Spring Tulip Festival helps to preserve family farm

SWEDESBORO, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "It's a childhood dream, right," said Keith Dalton. "I spent all my time here on the farm as a kid and I did not want to see this become a development."

Dalton, an ancestor of the Shoemaker family of Swedesboro, fell in love with farming at an early age. He can trace his family's farm back to 1790. And with two hundred years of history, the natural space was worth preserving in his mind.

In the 2010s, Dalton began purchasing parts of the farm back from relatives. The 99-acre land adopted the name, "Dalton Farms," and began hosting events like the first Sunflower Festival in 2019 and Tulip Festival in 2020.

"It's a huge investment to which I never thought that I'd be able to afford," said Dalton. "But all these people coming out helps places like this in New Jersey remain farms."

These events, described as "agri-tainment," are a collaboration between Dalton and his friend, Chris Viereck, who owns "Random Acts of Farmage."

"We plant these tulips in November. It's a touch over 1 million," said Viereck. "And we have to wait five-six months to see if we did a good job."

It's a heavy investment that relies on the weather during planting, growing, and blooming. Tulips prefer cold and wet environments, but large crowds are attracted by the opposite.

"It's great to get some beautiful warm days that get people out in the flowers," said Viereck. "But we probably lost six or eight days of our season because it was too hot and it pushed the flowers faster."

The farm is also dealing with inflation, seeing a price-hike in tulip bulbs and farm equipment.

"All of our costs are going up and now inflation is hitting us hard to where the average family doesn't have to go to a tulip show," said Viereck. "They have to buy groceries, they have to buy gas."

Still, families of all ages are enjoying the natural space at Dalton Farms, which features tulip-picking, paddle boating, live entertainment, and wine tasting on particular dates.

"The flowers are just endless. It's so beautiful," said Lindsey Centifonti, who visited with her 1-year-old daughter. "We were shocked when we all came up."

Dalton hopes the beauty of his childhood home will be inviting to guests year after year, creating a new legacy for the centuries-old farm.

"I hope that we're still growing tulips on the ground, and then adding other agri-tainment events that we may not even know of yet," he said. "I hope it continues for generations to come."

Dalton Farms is currently selling tickets for its Tulip Festival until April 24, 2022. To learn more, visit their website.

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