SPARTA, NJ – Churutabis Farm is located in Frankford Township but they bring their goods to Sparta to the Winter Farmers’ Market at the Sparta Middle School on Saturdays. They raise and sell eggs, poultry, including many varieties of chicken and ducks, as well as rabbits.
Churutabis Farm began when Hannelie Rheeder moved to her farm. “I quickly became the owner of a few chickens and goats. That enabled our family to have our own eggs meat and milk,” said Rheeder.
She was born on a farm and learned her business by having watched her parents raise and sell their animals, milk and vegetables to customers.
“Farming connects me to nature,” said Rheeder. “Being born on a farm, I grew up as an outdoor person. As a steward of the land that I am so blessed to own, it is my responsibility to take care of it and leave it in better shape for future generations.”
By participating in the Winter Farmers’ Market, as with the Sparta Farmers’ Market, she makes other connections as well. “I love the farmers’ market for several reasons. It does support our family financially. It connects me with people. Wonderful relationships [have] developed in the past four years with customers and vendors.” Said Rheeder. “I am able to provide food that is healthy and nourishing. People thank me for that.”
While it is a family business, she is the caretaker of the animals during the week. Her husband helps out on the week-ends and her children also help when they are home from college. “My family supports me but it is not easy to run the full time farm and have dinner ready every night.”
Some of the challenges she names are familiar and similar to other small farmers; government over regulation, especially in New Jersey, and the threat of disease on the farm. However, there are many differences that come from raising livestock.
Rheeder points to an issue unique to livestock. “Not enough slaughter houses for healthy competition. The only one available for me is one and a half hours away, a three hour round trip. I would love to expand my business and make ready to eat products but I cannot use my own kitchen.”
Her vision of the future includes more laying hens, a bigger garden and community involvement. “The only way to get there is with time money and people willing to walk in my shoes,” she said.
“New Jersey stands on the edge of a big mountain when it comes to the food scene. With a little bit of government and township support we can fly like an eagle,” Rheeder adds. “I love what I am doing. You can live without many things but we all have to eat and do it in a healthy way. That’s where I am, a tiny and important dot on the map.”
The Winter Farmers’ Market is located in the lower level of the Sparta Middle School at 350 Main Street from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.