Among the people speaking in support of preserving Grover Farm at the June 11 West Windsor Council meeting were Lauren Kohn and her daughters, Sara, 17, and Evie, 6. Excerpts of their statements are below.
My name is Sara Rolfsen-Kohn and I am here to talk to you about why the preservation of local history is important to me as a young adult
I have been volunteering at the Brearly House in Lawrenceville for about two years now, and I am a junior docent there. The Brearly House is a historical home that was built in 1761 that fell into disrepair over the years. It got to the point where there was a squatter, his 17 dogs, and multiple 400 pound pigs living in the house. The township did finally step in around 1978 and recognized the need to preserve the home. The Lawrenceville Historical Society was asked to raise 50 percent of the funds required to restore the home, with the promise that the township would match it when they reached their goal.
I have also spent over 60 hours volunteering at the Howell Living History Farm over the past nine months.
The Howell Farm has been restored to represent a working farm from the early 1900s, though its roots can be traced as far back as 1737. The land and buildings were donated to Mercer County, and while the home on the property was in good condition, many of the outbuildings and barns had become unsafe due to decay. A group of volunteers was formed to work to restore the buildings using primarily grants and donations.
History is important, especially small town history, because understanding how our town came about and what has made it what it is today is fundamental to appreciating what we have and making good decisions about where we are going. Volunteering at Howell Farm and the Brearly House has given me a greater respect for hard work and personal accomplishment, because at the end of the day I can put down my shovel and see the tangible effects of the work I have done. Inez Howell’s goal when she donated the Howell Living History Farm was education, education about how a farm works. I can personally say that this goal has been accomplished, since in the small amount of time I have been on the farm I have learned so much.
By having a historical farm here in West Windsor, we can pass these values on in a personal way to the younger generations in our community. It’s one thing to read about the past in a book or listen to a teacher talk about it in class, but it’s another thing entirely to experience it hands-on. I believe that this hands-on experience will benefit us by bringing the community closer together through an appreciation of our hard work and shared history. You can most definitely count on seeing me with the rest of us who care if it comes to rebuilding the Grover legacy.
Hello. My name is Evie Kohn. I am here tonight to talk about why Howell Living History Farm is important to me. I have been going to the farm each week since last fall to a program called Hatchery. I get to do farm chores and learn about the farm.
Howell Farm is meant to look like the old days. I like learning about what farm girls and boys did as they grew up. It is fun to do these things instead of just look things up or read about them. I have learned about pigs, cows, horses, sheep, chickens, and more. We learned that pigs are playful, so we gave them a basketball to play with. They stay muddy to keep the flies away, especially in the summer. I learned that chickens peck to keep themselves and their chicks safe. We gathered eggs from the hen house.
I learned that corn takes a long time to shell. We shell the corn, or take the kernels off the cob, so we can have popcorn and other foods. Here is a joke about corn: Why should you not ever say bad things about corn? Because corn has ears!
I have also learned about how wool is used. I am learning about how the women used wool and dyed it to make sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, and pants.
These are just some of the things I learned at Howell Farm. It is an important place to me and I am looking forward to participating in their programs again next fall.
You have just heard my daughters talk about the wonderful experiences they have had at preserved historical sites in Mercer County. I’ve volunteered at Howell Farm over the past nine months, too, doing everything from cleaning out the chicken coop and raking the sheep yard to teaching school kids about shelling corn and threshing wheat. As an adult, my experiences at Howell Farm have given me a strong appreciation for the modern conveniences we have . Cleaning up after farm animals makes walking the dog look like a walk in the park. Seeing baking in a wood-fired oven makes me happy to see the microwave.
So much of our participation at the farm has been about connections. We have a stronger connection to our own family now — from enjoying the shared fruits of our labors (Sara and I make a good team on the farm, and that translates to when we’re at home, too) to understanding more about our relatives. My grandfather (the girls’ great grandfather) holds a Ph.D. in dairy farming. He spent his life working with farmers to implement best practices, and thanks to our experiences at the farm, I have a more substantial knowledge base to use to discuss his life’s work. My parents took me to Howell Farm when I was a kid. Now that my children have had a chance to go and enjoy the farm, it’s connecting them to their grandparents.
The Grover house has potential to provide these types of connections to all of us here in West Windsor. First, there’s the connection to our community’s history and the people who live in West Windsor who still remember when Canal Pointe was potato farms. There are the connections we’ll build as a community as we work together to preserve this piece of West Windsor’s history. No matter where we came from or when we arrived, understanding the history of our community has the potential to unite us.
There are plenty of things in West Windsor that bear the Grover name, but what’s missing is why. Preserving the Grover house will give us the potential to make that connection for current and future residents of all ages.
In my understanding, the Grover property is about half of the size of the Howell Living History Farm. This is beneficial — good can still be done, and hopefully with a lower pricetag. Without the addition of animals, the maintenance would be substantially less and it would still be possible for us to appreciate the historical import of the Grover family in West Windsor.
And if the community — not just the mayor, not just the Council — makes a decision that saving the Grover home isn’t necessary because of just the Grover family, then I believe that it has historical value simply as a working farm. If we value our community’s history, then we must continue to value farming. And as with anything we value, we must put money and effort towards that. Destroying the Grover House would be relatively inexpensive and easy. The house would be gone, but so would its potential — its potential to draw the community together; its potential to educate people of all ages; its potential to connect us to our individual and shared histories.
The Grover House has potential to impact our community in a multitude of positive ways. As such, the solicitations for bids for demolition should be canceled. I’ll echo Sara’s offer and the offers of others and say that I, too, am ready to contribute my time and money to preserve this piece of our community.
11201 Harcross Court