The nonprofit Volunteers of PAWS Farm Inc. invites residents to visit the farm on Hainesport Mount Laurel Road throughout the summer, an effort to raise funds for resumption of full-time operation for the first time in more than two years.
Founded in 1979, PAWS Farm was considered a county gem by locals before its abrupt closure in February 2020, a month before the pandemic took hold. The previous operator informed the township it could no longer run the business, and the property was vacant for a year.
The nonprofit was formed last year to help restore and preserve the then-poorly conditioned farm. Vice President Jennifer Brennan Baxter said its volunteer members noticed the state of the land had worsened throughout the pandemic.
“(The grounds at PAWS Farm) were overgrown, there was trash and refuge everywhere,” she said. “It was an absolute mess since it had to sit unoccupied for a year. We made a pitch to the township to at least let us come in and clean (the farm).”
Brennan Baxter noted the encouraging public reaction was key to getting permission for restoration of the property.
“The outpouring of support was amazing,” she said. “There was a petition that had over 150,000 signatures (of residents who want) to reopen (PAWS Farm).”
The nonprofit’s tasks for reopening included lawn maintenance, Masonry work, structural repairs and trash removal. Late last month, more than two years after the farm unexpectedly closed, a two-day fundraiser called A Peek at PAWS Farm previewed the newly-renovated land to the public.
The event included visiting animals, activities for kids, and a tour of property grounds and buildings, such as the Darnell Farmhouse and Dairy Barn. More than 1,000 people attended the fundraiser.
Brennan Baxter noted that limited staffing is restricting the farm’s ability to operate full time, so she has urged the public to continue supporting the nonprofit’s efforts.
“We don’t have enough staffing currently,” she explained. “The township is working with us to find a third-party partner to run PAWS Farm. We just don’t have the capability or the funding to do it full-time.
“The township handles the cost of utilities, mowing the lawns and things like that, but everything else – to operate (the farm) – is based on donations,” Brennan Baxter added. “(The Volunteers at PAWS Farm Inc.) are trying to get all the donations we can to hopefully open (the site) on a regular basis again.”
PAWS Farm will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the summer, although the nonprofit hopes to continue operating into the fall season as well.
For more information, visit www.pawsfarm.org or www.facebook.com/VolunteersforPAWSFarm.