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Newly-preserved Salem County farm breeds dairy cows for global market


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo by Francis Rapa
ALLOWAY TWP. - Brown Swiss cows are known for their rugged constitution and rich milk, which is ideal for making cheese.

At any given time, 30 to 40 Brown Swiss can be found at Dan and Laura Chard's farm in Alloway Township. They're breeding stock, used to supply cows to dairy farms all over the world.

"Brown Swiss are very hardy - they can handle the cold, they can handle the heat and their milk is very good for cheese," explained Dan Chard.

Cows come and go at the farm, but the land will stay farmland forever, thanks to the Chard family's decision to preserve it.

On April 26, with the help of Alloway Township and New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Salem County bought the development rights to the 25-acre farm. The property will remain in private ownership and uses are permanently restricted to agriculture.

"We're very pleased to permanently preserve the Chard farm," said Alloway Township Committee member Beth Finlaw-Reilly. "It's a priority target farm in our Farmland Preservation Plan, and we thank New Jersey Conservation Foundation for their partnership."

The preservation project was funded through a State Agriculture Development Committee Planning Incentive Grant to Alloway Township, and a portion of New Jersey Conservation Foundation's Salem County funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"We hope this is the first in many farmland preservation projects with Alloway Township," said Michele Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "We're very grateful to all our partners for making this possible."

Started with a 4-H Project

For the Chard family, the Brown Swiss breeding business began after they bought a cow for Arielle, the eldest of their three daughters, as part of a 4-H project in 2002.

The cow's name was Shania, and she turned out to be something special. "She was so beautiful looking, even at an older age, and she produced great offspring," recalled Dan.

The two younger Chard daughters, O'Hara and Mekel, also got involved in raising and breeding Brown Swiss.

Shania, who won the World Dairy Expo championship for two years in a row, as well as many other awards, died last year at the age of 17. But through embryo transplants, her offspring can be found all over the world. Several of Shania's daughters are still at the Chard farm, and they've produced two succeeding generations.

Along with Cara - an unrelated cow who also has outstanding genetic characteristics - these Brown Swiss cattle are ensuring a bright future for the Chards' farm.

The Chard farm is 100 percent pasture lands and is surrounded by other preserved farms. It is located within the Swedes' Run Forest, an area of extensive woodlands interspersed with working farms at the far northern fringe of the Burden Hill Forest complex in Salem County.

'A Welcome Addition'

"The SADC was happy to help fund the preservation of the Chard farm, which is a welcome addition to a contiguous block of more than 1,000 acres of preserved farmland in Alloway and Mannington Townships that will always remain available for agriculture," said Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher.

Carrie Lindig, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said, "NRCS appreciates the Chard family's decision to preserve their farm. Because it is contiguous with other preserved parcels and 100 percent of the soils on the farm are prime or of statewide importance, this is an especially significant decision that will have long-term benefits. NRCS is pleased to partner in its preservation."

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, it has protected over 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation's programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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