Leading Ladies of Ag: Marianne Eachus
Marianne Eachus used to keep busy teaching dance lessons at night while she helped her mother-in-law with the record books for the farm during the day.
Today, she laughs thinking back to the days when she got “promoted” to checking the fresh cows. Now, there isn’t much that Eachus doesn’t do on their diversified family operation, Wellacrest Farms, located in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.
When Marianne married Wally Eachus, she also married into a farm that had been in the family since 1940. Her husband’s father, Ward, used to have a milk route where he delivered milk in glass bottles from the farm to local families.
As times changed, so did farming methods. Wally and Marianne took over the farm nearly 16 years ago, gradually increasing the herd from 250 cows to the 500 plus they have today.
Wellacrest Farms isn’t operated by just Marianne and Wally; it takes the help of several people to make it the largest dairy operation in New Jersey. Milking more than 500 Holstein and Jersey cows takes a team of 16 full-time and part-time employees.
In addition to raising cattle, the Eachus family farms 1,400 acres of corn and have a custom chopping and combining business. They also follow the grain farmers in the area baling 25,000 small straw bales and 2,000 large square bales from sun up to sun down during the months of June and July.
But putting up hay to feed the cows in New Jersey is a different story.
“We don’t grow much hay here, it just doesn’t make for good forage,” Eachus said. “The humidity is so high, we can never get it dry enough.”
Instead, Wellacrest Farms grows and harvests hay in upstate New York. Purchasing land in New York 10 years ago started as a good excuse for the Eachuses to visit their daughter and Wally’s sister who both lived in the area. Before they knew it, they owned 500 acres of land where they now harvest a Timothy grass mix every summer.
Typically, five members of the Eachus family head to New York every summer to make hay. They are able to mow, rake and bale 500 acres in about two weeks.
“We work hard but we also have fun,” Eachus said. “We have family gatherings around the campfire. New York has the biggest and bluest skies; you can see for miles and miles.”
“We’ve had our kicker (tedder) for seven or eight years,” Eachus explained. “A lot of equipment doesn’t last up there, but we haven’t had to do much besides fix a tire. I follow with the kicker in the field about four to six hours after we mow. (The hay) is usually dry in a couple hours. There is nothing I enjoy more than running the tedder with our open cab tractor, headphones in and a sun visor on, kicking up hay. It is the closest I get to being one with the earth.”
As a dairy leader for the local 4-H club, Marianne has spent much of her time helping students who don’t have the opportunity to be on the farm. She helps give them the opportunity to experience showing cattle at local fairs. Marianne’s “4-H family” has continued to grow as she has become more involved with the club.
“At one time, I had 22 kids,” she said. “I would bring them to 4-H meetings, and they would also come out to the farm a couple times a week to work with their animals.”
During this program, Marianne became very close with several families, and considered some of them much like real family.
“I had a gal that started showing when she was a Cloverbud,” Marianne said. “She had never had animals, not even a goldfish. She fell in love with showing and before I knew it she was even bringing her boyfriend to the farm for their dates.”
A family affair is the best way to describe Wellacrest Farms. But some might say that Eachus’ positive attitude and go-getter approach is what keeps the farm running.