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Spotlight: Realizing a dream

Sometimes, childhood dreams do come true.

Growing up near Trenton, Rosita Johnson longed to be on a farm. That dream didn’t become a possibility until many years later.

In 2012, her husband, Carl, had a stroke and was completely paralyzed. His career in construction was over. At the same time, Rosita’s 93-year-old mother was in need of care.

“I was taking care of both of them, so I couldn’t go out to work,” she said.

Rosita found work she could do from home; and Carl fought his way back to mobility with physical therapy, although his left arm still has limited use.

“I prayed about it and said there has to be something we can do from home,” she said.

The couple had moved to Pennsylvania six years beforehand and passed the open fields on their way to her mother’s house in New Jersey.

“I always wondered what it would be like to grow up on a farm, so that seed was always there in the back of my mind,” Rosita said.

“We talked about farming,” Carl said. “We saw the farms and we wondered how would we do if we started farming.”

The couple decided to take the plunge, give farming a try and become self-sufficient.

They got some help from a farmer whose land they rented a house on Lower Towamensing Township. He taught them what he knew about farming and gave them 13 chickens.

They also studied up on farming, watched some “how to” videos on YouTube, and started looking for some land of their own.

“It just grew from there,” Rosita said. “We went to ducks, then we went to pigs. We went to cattle and now we have goats.”

They bought a 15-acre farm near Coplay and moved their animals to it. Currently, they have more than 100 chickens and ducks; two Texas longhorn cows, a bull and two calves; five milking goats; and a handful of pigs.

“We grow all of our own food and we breed our animals,” she said.

Rosita also looks forward to starting aquaponics to have their own fish, as well as make cheese and butter from the goat milk, and sell it along with the eggs. They already have clients who purchase meat, eggs and poultry from them, and work with three butchers to prepare the meat.

“It’s the best steak money can buy,” Carl said. “You don’t have to worry about hormones, toxins. This is meat that you feed your family with for a long time.”

In addition to taking care of the animals, the couple also is renovating the farmhouse, which was built around 1870.

With the help of some friends and family, they stripped the walls down to the bare beams and discovered that the original logs cut from the farm are as sturdy as ever - but the wiring needed replaced.

“It was so much work,” Rosita said. “We went through three dumpsters here. Things that had to be thrown, plus gutting the house.”

The renovation is mostly being handled by Rosita and Carl, but their grown children help out, too.

“Sometimes you have to look past the mess and be able to see what it can be,” Rosita said.

Her dreams don’t stop there. Rosita is also working on a degree in biblical studies with a concentration in youth ministry, and she has plans to reach out to the Penn State Extension for advice on agriculture and maybe one day get a degree in agriculture.

She envisions a day when children can come from the city to enjoy nature, veterans and others in need of some destressing can visit the animals. She would also like to partner with local schools where they can come out and learn about agriculture on field trips.

“Eventually we would like to do equine therapy and other forms of therapy once the farm is up and fully operational,” Rosita said. “We want people to know that if they have a disability, they don’t have to let that keep them restricted.”

After overcoming a stroke and paralysis in 2012, Carl Johnson and his wife, Rosita, took up farming and now raise Texas longhorn cows. He still has limited use of his left arm, but doesn't let it stop him from realizing a dream. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
The Johnsons plan to use milk from the goats to make butter and cheese.
Rosita Johnson feeds some goats on her farm in Coplay. Owning a farm was a childhood dream of hers.
Carl Johnson muses at the antics of the goats on his farm in Coplay.