2010 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer
Richard A. NorzView the Commemorative Video
As a fourth generation farmer, Richard A. Norz continues the family tradition in Somerset County, begun in 1920 by his grandparents who originated the Norz-Hill Farm in Hillsborough. After his grandfather’s death in 1962, Rich’s father – then 16 – took over the farm, which was comprised of 50 acres, 25 cows and 400 chickens and turkeys. As a child, Rich worked side-by-side with his father, but his favorite job was always the dairy. Upon high school graduation, Rich joined Norz-Hill Farm as its head herdsman and in 1991 became farm manager and started acquiring interest in the farm through key purchases.
In 2000, the farm was enrolled in the state Farmland Preservation Program. That same year, Rich and his wife Debbie decided to plant a quarter acre of pumpkins so their family and friends could have some fun in October. In four years, their little pumpkin patch grew into a small agritourism business, with 1,500 people visiting the farm for pumpkin picking, hayrides and farm tours. Eventually, a corn maze, designed, planted and cut by Rich and Debbie was added, they implemented educational tours to grade school and pre-school children, added a Haunted Trail and opened an on-farm produce stand to sell the vegetables and fruits grown on the farm. In 2008, more than 20,000 people visited the farm that now is comprised of 1,425 acres, 78 owned in partnership and 1,347 rented in partnership.
Rich balances the requirements of a profitable business with sensitivity to the environment through the use of Integrated Crop Management techniques. He works with USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service on conservation projects. He has been able to reduce his operating expenses and increase farm revenue by using precise fertilizer and lime applications; proper nutrient/manure management; minimum/no till practices; plasticulture for vegetables; drip irrigation; and IPM scouting for vegetables and corn.
On the dairy side, Rich’s goal is to create the perfect Holstein through selective breeding. He has bred or developed 70 animals rated “excellent.” At the state level, his cows have won Grand Champion and Junior Champion several times and he has been named Premier Breeder four times. In 2009, Rich decided to take a break from the milking cows, but retained 200 heifers with the hopes of starting to milk again in spring of 2010.
Rich also has a sideline he calls “Cow Advertising.” With the help of his cow’s New York talent agent, some of his cows have appeared on Saturday Night Live, NBC News, Vogue Magazine and with Martha Stewart in a “Got Milk?” ad.
Rich has served as president and various other officers and positions for the New Jersey Holstein Association, New Jersey Junior Holstein Association, the Somerset County Board of Agriculture, New Jersey 4-H Dairy Advisory Council and the New Jersey National Holstein Convention. He’s a member of the Somerset County Agriculture Development Board, Hillsborough Wildlife Commission and Hillsborough Agriculture Committee and is active in Somerset County 4-H.
Rich credits much of his success to his mentor, the late Tom Everett, another New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer, who taught him about pumpkin production, crop farming, and the importance of volunteer service in the agriculture community to ensure everyone in agriculture can leave a strong legacy.
Rich and his wife, Debbie, are devoted parents to three children – Alex, Susie and Megan.