IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
Feb. 9, 2018
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330
P: (609) 633-2954
C: (609) 433-1785
(TRENTON) – Jeff Bowlby, a Flemington hay and grain producer, has been chosen as New Jersey’s 2018 Outstanding Young Farmer by the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture. Bowlby was presented with the award at the 2018 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City.
“Jeff Bowlby is a hard-working, creative farmer who always has had a passion for farming since his introduction to agriculture at a young age,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “He is setting an example of what it takes to build a successful agricultural career with his own ingenuity and determination. It is farmers with this type of vision and dedication that will help keep New Jersey agriculture alive well into the future.”
Bowlby has been involved in agriculture since helping on a farm at age 13, when he started milking cows for his neighbor. When in high school, he worked for Terraceland Farms and owner Greg Manners as part of a work study program in his high school agriculture class.
It was there that he learned about the hay and grain industry including growing hay, hay marketing, crop production, soil conservation and fertilization. In 2009, he grew a few acres of soybeans in partnership with his brother and uncle that served as the beginning of realizing his dream of farming for himself. In 2011, Bowlby began renting 55 acres of land that were coming out of a Conservation Resource Program (CRP) and started growing corn on it. By 2014, he had expanded his rented land to 155 acres, while continuing to farm 30-plus acres of soybeans with his uncle and brother while still assisting at Terraceland Farm, helping with 800 acres there.
In September of 2015, Manners approached Bowlby and told him he was going to downsize his operation and that after 25 years, it was Bowlby’s turn. Today, Bowlby manages 550 acres of land, much of it rented from the Terraceland Farm, growing corn, soybeans, wheat, rye, oats and other hay and grain crops.
“I go to work to every day, but it's not really work because I love what I do,” Bowlby said. “Growing up on our family farm, I ate, slept and breathed the farm life, as I still do. In high school, I found a deeper love of agriculture through my local FFA chapter which in turn led to scholarships for college where I studied crop science. I have never even considered another career path as the everyday challenges that this occupation provides are exciting and invigorating. No two days are ever the same. My goal was always to farm on my own.”
While Bowlby has made his dream of farming on his own come true, he also knows he could not have started realizing that dream without the help of others.
“The knowledge and experience I was given by Mr. Manners is an invaluable gift,” Bowlby said. “In a way, it was also a gift when he decided to downsize, that he considered me first when thinking of renting the land. That removed a number of variables. I also was fortunate enough to have some farming neighbors who would allow me to borrow their equipment until I could find what I was looking for and secure funding for it.”
Water and soil conservation have also played an important role in Bowlby’s farming success. Soil conservation practices allow him to build up organic matter, which creates environmentally rich soil so plants can thrive.
“Conserving soil and water is the number one priority for a successful crop,” Bowlby said. “Several years ago, I changed my farming practices completely over to no-till or minimal tillage with a vertical tillage machine as I found it to be a great way of conserving soil and water. It was a big change for me. However, it didn’t take me long to realize the benefits of using this method and see overall improvements in soil health. The organic matter levels in my soil have increased and help the water movement in the clay-based soils that are prevalent in this area.”
The support from his wife Robin, who also has a passion for farming, is vital to the family business. She works on a horse boarding facility and on her days off, helps with paperwork and other necessary tasks. In the spring, she runs the vertical tillage machine and helps move equipment. In the summer months, she rakes hay and helps unload the wagons. They have two young children, Justin, 6, and Samantha, 3.
Jeff Bowlby also serves the community. He has been on the Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture for the last 10 years, including serving as the first vice-president, and has been on the Hunterdon County 4-H and Agricultural Fair Board of Directors the last nine years.
The OYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, with the first group of national winners selected in 1955. The goals of the OYF program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy. The OYF program encourages a greater interest in agriculture and recognizes local citizens’ contributions. The National OYF program is sponsored by Deere & Company, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America Fraternity, and supported by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents and the US Junior Chamber of Commerce.
For more information on the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html or call Joe Atchison, OYF Program Manager at (609) 984-2223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA1 and @JerseyFreshNJDA.