“The hemlocks are getting hemlock woolly adelgid. In the late 70s, early 80s the Dutch Elm Disease was attacking the trees. There’s always been something,” says Don Weiss. He’s in a zip-up hoodie with “Holly Tree Surgeon” embroidered on the chest, work jeans and Muck boots. His company, Holly Tree Service, is one of the few that will come to your home, diagnose your tree, and administer a remedy. But nights and weekends are dedicated to another full-time job: running Sweet Water Farm with his wife, Linda. “I steal as much time as I can to keep farming,” he says. “After 40 years in the business, I’m running away to farming more.”


DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER 24 years ago, we bought this farm and started farming it. It had been shut down since 1960. The buildings were collapsed, the house was condemned. So little by little, we brought it all back and got it back into agriculture and started working it. In 2007, we put the property into land preservation—where it has to remain as a farm forever. When I found this place, I knew it was a diamond in the rough. We started working on it, and the work’s never ended.

HOW SWEET IT IS The name of this farm is Sweet Water Farm, and the reason is: we dug a well 550 feet deep, and when that water came out of there, it was so sweet tasting we named the farm after it. And all of the meat is about the water and their food—clean food, clean water—and it makes a huge difference. What we do here is we raise beef and pork. We have chickens just for the eggs. We sell directly from the farm. You can buy select pieces if you want to buy ribs, steaks, pork chops, and bacon or a quarter of a cow or a half of a pig. We raise 90 percent of the feed ourselves, and we graze on our own land.

FANTASTIC FOUR I’m up at four in the morning every day. I have an inner alarm — it’s called a mortgage [chuckles]. I get up, I have some coffee, I start reviewing what I want to get done.

HAY THERE I start outside around 6 or 7, come out to the barn. My horse, Suzette, eats early in the morning. I open the chickens’ coop, feed hay, clean up. There’s always something to clean up. There’s always something that needs the attention, whether it’s the equipment or something in regards to the animals.

FARM FRESH I usually go back in around 11, have eggs and bacon, or ham steaks, right from the farm.

TRUST THE PROCESS We just moved our pigs out. That’s the saddest part, you know. When I move the pigs to processing, we put the trailer out there and close the door to the barn. And they’re outside, in their fenced in area, and they’re in going in and out of the trailer for 3 or 4 days. The trailer is full of hay, they’re very comfortable. And the morning we’re leaving, I just shut the door. So it’s not like you’re forcing them into a truck—and that means everything. The place where I bring them, we open the door, and they slowly go into a penned area. I remember one time, in the beginning, I said to them “C’mon, let’s go, let’s go!” and the processor said to me: “Don’t ever do that. Don’t ever frighten them, don’t ever stress them. You will see it in the meat.” So that little place we go to is one of the only two we’ll go to. Because one, you know that you’re getting your meat back, which is big, and two, they’re humanely respected the whole process.

BRING HOME THE BACON We go at least twice a year with the beef, and only once a year with the pork. My wife will call customers and say “Okay, he’s going to be back at eleven,” and I’ll come back and there will be cars parked all over the place. We unload the truck straight into their cars and they take it home and put it in the freezer.

BUSYNESS Saturdays we have a lot of clientele that come by and start buying product, so you’re in and out of what you’re doing. Stopping, meeting them, and going over everything with them. You want them to be familiar with what you have and the product. Most are from New York and New Jersey, but we also have clientele who come all the way from Brooklyn. Once they’ve tasted it, they’re hooked. People are waking up—they’re seeing what they’re buying. Cheap is cheap, cheap is over-processed. And the number-one thing today is to try to not eat all of this over-processed food. But we still eat pizza!

HOME BIRTHS We haven’t brought a cow here in 18, 20 years. They were all born here. I like the calving the most. Even though I haven’t been a farmer all my life, I’ve become the guy they call when they’re having a problem delivering a calf. I’ve delivered so many of them that they call me. So I’ll go farm to farm helping.

COMMUNITY There’s no animosity, there’s no competition between local farms. If you have a piece of equipment, and theirs isn’t working, you give them your piece of equipment—gladly—and that help is always reciprocated.

PLOTTING We’re about to be cleaning out the green house because it’s time to get ready to start planting for the garden. We just do a little garden for ourselves; a couple people up the road help us. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, zucchinis.

TAKE A DIP We’ll go swimming in our pond. It’s 25 feet deep, has some fish, turtles.

DINNER DATE We like pizza. Luca’s Pizza in the ShopRite plaza—fabulous.

WIND DOWN Soon as it’s dark you have to close the door to the chickens. Relax.

ALWAYS ON CALL There really isn’t a time frame. We may get a call that there’s a cow out on the highway to two o’clock in the morning. Or that somebody just ran into your fence and took it down. Or you’re laying in bed and they’re screaming in the chicken coop because something is trying to get or is already in there. It’s seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We sleep when we get the chance.