12/23/2014 10:30:00 AM Getting the most out of their farm Fulpers manage agri-tourism, dairy product line
The Fulpers started a dairy product line in October 2012. They make mozzarella, string and ricotta cheeses, heavy cream, curds and yogurt. PHTOO SUBMITTED
The Fulpers installed a solar energy system in 2011. That system runs the entire farm. PHTOO SUBMITTED
by Missy Mussman
LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. - The Fulper family farm focuses on more than just milking cows. "The people wanted to know where their food comes from and we wanted a more consistent income," Robert Fulper said. "We decided to capitalize on that." The Fulpers recently started a dairy product line sold locally and formed an agri-tourism business on top of their 120-cow dairy herd. Robert farms with his brother, Fred. Robert's wife, Cindi, and their children, Breanna Lundy (27), Chelsea (25), R.J. (24) and Mikayla (20).and Fred's wife, Kim, and their son, Freddie, also help out on the farm near Lambertville, N.J. Agri-tourism events were always something Breanna Lundy remembers growing up. "Mom gave farm tours to the local pre-schools and we hosted events for the American Dairy Association Council," she said. "We welcomed local community members on the farm." During high school, Lundy started up a summer camp program on the farm, which formed the foundation for the Fulpers' agri-tourism business. "The main reason I started this was to educate our local community about our farm," Lundy said. "Many people are so far removed from agriculture and many children don't know where their milk comes from. For me, it was imperative to teach the next generation." After eight years of summer camps, the Fulpers decided to create new events and turn it into a separate business in October of 2012. They named it Fulper Family Farmstead. "We became more serious about this," Lundy said. "We began hosting birthday parties and seasonal events on our farm on top of the farm tours and summer camps." The Fulpers currently host three to four seasonal events each year with their first holiday event this year, one birthday party almost every other week, one to two farm tours a week, and during the summer, one to two camps a week. Lundy and Fulper became partners in the business. "My dad is a great partner to have," Lundy said. "We work well together and complement each other. I am not afraid to pick up a new idea and run with it, where Dad is more conservative about it and thinks it through more." That same year, Lundy and Fulper started their own dairy product line under the Fulper Family Farmstead business. "It was a good fit for us," Fulper said. Lundy agreed. "It complemented what we were already doing with agri-tourism," she said. Fulper and Lundy send about 7 percent of their cows' milk to a cheesemaker from Sicily, Italy to make their cheese and other dairy products for them. Currently, they have mozzarella, string and ricotta cheeses, heavy cream, curds and yogurt available for people to buy. "We make several different types of each product," Lundy said. "Now, we are beginning to narrow down which product we want to focus on." Although Lundy works as a financial advisor and lives on her husband's 150-cow dairy farm in upstate New York, which is four hours away from her family's farm in New Jersey, she still stays actively involved, managing the business from afar. "I love staying involved on the family farm as the fifth generation, even though I am four hours away," she said. "I make the drive down here now and again to do check ins and help with the events when I can." Despite having experienced camp counselors, interns and several employees to help with the Fulper Family Farmstead, Fulper still relies on his daughter. "Without Breanna, I wouldn't be able to keep up with it," Fulper said. When the Fulper family isn't busy running their Fulper Family Farmstead business, they are busy milking their 120 cows in a double-8 herringbone parlor. The Fulpers' farm started in 1908 when Robert's great-grandmother, Mary Fulper, bought the farm. Her son, Norman, and his wife, Harriet, took over the farm 10 years later. Norman and Harriet gradually increased the dairy herd to 20 cows they milked by hand, grew tomatoes for Campbell's Soup and hauled vegetables to a farmer's market in Trenton, N.J. until the late 1940s. By the early 1950s, Robert's father, Robert I, took over the farm with his brother, Norman Jr. "That's when the dairy really took off," Fulper said. After almost 20 years of dairying together with almost 100 cows, they split the partnership with Robert I staying on the farm. "I was young at the time," Fulper said. "I was always involved on the farm." Fulper graduated from high school in 1976, went to college for two years and came back to farm with his parents. "It was my life. When you are raised on the farm, it becomes a part of you," Fulper said. "I liked it. I had an opportunity to come back and I took it." When Fulper came back in the 70s, they already had management practices in place that his family still uses today, including no-till. "We focused on that when I came back full-time," Fulper said. They also were using composted manure solids as bedding for the cows in a freestall barn. As the years went on, the herd continued to grow up to a peak of 140 cows. "At that point, our facilities could not hold that many cows," Fulper said. "There isn't a large dairy infrastructure here, so we decided not to expand our dairy substantially and cut back on cow numbers to 120. We decided to do a better job with the cows by increasing production rather than growing." The Fulpers began focusing on different aspects to achieve that goal. On their 1,200 acres of land, they started growing BMR corn for silage, which Fulper said made a huge difference. The family also has been roasting corn and soybeans for many years. "Roasting the soybeans provides more by-pass protein to the cows and roasting the corn makes it more digestable for the cow and reduces the amounts of mold and mycotoxins in it," Fulper said. They also worked on bettering their genetics through a mating program. "We always want to use the best bulls," Fulper said. But the main area they have focused on was cow comfort. The Fulpers are diligent in their hoof care management and making improvements to the stalls in the freestall barn, which they rebuilt in February of 2014 after their original one collapsed from the weight of ice and snow. "We rebuilt from the same footprint, but made it with higher ceilings and curtains all the way around, which is more conducive for the cattle," Fulper said. "We also rebuilt the stalls to be more comfortable for the cows. Good cow comfort and genetics took care of improving production and cow health." Although they didn't expand the dairy portion, they did expand the hay and straw business they have, selling rye straw to local racetracks. In 2011, the Fulpers made another improvement by installing a solar energy system on the farm. "We run the whole farm off of that," Fulper said. After close to 36 years of dairy farming, Fulper's children are becoming more involved as the fifth generation on the farm. R.J. is already back on the farm full-time working closely with the crop portion of the farm. Breanna is partners with Fulper in their agri-tourism and dairy product business, while Chelsea is looking at starting a day care on the dairy farm. Their youngest daughter, Mikayla, is attending Penn State and is interested in coming back to the farm. "All of us are involved in the farm in someway," Lundy said. "I am just thankful and appreciative for the opportunity to continue to work with my family's farm." Fulper is proud he is still dairy farming with his family. "There is a satisfaction of working with the cows, crops and most importantly, my family," he said. "We have managed to stay with it and be successful. We have done the best we can and are getting the job done."