04 April 2009

Cows at a Crossroads

To some, the auction sale this week of Norz-Hill Farm's entire herd of milking cows may seem like a trivial matter. Many expect these "small" operations to go out of business. After all, they couldn't possibly be as efficient as some corporate mega-farm in the midwest.

The fact is there is nothing trivial about it. This was a major operation - and not just by New Jersey standards. Norz-Hill farms 275 dairy cows comprised a herd that was twice the size of the average U.S. herd of 135, and about three times the size of the 77% of American dairy farms with herds of fewer than 100 cows.

Large-scale dairy farming in our area is not a centuries-old industry, but rather paralleled New Jersey's suburban population explosion. The loss of Norz-Hill Farms dairy operation closes a chapter in Hillsborough's agricultural history, and now joins egg production, peaches, and other past farming specialties that are no more.

The Norz-Hill cows also played a not so insignificant role in my move to Hillsborough in 1993. Having grown up in a town whose last "cow-crossing" sign was probably taken down around 1970, it was wondeful to discover that there still existed a place in New Jersey that was so much like the one of my childhood. And it didn't hurt that Patty was, and is, crazy about cows.

This photo, taken acrosss the road from Norz-Hill farm in 1993 as we contemplated our move to Hillsborough, says it all.

Check out Dairy Farming Today for info on family dairy farms.


  1. I was wondering if you were going to blog about this. My daughter and wife took a tour not to long ago. My wife read the article and was saddened a bit. My daughter could care less. She said it smelled bad. What you can expect from a three year old. I wonder where Shop-Rite will get its store brand milk from now.

  2. Mike, I was surprised this wasn't an even bigger story - but I guess if the owners aren't particularly upset about selling the herd - and they don't appear to be - then we shouldn't be too upset either. I tried to convey some of that feeling by mentioning the oter big AG industries that have since moved on from Hillsborough.

    Bonus: That's our 1991 Camry parked on the shoulder in the photo. One of the best cars we ever had.

  3. Greg...thanks for sharing the article. I am one of the owners of Norz-Hill Farm and please know that this day, 4/2/09 was one of the worse days of my life. Our milking cows were not just something I did every day for work or a small part of my life, but they were woven into the fabric of my whole life. That day was one of the most significant days of my life and it is right up there with some of the biggest days in my life – i.e. the days my children were born, my wedding day and the days my mother and grandmother passed away.
    Today, even though the dairy cows are not at Norz-Hill Farm, we have been able to take solace in moving into other parts of agriculture and we are able to better serve our community through many parts of our farm operation.