Jewish farming colonies of the late 1880s to early 1960s are mostly a memory. But Bader Farm in Pine Brook, a community in Montville Township, Morris County, is going strong.
It’s owned by Ivan Bader, 65, and his wife, Jean. Their son Ian works at the farm full time. Their son Sean helps them sell produce at the Paterson Farmers Market on weekends. Mr. Bader’s brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews also assist on the farm.
This multigeneration agriculture business began when Ivan Bader’s great-grandmother, Russian immigrant Bella Goldie Bader, and her son Isaac rented a house in Pine Brook in the late 1880s. They bought the property in 1911 for $600, including 20 acres of farmland.
Isaac’s first wife died after bearing three children, and then he married a woman named Sarah.
“Isaac and Sarah had gaggles of more kids,” Jean Bader said. “One of their children, Sam, inherited the house and farm. That was my father-in-law. He sold some of the land in 1962 and now we own five acres and rent 10 more.”
Bader Farm grows annuals and perennials, fruit, and seasonal vegetables such as peppers, corn, and pumpkin. It offers a local landscaping service, firewood, wreaths, grave blankets, and Christmas trees.
“Sam’s favorite crop was pansies,” Ms. Bader said. “They grew them in the field and sold them by the clump. He also grew strawberries and lettuce.”
What has kept this Jewish family down on the farm?
“As a young boy I was fascinated with the farm and loved learning how to drive the tractor,” Mr. Bader said.
“I went to Rutgers in New Brunswick and found out that farming was more my cup of tea than learning. The farm was very dear and fit into my way of living. So I stayed on with it. Farming is not an easy way to make a living but it’s a very good life. It’s what I do best.”
When Pine Brook was a Jewish farming colony, two of Mr. Bader’s uncles had farms here as well. These farms don’t exist anymore. Nor do those of neighbors Mr. Bader remembers from his childhood, like the Charlottes, Schneiders, and Schers.
“I don’t know other Jewish farming families anymore,” Mr. Bader said. “We’re like a dying breed, especially here. We are the last Jewish farmers in this area and one of the last farms here at all.”
Ms. Bader said that her husband “is the land and the land is him. They’re surviving together and are a part of the cherished history of this place.”
Will Bader Farm continue into yet another generation? “I’m trying to let my boys take over, but I have no idea,” Mr. Bader said. “They work with me but don’t have much of an interest in it. It seems to have to be in your blood. Hopefully it will go on.”