WANTAGE — Space Farms Zoo and Museum put the hamlet of Beemerville on the map and has become a family destination, attracting people from all over the region to Sussex County each year. What started as a gas station and general store has become a family tradition, and Space Farms is proud to be celebrating its 90th anniversary. Assemblyman Parker Space and his wife, Jill, now run what was started by Space's grandparents back in 1925. “My grandparents had bought a quarter acre of land in Beamerville and had opened up a gas station and repair shop and fixed cars and other things,” Parker Space said. “My grandfather, Ralph Space, was an avid sportsman and so he was hired by the State of New Jersey to do vermin control. At the same time, my grandma (Elizabeth Space) had a general store. The depression hit and people would come to the store. Often they didn't have money, given the times, so they'd give grandma something to hold on to as collateral like an old musket or a ring or whatever they had.” A lot of the items were never retrieved and a pile started stacking up at the general store. That's when Ralph Space started putting things up on the wall. “Word started to spread,” Parker Space said, “And soon people were saying, 'Hey, you've gotta go and see what Space has.'” One day a man came into the store and told the Spaces that they should charge for people to see their “museum.” They did and that was the beginning of the Space Museum in 1927. Over the years, Space Farms raised dairy farms and for about 50 years, they raised mink commercially and had quite a prosperous business doing so. “It was great income at the time,” Space said, “Then President Reagan took off the tariff to bring mink into the United States and between Poland and Red China, the prices were driven down so much we had to go out of the mink business.” Space said the business has, is and always will be a family affair. “I remember as a kid, we had exactly 10 minutes to get off of the school bus and get to work. Dad had a stop watch going and if you weren't there, he'd come and find you.” The farm and museum evolved over the years to include more buildings and attractions. “My wife and I run the operation of the different aspects of the zoo and the farming component,” Parker Space said. His wife, Jill, handles the food component. “Our son, Hunter, is 22 and is here full-time. He oversees the feeding operation of the carnivores and every morning goes over what needs to be done for the day with the staff.” Space said., “Our daughter, Lindsey, who is 21 and is a junior at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, works in the restaurant and gift shop when she is home. Also, our youngest daughter, Kelsey, who is 17 and a senior at Sussex Tech. also works in the restaurant and gift shop all summer at the zoo. Just didn't want to leave them out of the story.” Space's dad, Fred Space, 88, is still at Space Farms every day to greet customers. He used to be locally famous for picking up dead animals off of the road but that job has fallen mostly to his son-in-law, Doug, who is married to Lori Space Day. Space Day takes care of the baby animals and goes out into the community giving talks at schools and other places. Doug Day also does just about anything required in the handyman area and takes care of the lawns. As an assemblyman, Space has to balance a lot with day-to-day operations of Space Farms plus his political obligations. When asked how he does this, he said, “You just never stop.” He tries to have his “Trenton Days” scheduled in advance and tries to make his meetings in the morning. “When you work on a farm, you just can't stay clean that long,” he laughed. He said he also relies on modern technology. “For instance if I'm in Trenton and something is going on at the farm, they can send me a picture and we can try to figure out the problem.” Space said social media has been great for the advent of Space Farms & Museum. “Facebook is huge with the number of followers we have. We can now easily keep people updated about what's going on. We also use it as an educational forum. For instance, a lot of people contact us each spring that a mother deer has given birth but didn't come back to feed her babies. We let people know that the mom didn't leave them and that's the way nature is and she'll be back.” Beemerville Fire Dept.The Spaces don't just have a business in Beemerville, they're invested in the community. To this end, in spring of 1930, The Wantage Fire Department was organized at the home of Ralph Space. The name was later changed to Beemerville Fire Department. Two discarded locomotive wheels (fire gongs) were installed for an alarm system, and the membership consisted of nearly every member of the community. The first fund raisers were shooting matches with box lunches sold at 20 cents, baseball games at 25 cents, dances and clam bakes. In 1932 Ralph Space donated a 1925 Dodge Roadster and the members assembled the first fire soda acid chemical tank truck. They purchased two acid tanks, hose, hose basket, two rear fenders and six knobby-treaded tires from Montgomery Ward for a total cost of $749.90. Due to too much weight on single wheels they designed wooden spacers to convert it to dual wheels. The second fire truck, a 1932 Model A Ford, was purchased from the North Haledon Fire Department for the cost of $210.A pump was installed by the members, this was their first pumper. In 1945, the Ward LaFrance was purchased. This truck is still housed in the fire house. The construction of a fire house large enough to house the trucks was started in 1935. The site selected was the church horse and wagon shed across from the Presbyterian Church. The Ladies Auxiliary was formed to assist the firemen with the activities of the department in November of 1933 and later disbanded. In August of 1944, the Ladies Auxiliary was reorganized and to this day supports the Fire Department by raising funds. The Beemerville Fire Department is proud of their equipment, their fire house and all the efforts of their members. Three generations of Space men now volunteer with the department. “If we get the call, Dad (Fred Space) works the radio room and my son and I go and fight the fire,” Space said. Celebrating 90 yearsIn celebration of the 90 year anniversary of Space Farms, on Saturday, July 8, a local radio station will be at the farm and museum and Fred Space has invited a lot of dignitaries and people who have been involved with Space Farms over the years to celebrate. “The public is more than welcome to come and join us to celebrate this big anniversary,” Parker Space said. “It's our way of showing how much we appreciate everyone keeping us her for 90 years.” As to the future, Space said. “We're always looking to do expansions and upgrades. Hunter and I are looking at putting up some sort of expansion off the back side of the zoo. We like to stay ahead of the times and the goal of my wife and I is to keep Space Farms going and prosperous enough that people keep on coming back and our son can take over and carry it on for the fourth generation.” Space Farms Zoo includes: bobcats, tigers and lions, buffalo, hyena, wild ponies, timber wolves, various types of foxes, bears and deer, leopards, monkeys, jaguars, coyotes, llamas, yaks, snakes, and hundreds more. The Space Farms New Jersey Museum is home to many antique and classic American History artifacts. Space Farms Zoo & Museum is located at 218 County Road 519, Sussex, NJ. For information call 973-875-5800, visit www.spacefarms.com or find them on Facebook.