Location: 1 mile west of Howell Farm on Valley Road (For GPS directions the destination address is: 17 Valley Rd., Lambertville, NJ 08530)
Not Permitted: Hunting, fishing, fires, alcohol, picnicking outside designated area, bicycles, pets and all other animals except seeing-eye dogs.
Handicapped Access: Call for information or to arrange for assistance.
- Activities & Programs
Weekend Programs: The seasonal work and fun of farming and farm life is presented to the public through Saturday field and craft programs, and through Sunday interpretive programs. Programs are listed in the farm's Calendar of Saturday events, available at the farm, by mail, and on-line.
Self-Guided Tours: A 20-point self-guided tour leaves from the Visitor Center and takes visitors around a .6 mile loop past fields and meadows, over two stream crossings and through the barnyard where there is access to the farmhouse, barn, wagon house and ice house. Tour maps are available in the Visitor Center, or can be viewed on-line at www.howellfarm.org.
School & Community Programs: Seasonal operations such as ice harvesting, maple sugaring, sheep shearing, wheat threshing and corn harvesting are the focus of 2-hour long, hands-on programs for groups, offered weekday mornings. Other programs include Farm Animals, One Room Schoolhouse, Summer-on-the-Farm and custom tours.
The Hatchery: In this unique weekday morning program, pre-schoolers enjoy farm activities while their parents help out with field, program or office operations. One- day- per- week sessions lasting 12 weeks meet spring and fall. There is also a week long summer session that meets daily.
FarmHands: Children aged 6-9 can experience farm life through chores, field activities and old-fashioned fun while parents help the staff with special projects and public programs. FarmHands meets Saturday mornings and afternoons.
Farm Camp: Summer days are filled with fun and learning as children discover the wonders of farm life, nature and New Jersey history. Farm Camps are for ages 6-8 and 9-12, and are offered as day camps scheduled in week-long sessions.
Corn Maze: Families, scout groups and others who like big challenges will have mind-boggling fun inside this giant green puzzle. The 4-acre cornfield maze features 2 miles of passageways, endless dead ends and just one way out. An all new theme, design and gameboard are featured annually. The maze is open mid-September through mid November.
Pleasant Valley Programs: Howell Farm offers exciting new programs in the surrounding Pleasant Valley Historical Park, where an early schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and gristmill once operated. Check the calendar for weekend events planned at the schoolhouse, and for new Friday evening programs featuring the history of Mercer County.
Volunteer Programs: Carpenters, gardeners, seamstresses and researchers are needed to help with current projects. Office, maze, and program assistants are also needed. Hours are flexible.
Saturday Calendar: Follow link for a complete listing of Howell Farm events - http://www.howellfarm.org/calendar/calendar.htm.
- Did you know?
Howell Farm’s newsletter, The Furrow, is now online…and updated daily! For the latest weather, crop report and program news, be sure to read The Furrow at furrow.howellfarm.org.
All of the plowing and planting done at Howell Farm is done with horses and equipment representative of the 1890-1910 time period. Tractors are not used for farming - not even when the gates are closed! Tractors are used for some maintenance and non-historic haying operations.
Howell Farm is one of over 100 "living history" farms located throughout the United States and Canada. It is a member of the Association for Living History, Farm & Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) and was host to the organization's 2003 annual meeting and conference.
Besides preserving Mercer County's agricultural history and heritage, Howell Farm provides internships and training for Peace Corps volunteers, missionaries, agricultural extension agents and others who are introducing animal-powered technology to international farmers who currently work by hand.
Howell Farm cow, Molly, recently made her national television debut when she appeared on ABC's Good Morning America show. Molly was the star of a cow-milking contest staged by Howell Farm for anchors Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson and Robin Roberts.
Hollywood came to Howell Farm when a dozen actors -- among them, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody and Bryce Dallas Howard -- spent a day of "boot camp" at Howell Farm in preparation for their roles in M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 movie, The Village (Touchstone Pictures). As part of their training, the actors plowed fields, built fences, fed animals, cleaned barns, cooked over a wood-burning stove and made a load of hay. During the day -- which they deemed "very successful" -- William Hurt was stung by bees, Joaquin Phoenix cut himself with a scythe and several ladies were kicked and muddied while trimming sheep's hooves.
Volunteers provide over one third of the labor that runs Howell Farm! Each year, volunteers contribute over 17,000 hours, helping with field, barn, household, office and maze operations.
The Friends of Howell Farm is a non-profit organization that provides funding and other support for special projects such as the restoration of the farm's 18th barn, the Pleasant Valley Oral History Project and the farm's Intern Program.