you,” Brian says. Things get manic in the
warmer months, what with the cheese
making, yogurt culturing and twice-a-day milkings.
I ask Brian how a union electrician became a bu;alo whisperer, lining them up
for milking, and selling their cheese and
meat at farmers markets. He says it all
goes back to Courtney, who declared at
age ;; that she wanted to marry a farmer.
Instead, she met the right guy and turned
him into one.
Raised in the same town on Long
Island, the Foleys, now in their ;;s, met
as children, then reconnected in their
early ;;s. They got married and lived and
worked in Queens (Courtney was and is
a teacher), but Courtney’s farm dream
persisted. She still doesn’t know where
it came from—she didn’t grow up near
farms, much less know any farmers. “It’s
just something I always wanted,” she
says. “Fresh air, space and animals.”
In ;;;;, the Foleys bought a ;-acre
property in Washington Township. They
raised heirloom tomatoes, goats and
sheep. Soon they realized that if they
were going to make a go of farming, they
needed something unique—a product
that would set them apart at crowded
“Finally, we turned to each other and
said, ‘Where does bu;alo mozzarella
come from?’” Courtney remembers. “We
love cheese and wanted to find an animal
to milk that was very e;cient in converting grass to forage. Once we began learning about the water bu;alo, we wondered
why no one was doing this here.”
By here she means not only New
Jersey, but the United States. There are
only a handful of established water buffalo farms across the country. The Foleys
assembled their herd with animals from
Vermont and Texas, and in ;;;;, they
found a stud bull in upstate New York.
“Tell her about his genetics,” Brian
calls to Courtney.
Francis, an ;,;;;-pound bull who has
now fathered more than ;; calves at
Riverine, was “the product of artificial
insemination,” Courtney says. The New
York farm that supplied the stud bull
bought bu;alo semen from Italy—the undisputed capital of mozzarella di bufala—
which in turn produced Francis.
“If you went over to Italy, they’d all
look exactly like him,” she says of Francis, who paces around the ladies’ pen, a
mountain of black fur and curled horns.
By 2009, the Foleys were up to ;; water
bu;alo, and their farm was getting
They began looking for a bigger place,
but Jersey land was priced for flush developers, not fledgling farmers. “We were
almost at our wits’ end,” Courtney says.
Their neighbor pointed out a local
dairy farm in the town of Asbury that the
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
had purchased, preserved for agriculture
and put up for sale. In ;;;;, the Foleys
bought the ;;-acre Warren County property for less than ;;;;,;;;.
Ingrid Vandegaer, Highlands regional
manager for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, says Courtney and
Brian were the ideal buyers: younger
than most New Jersey farmers, dedicated to their animals and focused on
caring for the land. “They’re exactly what
we’re looking for,” says Greg Romano, the
foundation’s assistant director.
The Foleys have already built a soaring barn, a milking parlor and a creamery
on their land. Brian takes me into that
parlor, which I’d pictured as an ice cream
shop. It’s actually a cement-floored space
with a pit and six gated stalls.
“You have to really pamper them to an
extent, and that’s what we do.”