On Goffle Road, the locals know spring has sprung when the pansies start to appear at Goffle Brook Farm. Many people drive by the desolate store looking for some sign of life, knowing that soon the lights will once again be on, the “closed for the winter sign” gone, and the store bursting with flowers. This is how every year of life at “The Farm” begins.
Goffle Brook Farm was first opened on May 1st, 1968. Although Richard and Dancy Osborne were new to business, farming was nothing new to the couple. Dancy’s father, Clinton Carlough, had been the largest apple grower in the state of New Jersey. When the young couple married, Richard began working at the family farm. He loved the farming lifestyle from his very first day. He liked working outside. He enjoyed selling at the farmers market. But most of all, Richard liked the changes that the seasons brought to his job duties. He tried to convince his father-in-law to open a farm stand much like the Tices and Van Ripers had done many years before.
Little did he know that Dancy’s father had bigger and better plans. Mr. Carlough was purchasing more property and expanding his own farm to build a golf course in Mahwah. With the family working together, he succeeded in building what is now Apple Ridge Country Club. Richard was taken off the farm to work in a managerial position at the new golf course. His natural aptitude for selling and managing the farm worked just as well at the county club.
At home, Dancy was missing her husband as Richard’s busy workdays spilled over into many evening hours. So, she decided to join the family’s new business, too. Once again, both of them were working side by side. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for Richard to realize he missed farm life. As the saying goes, “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy”. Richard was not a suit and tie guy and soon confessed to his wife that he just could not go on working indoors. He and Dancy then started looking to follow their own dream — opening Goffle Brook Farm.
The young couple opened Goffle Brook Farm with a working capital of $8,000. They took some of the old apple boxes and turned them into display shelves. They bought Peter’s 20-20-20 (the miracle grow of their day) and packaged it into zip lock bags, so they could offer this great product to the public. Sand and stone were brought in by the truckload and bagged for retail sales. Their two daughters, Donna and Wendy, were constant fixtures in the store. As hard as the work was, Richard and Dancy loved it. Together, they were realizing their dream come true. Thanks to their farming background and the knowledge of turf they received building the golf course, their expertise made Goffle Brook Farm “the” place to purchase quality grass seed. In the years that followed, growing numbers of customers swarmed to the Farm during summer for the great local Halloween and harvest celebrations
Following Tice and Van Riper’s lead, Richard and Dancy decided they would become one of the first garden centers to really focus on Halloween and the harvest celebrations so popular out in the country. The Van Ripers invited Dancy to come and watch their resident painter at work. Although he painted with an air brush, she learned enough to start painting her own version of his painted pumpkins. Dancy taught this technique to her teenage daughters and Fall at the Farm became a tradition highly anticipated by many for miles around. Generations of Bergen County residents grew up with these pumpkins and now bring their children to choose their own unique Goffle Brook Farm hand-painted pumpkins.
Usually, those same loyal customers are back each December for the spectacular wreaths that are still made completely by hand at the Farm. In the old days Richard, Dancy and the girls would collect the brush from the golf course when they pruned the spruce trees there. Today, the family has to purchase the spruce like everyone else, but they also buy holly, cedar, juniper and boxwood — traditional scented greens that help make up the fragrant holiday sprays and wreaths that customers return for year after year.But oddly enough, one of the things most customers remember best about Richard and Dancy Osborne was what they did when they weren’t open.
Regulars knew that the day after Christmas, Richard and Dancy promptly left town, bound for the Florida Keys. Every year, like clockwork, they would close the store Christmas Eve and not open again until their return, March 15th. Late holiday customers would enjoy coming in and hearing Jimmy Buffet playing in preparation to the Key West trip. To this day, at least once a week, customers ask if the family still goes to the Keys. That just shows you how long some folks have been coming to Goffle Brook Farm.
In fact, many of the Farm’s customers today are the same customers they had from its humble beginnings so many years ago. One of the oldest and dearest is David Bolger. Aside from being a philanthropist, Mr. Bolger is known for truly supporting local businesses. Over the years, he has not only been a great supporter of the family store, but he has donated items that he thought would enhance the Farm’s appearance. A favorite gift from Mr. Bolger is an antique sled that Santa Claus sits in every Christmas season.
Today, Goffle Brook Farm is successfully managed by Richard and Dancy’s daughter, Donna Dorsey, along with their son-in-law Kurt Dorsey. Although both parents are now deceased, the family traditions remain alive and well. Kurt and Donna have two boys, Clinton and Kyle and there’s reason to believe there might be a third generation running Goffle Brook Farm someday. The Dorsey’s say that is when they are going to really follow in Richard and Dancy’s footsteps … all the way to the Keys for the winter.