Earlier this year, the Little Farm, off Route 23 in Wantage, was awarded the 2022 Century Farm Award by the NJ State Agricultural Society. This award goes to a farm that has been in the same family and operational for at least 100 years. It is the first farm in Sussex/Wantage, and only the fifth in Sussex County, to receive this award.
The Little Farm was established in 1921 when H. Martin Little and his wife Flora purchased 101 acres of land from Lemuel T. and Mary Dewitt for a whopping $4,000. The land included an 1830s-era farmhouse, farmhand residence, a barn and several chicken coops. Horses, chickens and a small herd of dairy cows were maintained.
The farm eventually passed on to their son William, who expanded the farm to its current size of 110 acres. But there was a problem. William was severely allergic to horses. So when he took it over after the death of his father in 1949, the family increased its dairy operation. As the farm expanded, so did the need for helping hands. The Littles built a two-room tenant house for their farm workers. Since William was more adept at carpentry than farming, according to the family, the hired help maintained the farm for about nine years until William’s son Martin took over the duties at age 15.
After he graduated high school, the younger Martin took over the dairy farm full time. He went on to increase the herd size, add additional space for milking, and upgrade operations to meet 20th century standards, such as becoming certified in artificial breeding, and upgrading to a pipeline milking system that brought milk straight from the cow to the storage tanks, instead of the old method of squirting it in a pail.
In 1996 Martin and his wife Harriet partially retired, selling off all the livestock. The family farm transitioned once again, this time to the sale of hay, firewood, and farm-made picnic tables. That business is still running today. According to the family, the next set of Littles — Martin’s daughters Karolee and Kelly (and their children Amelia, Alexander and Abigail) — hope to carry on the Little Farm family legacy well into the future.