Farming, planting, and gardening go back a long way for Donna Dorsey of Goffle Brook Farms on Goffle Road. Her grandfather, Clinton Carlough, had been the largest apple grower in the state of New Jersey. He owned farmland in Upper Saddle River and developed Apple Ridge Country Club in Mahwah.
Donna's mom and dad, Dancy and Richard Osborne, worked for Dancy's father, Clinton. They loved being on the farm but decided to make a change when Clinton told Richard that he wanted him to run the golf course.
In 1968, the couple bought the Goffle Brook Farm property for just $8,000 and further expanded it in 1977. "Coming from a farming background made the gardening center a natural for my parents," says Donna. "They loved it."
When Donna came into the picture, she was not quite as engaged in the business as her mom and dad. "I tried to do as little as possible at the farm. I wanted to be a flight attendant," says Donna. "However, I found I needed the comfort level of being close to home. I also realized I could have the winters off! My husband, Kurt, came on board in 1989 and loves it more than anyone!"
Donna and Kurt enjoy their camaraderie throughout their day-to-day business dealings and interact together regarding running the business, displaying items, and purchases from vendors.
Together, they scour the region to buy the best produce, plants, and flowers from suppliers. "We find it is much better to buy from the grower who produces the best of each specific item," says Donna. "So, we get our corn from a farm in Wayne and cauliflower from Allamuchy. To get the best of the best means outsourcing the farming."
Throughout much of the spring and summer, the couple works every day of the week. Kurt starts his day at 5:30 am to pick up plants from growers. "We are one of the only stores that handpick their inventory to ensure that it's perfect," says Donna. She's at the shop by 8:30 am to check in with the manager and plan out the day, reviewing orders for hard goods like sprays, weed killers, and fertilizer.
Deer repellent is a big seller these days. "Ten years ago, no one asked about deer repellent—I wouldn't have known what they were talking about. Now, we carry 25 different kinds!" Donna's advice for gardeners suffering from deer rampage: plant native species, which tend to be more deer resistant. Certain plants also repel deer. "Use the repellent if needed," says Donna. "Everything works hand-in-hand. Plant one native thing a year—it would do so much to help the bees and the surrounding environment."
Take it from an expert. Donna is a Master Gardener after completing a Rutgers course. "It's a wonderful program for anyone who loves gardening," says Donna. "I learned about all types of gardening, soils, germination, and planting schedules. Most people don't know that each county in New Jersey has a service you can call to get help if you have a problem with your plants. Check out Rutgers Bergen County Extension Service at bergen.njaes.rutgers.edu. It's a great resource."
If you need gift ideas for Mother's day, consider a beautiful hanging basket from the farm. "Our Drop and Grow planters are wonderful," says Donna. "All you do is place them on the ground with some mulch and add water. They are a simple way to add color and texture to your garden, and they're easy to care for."
Donna shares her expertise by speaking to various gardening groups as well as the Ridgewood Women's Club, of which she is a member and past Vice-President. "It's a wonderful organization concentrating on charities which benefit children," she says. Donna carries on the family torch by serving as a trustee for her grandfather's foundation, supporting various local initiatives, including Boys and Girls Clubs. She also supports local fundraisers for schools and non-profits through the store's giveback program. Donna also prioritizes employing young adults who have been challenged in finding a job. "Some of our employees have been with us for 30 years, and we hope that shows our commitment to being good employers." Donna strives to live by a favorite quote of her parents by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."