Country Manor

In the late 1800's James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke sought to create a "gentleman's farm" in Somerville, NJ. Over the course of nearly three decades he developed and transformed more than 2,000 acres of land into "Duke's Farm." At its prime the estate boasted a Country Manor (with 50 rooms), 9 lakes, 18 miles of roadway, 35 fountains and 2 greenhouses.

Photograph: Country Manor, circa 1908

Doris at Duke Farms

Doris loved Duke Farms because the estate was a creation of her father's and she associated it closely with him. At the age of 12, she inherited the approximately 2,200 acres of Duke Farms.

Photograph: Doris Duke at Duke Farms, circa 1920s


Was Duke Farms really a farm? Yes! Like her father, J.B. Duke, Doris was determined to transform Duke Farms into an operational farm. Materials in the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives show that she actively farmed the land throughout her life.

Photograph: Aerial of Duke Farms, undated

Dairy Cattle

For decades, Duke Farms raised dairy cattle for breeding and milk production, cultivated field crops, and grew flowers, fruits, and vegetables, often winning awards for their efforts.

J.B. Duke's interest in Jersey dairy cattle was a catalyst in creating the farm and this love of Jersey cattle continued with Doris. After a brief respite, Jersey cattle were again brought to the farm in 1943 in response to the government's appeal for increased production of butter, eggs, and other dairy products.

Photograph: Jersey Cattle, 1950-1955

Gold Certificate Award

One of the many awards Duke Farms won for the production of high quality milk.

Land Preservation

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Doris purchased five farm parcels in order to preserve farmland from urban growth. She directed that they be used solely for farming and upgraded obsolete barns, brought in cows, and supported the cultivation of crops.

During the 1980s and 1990s, of the approximately 2,700 acres of Duke Farms, 1,000 acres was actively cultivated and harvested farmland, and 700 acres was pasture.

Photograph: Olgart Farms, 1970s

No Chemicals!

While Doris was motivated to have a productive, profitable farm, she was not going to accomplish this at a cost to the land. Driven by land conservation, she was continually looking for innovative methods of farming that would have the least impact on the land and wildlife. One of the most profound choices she made was using chemical-free herbicides on all the crops.

Doris Duke, locavore?

In early 1992 Doris became interested in converting Duke Farms to an organic farm. An assortment of correspondence, newspaper articles and booklets outline recommendations for organic vegetable growing, how to market the organically grown vegetables, and how to make it profitable.

Her early interest in organic farming set the stage for the future of Duke Farms. Doris instructed in her will that Duke Farms was to be used as a model of environmental stewardship and inspire visitors to become informed stewards of the land.