TRENTON, N.J.—Pete Watson, the director of the Howell Living History Farm in Mercer County, has been selected as the 2010 recipient of the prestigious John Cotton Dana Award by the New Jersey Association of Museums.
The New Jersey Association of Museums, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote public support of museums, will honor Watson with its 20th Annual John Cotton Dana Award on May 18 at Drumthwacket, the New Jersey Governor’s Mansion.
Watson was selected as this year’s honoree for “advancing the service of museums to the region, for demonstrating visionary and innovative leadership, and for exemplifying the highest standards of professional commitment,” the association said in a press release.
For the past 27 years, Watson has worked as the manager of the Howell Living History Farm in Titusville, a 130-property that was a working farm for 240 years before the land was given to Mercer County by the Howell family in 1974. For the past three years, Watson has also served as director of the Pleasant Valley Historic District and he is a member of the New Jersey State Agri-Tourism Council.
He is chair of the New Jersey Living History Advisory Council, advisor to the NJ State Agricultural Tourism Council, and has served on the boards of the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture and the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. He is also the outgoing Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative to that organization and was chair of the five-day 2003 Annual Conference which attracted over 300 historic site professionals from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
“No one in the State of New Jersey is more passionate about preserving and promoting our agricultural and historical roots than Pete Watson, who works tirelessly each year to sustain and showcase Howell Farm and agricultural tourism,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “We are very pleased that Pete is being recognized for his work.”
Kevin Bannon, the executive director of the Mercer County Park Commission, which oversees the facility, agreed.
“For 25-plus years Pete has dedicated himself to Howell Farm and the Pleasant Valley Historic District. Virtually every week there is a new family oriented program at the farm. Pete's passion and creativity is ever present at his wonderful facility.”
Under Watson’s direction, Howell Farm has become a jewel of the Mercer County Park Commission, hosting visitors, students, and tourists year-round for activities and programs designed to illustrate the region’s rich past as a rural farming community dependent upon the skillful use of animal power and ingenuity to survive. The farm hosts well over 50,000 individual visitors each year during all seasons.
Howell Farm features more than 45 acres of period crops and gardens, four buildings listed on the NJ State and National Registers of Historic Places, and more than two miles of lanes accessible on foot and by horse-drawn wagon. Historic breeds of horses, cows, sheep, chickens and other farm animals are kept as they were a century ago, creating daily opportunities for visitors to help with chores such as milking, mixing feeds, and collecting eggs. Eighty acres of pastures, meadows and woodlands complete the farm's historic landscape, which is enhanced by the preservation of adjacent Baldpate Mountain and stream corridors preserved by the Delaware Greenway. The farm is located in the northwest corner of Hopewell Township.
Throughout the year, the farm invites visitors to join in the work and fun of seasonal activities such as ice harvesting, maple sugaring, sheep shearing, pumpkin harvesting and dozens of hands-on activities related to actual operations. The farm’s annual calendar of events includes monthly hay rides (or sleigh rides), weekly craft programs for children and New Jersey’s only horse-drawn plowing match and can be viewed at the following link: http://www.howellfarm.org/calendar/calendar.htm.The farm is also home to New Jersey’s longest-running corn maze, which challenges visitors to find their way through miles of corn stalk pathways.
A graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, Pete Watson has written several books, including Animal Traction, a Peace Corps manual for agricultural extension agents. He lives in Summit, N.J., with his wife Mary, a children’s book publisher, and sons, Kevin and Harry, both of whom are dedicated Howell Farm volunteers and ALHFAM plowmen.
For more information about Howell Living History Farm, please visit www.howellfarm.org.