FAQ

Our goal is to provide accurate information about our brewing project in an effort to keep everyone properly informed. It is important that both false information and exaggerations are corrected.

We are excited and thankful for the many people who have shown their support!

Family Goals:
  • To create a low-key, authentic farm to glass brewery as an addition to our current operations.
  • To proactively respond to the difficulties presented by the modern agriculture evolution while continuing to practice and utilize the traditional farming activities and methods that our family has established for nearly 100 years.
  • To continue to operate the Backer Farm as a family-run farming operation far into the future.
What is Backer Farm?

Backer Farm is a family-owned commercial farm on Ironia Road in Mendham Township, New Jersey, which has been operated since 1927. In the nearly 100 years since that time, the Backer family has proudly carried on New Jersey farming traditions. Backer Farm survived the depression by selling milk and honey, including farm-to-door delivery which continued until 1978. The dairy operations expanded with field crops, construction of the farm’s iconic “Dairy Barn” in 1954, and the addition of a small creamery. The dairy business took a hard hit as a result of 1960’s regulations, which made it economically impossible for small farms to process and bottle their own milk.

The farm then evolved to an equine operation including an on-site sawmill for producing fencing. Horse boarding supplemented the farm and kept the land in productive use as pasture and in raising grains. From the Great Recession of 2008 was born yet another evolution. Frederick T. Backer, III, the 4th generation of Backers to live on the farm, took the farm in a new direction, growing fruits and vegetables, opening a farm stand, and hosting farm-to-table events. The Backer family formed a membership program for purchasing shares of the produce, a practice called “community-supported agriculture,” (CSA). Backer Farm will now modify its farm-to-table offerings through the introduction of farm-to-glass beer.

What is the Backer Family’s Proposed Brewery Project?

What better place to relax and enjoy a craft beer than on the farm where the grain is grown and the beer is brewed? Pursuant to a Limited Brewery License issued by the State of New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), Backer Farm will engage in the growing of crops for beer making and will brew and package the beer on-site. The iconic Dairy Barn will feature indoor and outdoor public areas where patrons may learn about the beer-making process, tour the farm, sample beer, and purchase beer for on- or off-site consumption. Unlike other limited breweries which are not located on farms, Backer Farm’s brewery is further restricted in that it is subject to commercial farming rules, resulting in a much smaller yield than can be accomplished by limited breweries without this restriction. Limited breweries are not a “Brew Pub” or a restaurant-style bar which require a “Restricted Brewery License” held alongside a “Plenary Retail Consumption License.” As a farm-based “Limited Brewery,” Backer Farm’s on-site production and sale of beer will occur at a much smaller scale.

How can beer be considered an agricultural product?

Beer is made from farm-grown ingredients. Beer is a natural product made primarily from malt. Malt is made from a variety of grains with the most common being barley, wheat, and rye. Beer is also made with hops and a variety of fruits, spices, and other natural ingredients. The grains predominantly used in beer making require crop rotation for proper soil health management. Backer Farm will rotate its grain crops with other crops, such as pumpkins, to maintain these best farming practices.

Do New Jersey Right to Farm protections apply to limited breweries?

Backer Farm’s proposed limited brewery is designed and planned in accordance with the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) Right to Farm agricultural management practices (regulations) for on-farm production and retail sales.  These practices protect commercial farms when the sale of farm products is the primary source of income.

Backer Farm, like many New Jersey farms, is relying on direct-to-consumer sales while competing with the modern marketplace of retail grocery and liquor stores.  What generic stores cannot offer is a farm-based, product-based experience.  The SADC agricultural management practices serve the important purpose of helping New Jersey agriculture remain economically viable.  These regulations protect Backer Farm’s existing farm market and community-supported agriculture program.  The regulations also protect facilities used to process and package farm products, such as brewing and bottling beer using farm-grown grains.  The regulations protect facilities used to hold events that draw customers to the farm, where the public is invited to sample, purchase, and enjoy farm products.  The regulations protect facilities used to sell the farm products directly to customers, such as a beer tasting room serving farm-made beer.  The regulations also protect certain marketing practices which are used to draw customers to the farm.  Common, protected marketing practices include offering live background music, tours, private tastings, farm- or product-themed festivals, educational activities, and passive recreation.  These marketing opportunities connect people to the farm while they enjoy farm products at their source.

Can a brewery be permitted on an agriculturally preserved farm?

Backer Farm’s preservation Deed of Easement is overseen by the Morris County Agriculture Development Board, which has reviewed the proposed brewery and confirmed that it is consistent with the terms of the preservation Deed of Easement.

Are there any other breweries on preserved farms in New Jersey?

There is a farm-based brewery in Monmouth County which is currently the only preserved farm-based brewery in New Jersey. The Backers are looking forward to being the first in Northern New Jersey.

Will members of the public be permitted to tour the farm and brewery?

Yes! In fact, learning about the growing and brewing process is a “built-in” feature of limited breweries which is even more meaningful on the farm where beer ingredients are grown. Within the public portion of the brewery, each customer will be able to view the brewing equipment and information on the brewing process in accordance with ABC licensing regulations and may discuss the brewing process with trained staff. Backer Farm is a working farm and, therefore, not all portions of the farm are open to the public. Broader farm tours are guided by Backer Farm staff and are available on a limited basis to private groups upon advance reservation.

How can a brewery be permitted in a residentially zoned property?

In 1998, Mendham Township passed its Right to Farm Ordinance (Ord. 17-98) to assure the continuation and expansion of commercial agriculture by encouraging a positive agricultural business climate and protecting farmers against unnecessary Township regulations and private nuisance suits. Protected agriculture is a commercial business. Virtually all preserved farms in Morris County are in “residential” zones. Backer Farm’s limited brewery will be conducted in accordance with approved agricultural management practices and, therefore, it is permitted in the Mendham Township’s R-10 zone.

What site improvements are proposed on the farm to accommodate this new brewery operation?

The Brewery will be located in the iconic Dairy Barn, providing customers with an inside view of its unique architectural features. The area in which the service of beer is permitted will include a portion of the Dairy Barn and will extend into a limited outside area. No new buildings are proposed. Access has already been reconfigured to improve safety for the existing community-supported agriculture program. There will be designated parking areas including handicap spaces for the proposed brewery. The facility will be served by a new septic system that has been approved by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) and the local health department.

No new wells will be drilled. The Backer family will utilize municipal water. The wastewater from the brewing operation (washing of tanks) is non-hazardous and will be collected in a holding tank and used for crop irrigation or taken off-site for proper disposal. Spent grains from the brewing process are non-hazardous and nutrient-rich and will be used as feed for the livestock. Dense woodlands, natural vegetation, and a 300-foot buffer from the pond and stream will be maintained relative to the brewery improvements, which provide natural buffering between the farm and neighbors to the west.

Has the traffic impact of the brewery been considered?

At the request of the Technical Review Committee (“TRC”) of the Mendham Township Planning Board, a Traffic and Parking Assessment Report was prepared by a Traffic Engineer and submitted to the Township and reviewed by the Board engineer. The report indicates that the proposed brewery would not have a significant impact on the traffic operations and that there was ample parking on site.

How will noise be controlled?

Backer Farm intends to comply with the NJDEP noise standards and has retained an acoustical engineer to measure noise levels and assist in planning to ensure compliance with legal noise limits. 

A Future of Past Traditions

The Backer Family will soon celebrate its 100th Anniversary on the farm, which now includes the 5th generation to live in the farmhouse.  Resiliency is an inherent quality of farming, farmers, and the Backer family.  The Backer family has evolved its agriculture with changing times, enrolled in farmland preservation, and continued to voluntarily share the farm and farm products with its community.  The Backer family has provided farm-based education and passive recreation to community groups and donated farm-fresh produce to those in need, including first responders at Morristown Medical Center during the pandemic.  The Backer family’s dedication to agricultural production, resiliency, and community connection is a tradition that will continue and the Backers look forward to continuing to serve the local community with this next evolution of the farm.