In the Garden: Howell Living History Farm

Howell Living History Farm is a place frozen in time that transports you to an era of farming from 1890 to 1910, when life was slower paced and living off of what nature had to offer made good sense.

The farm is situated on 130 acres of land in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. It is owned and operated by the Mercer County Parks Commission, acquired in 1974 by the county from the farm’s owner, Ines Howell.

She along with her husband purchased the farm to be their home upon retirement. Growing up on a local farm herself Howell realized the importance of farming practices. She later donated the farm to the county, and in a letter she stated her hopes that someone would take care of it in the way it was intended.

While at the farm I sat down with the Director of Operations Pete Watson to talk about the history and mission of the farm.

“There was electricity already in the cities, gas powered engines were beginning to appear, the Sears catalog and Montgomery Ward catalog, so it was a moment of change,” said Watson.

The farm is open all year, because as Watson states, “farming is an all year operation.”

Over 65,000 visitors come to the farm, about a third are children who come and get taste of what farm life is really like.

In fact when you come to the farm expect to take on a few chores. All season long you can come to the farm and take part in various activities. During winter the Howell farm was known as The Ice Farm. Folks would buy ice there to keep their milk cold on the way to the local train stop near by. You can see all the tools and technology necessary to harvest ice during that time.

Another popular attraction is to tap the maple trees to make maple syrup in February. While I was there they had no problem putting me to work tapping the maple trees for the sugar sap. In spring and summer you can help out planting crops, like potatoes and corn as well as shearing the sheep to spin the wool.

It is definitely worth a visit to see The Howell Living History farm. It is a window to farming practices of yesterday can be applied today. “You can watch it, photograph it or become a part of it. Whatever makes you happy,” offered Watson.