Carla Bushey, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, had always embraced nature, but when her husband suffered a health issue, she knew it was a wake-up call to live more intentionally. It was then that the family moved to a house in Middletown with land out back, adopted a few chickens, some goats, and even began beekeeping to focus on wellness and living naturally. All the while, Carla dreamed of creating a community where kids could pet the animals, and families could buy products that had their farm-grown ingredients. Eight years and lots of work later, the airy, Pinterest-perfect Oak Hill Farms market in Holmdel is that dream come true. From the handcrafted natural farm products like creamy goat’s milk caramels and buttery body balms to the gorgeous barn, this newly opened Monmouth County gem is winning people over one visit (and one Peruvian coffee) at a time. We caught up with the mama of three girls to get the scoop on what makes Oak Hill Farms so unique (hint: goat yoga), her farm-to-skin bestsellers, and the local spots her family goes to for the freshest farm-to-table cuisine.
featured photo via Louise O’Rourke Photography
You say your farm started with your love for nature. Can you tell us about your background and how it led you to open Oak Hill Farms?
I was born and raised in Peru. I lived in the city back home, but for many years of my life, my dad had a house in the countryside, and I have the fondest memories of living there. But I embraced nature when I met my husband, Rich. He is as outdoorsy as it gets, and I joke that I traded my high heels for farm boots after we met. About eight years ago, Rich suffered a heart attack, which prompted us to decide to live more intentionally. We bought a house in Middletown with some land in the back. We started a garden, and adopted animals like chickens for eggs, goats for milk, and began beekeeping. While we were doing this, I had a vision of bringing together families and creating a community, and with that idea, we built Oak Hill Farms. I never imagined that our love for nature and well being would turn into what we have today.
What can people expect when they come to the farm? Tell us about it.
When you visit Oak Hill Farms, you get to experience the same love we have for nature. There are chickens, goats, and alpacas in the back, and right now, two pumpkin patches. At the barn, we sell our farm-made products like skincare and varieties of honey, jams, and caramels. Also, we are an upscale market that showcases our community of farmers and makers. There is local fresh dairy, specialty cheeses, a fun coffee bar (people rave about our signature organic Peruvian coffee and cold brew), bakery treats like cider donuts as well as unique farmhouse-inspired home accents and furniture. We offer picnic tables for people to sit down and enjoy some peaceful time. We also host fun workshops like wreath making, cookie decorating, goat yoga, and calligraphy, all with social distancing rules in place, so that you can come and enjoy making something safely.
Your signature products are all made with ingredients from your farm. What inspired you to start your product line, and can you share some of your favorites?
We believe that the ingredients we use on our bodies impact our health and well being. This idea came to me after spending hours at grocery stores trying to understand label ingredients. I wanted to make our own wellness products that I knew I could trust. My personal favorite is the honey produced from our bees—once you have it, you will be hooked. Another product from our bees is our top-selling muscle balm, made with beeswax and organic essential oils. Also, people tell me that they are amazed at how well our body lotions work, and I will always say it’s because they are real, made with only a few great ingredients.
How have your kids played a role in your business? What do you think they’ve learned watching you open and grow?
I’m so proud of my three daughters because they are working hard and showing responsibility in what’s become our family business. Sophia, my oldest, works five days a week at the barn on top of school, homework, college prep, varsity track and field, cross country, and more. Gianna works at the coffee bar every weekend and continues dancing several hours each day as she is a competitive dancer. And my tiny Alexandria is always willing to help with simple things she sees us do as a family-owned business. Her line is: “Mommy, can I help you?” Talking to my daughters at different times, they have expressed how proud they feel that mommy worked so hard for a dream, and now she is living it—it’s very sweet.
What’s the most rewarding part about being an NJMOMpreneur?
The example I give my daughters—have a dream, work hard, and make it happen. I also love to tell my story and inspire other women. I like to remind them that they can do anything they want if they have the right mindset. I love to surround myself with positive people, and I have a group of amazing, super-talented ladies who work for me. I learn from them daily, and they make it easy to love what I do even more. And last but not least, I appreciate the connections I make every day, the people I meet, and the friendships I have now.
Share some of your favorite local businesses and what you love about them.
One of my favorites is Big Mike’s Little Red Store in Navesink. He is a fantastic chef and makes the most incredible breakfast and lunch items. You can find his grab and go sandwiches and salads at our barn. I love Apple Street Kitchen and D’Jeet— it is 100% farm to table and right up our alley. Casey, the owner, is behind all our bakery goods at the coffee bar. Broad Street Dough Co is my donut shop for sure, and I’ve known the owner Des for a while. She makes the cider donuts we have each weekend at the barn. If parents are looking for their children’s dance education, I can’t say enough great things about Jersey Shore Dance Academy in Shrewsbury. The owners are not only the best at what they do, but they have hearts of gold.
What do you wish you knew about being an NJMOMpreneur that you can pass along to a mom who is starting a new business?
I’m still in a learning process for my own business, putting systems in places as things come up, and that’s ok. My advice is to be prepared not to have it “all together”—many difficulties might come your way, but you can deal with them if you shift to the right mindset. And another essential part of being an NJMOMpreneur is to find a balance between work and home. It’s hard and something I’m still trying to be better at, but it’s crucial to do it. Besides that, love what you do every day, live your dream to full capacity, network with others, and most importantly—have fun.