PHOTO: One acre of Joseph Murray's farmland ready to be planted with organic corn. Photo courtesy of Poricy Park Conservancy
July 15, 2016, Monmouth County, New Jersey: The Murray Farmhouse stands proud in Poricy Park, as it has since 1770 when its owner Joseph Murray purchased the house and began to farm the land in Middletown, New Jersey. That land has stood dormant for nearly 100 years, but now the soil surrounding the Murray Farmhouse will once again be brought back to life and given the chance to produce—with help from an army of volunteers and corporate sponsors.
Joseph Murray immigrated to New Jersey from Ireland in 1767. A stonemason by trade, Murray was granted a mortgage deed in Middletown and began a peaceful farm life. In New Jersey, Murray met his wife and soon had four children. Murray’s goal of a peaceful farm life had become a reality, but so too had the tensions between the U.S. Colonies and the British Empire. In 1776, Murray joined a local Patriotic Militia and began to actively voice his opposition to British rule. The Murray family suffered backlash from the local Tories (Americans who remained loyal to the British), their house was raided and vandalized and eventually Joseph was thrown into prison. After his release from prison in 1780, Murray returned to the Militia, with the new effort of commandeering horses for Patriots. One day Murray traveled to his neighbor Edward Taylor’s house, who was a devout Tory, and stole one of his horses. Several months later it is believed Taylor retaliated and sent three British soldiers after Murray. The three assassins found Murray tending to his fields on June 8, 1780, where they shot and bayoneted the patriot to death.
In 1969, the land where Murray’s farm stands, now called Poricy Park, was in danger of being impacted by a proposed sewer line but was protected by a group of concerned citizens who formed the Poricy Park Citizens Committee. Since 1970, Poricy Park Conservancy, a non-profit organization, has preserved the 250 acres of Monmouth County land, making it one of the largest parks in the county. Part of the conservation effort was also to protect The Murray Farmhouse from any development while restoring it to its original state. Today Poricy Park is a center for education in the Middletown community, a place to interact with nature and the rich colonial history. The park relies entirely on dedicated volunteers, one of the eager volunteers being Middletown’s local Linda Maresca.
Linda Maresca, a current member of the Poricy Park Board of Trustees, has been familiar with the park since she was young.
“My father’s family has lived in Middletown for 99 years. I grew up in Middletown, less than a mile from Poricy Park. The park and its activity center have been a part of my life since grade school,” said Linda.
In early spring, Linda began to plan an ambitious project for Poricy Park, one that would highlight the colonial history of the area while allowing visitors to interact with the park. Linda’s goal was to plow and plant one acre of Joseph Murray’s land with organic corn using historically consistent crops and accurate farming methods.
“Hundreds of school children visit the site every year and are told the story of Joseph Murray and that fateful day when British soldiers emerged from the woods to punish him for his involvement with the Middletown Militia, and for fighting for our independence from English rule. With the meticulous restoration and preservation of his house and barn, and the clearing and planting of a crop in one of his fields, the children now have an even better visual experience to take with them when they leave, regarding life in 1700’s Middletown,” Linda said.
Linda partnered with her employer of 14 years, LidoChem Inc., headquartered nearby in Hazlet, New Jersey, where she is an accounts receivable/accounts payable manager. LidoChem Inc., a parent company of Performance Nutrition fertilizers, was happy to support their employee and local community by donating NutriSmart-B, an organic fertilizer, for the project.
“It is a unique opportunity when an employee comes to you with a project that they are passionate about, especially one so ingrained in their community and history. I am proud that LidoChem is able to not only support the local community but also help our valued employees give back,” said Don Pucillo, president of LidoChem, Inc.
After much deliberation it was decided that NutritSmart-B, a chemical free and organic fertilizer, was the perfect fit for this project.
“The premise and promise from the Conservancy was to keep consistent with the ways and practices of the 18th century, and to not put anything into the ground that did not exist back then, or did not come from nature,” said Linda.
NutriSmart-B’s all-organic formula will be used throughout the growing season to support the growth of the corn.
“Thank you to all the volunteers who have made this project come true and a special thanks to Poricy Park’s President Elaine Hinckley for getting the ball rolling on this project and for getting us all the help we needed,” said Linda.
Come the fall, the corn will be harvested and ground into meal by students from Oasis, a non-profit group of adult students with Autism, who helped plant and will maintain the crops throughout the year.
With the replanting of Joseph Murray’s farmland, volunteers, the community and corporate sponsors help to bring colonial history to life in New Jersey.