He and his wife, Barbara, had temporarily closed the camps, where children help feed and care for spring lambs, after an announcement from the Cape May County Health Department identified the farm as a possible source of illness. intestine caused by a parasite.
The county health department said several cases of cryptosporidium have been traced to the farm.
In an April 8 announcement, the ministry said the farm owners had taken the actions requested by the ministry, including installing hand-washing stations and new signs and educating visitors.
“The county is confident that with patrons practicing safe hygiene, Misty Meadows Farm is a safe place for the public to visit,” the announcement reads.
Contacted Wednesday, Simmerman said there have been many cancellations for this season, but the farm has been tested and is ready to accept visitors.
The Cape May County Health Department has confirmed four cases of cryptosporidium and 11 pro…
“We’re back now,” he said. “We made an announcement. We are reopened for our lamb camp season.
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The farm couldn’t shut down completely, he said. The lambs still needed tending and the ewes needed milking.
“You can’t just turn it off,” he said.
But the farm was closed to visitors.
He said the agritourism farm had no income during the winter and the closure had had a significant financial impact.
Simmerman opened the sheep’s milk creamery in the Petersburg section of the township in 2018 with a dairy herd of East Frisian sheep and other animals. In addition to a small on-site shop that sells dairy products from sheep, the farm hosts several events each year, including camps each spring, which are open to all ages and offer the opportunity to feed, clean and cuddle the lambs. .
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After the Health Department announcement, Simmerman offered a refund to those who had booked camps for this year. In a video posted to social media, Simmerman said a large number of people had asked for a refund.
“We’re overwhelmed,” he said in the video. “So please don’t bother us.”
He said he understood people were worried and promised refunds would be provided.
“I don’t blame you at all, whether they have proof or not. Your children are the most important thing to you, and they are the most important thing to us. We don’t want to see anyone sick,” Simmerman said in the video.
But in other comments, Simmerman criticized the county’s handling of the issue.
He told township committee members on Monday that no testing had been done at the farm, saying cryptosporidium could be transferred to swimming pools, from pets and through other means.
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“They don’t test swimming pools. When you go to a doctor, the first thing they ask you is if you have been around cattle,” he said at the meeting.
At that time, he offered a dire prognosis.
“The Cape May County Health Department destroyed my entire business in five minutes. I’m finished. I’m absolutely done,” Simmerman said.
Part of his business is selling sheep to other farms.
“I can’t sell a sheep now. Everyone thinks I have a disease on my farm. I don’t have enough time in my life to rebuild what they did,” he said on Monday.
In a phone interview after the meeting, Simmerman said he would not be closing. He said he had put in too much work and spent too much money on the farm to give up. But he added that many people who say they support the farm have said they may be back, but next year.
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The township committee on Monday approved a letter urging the County Board of Commissioners to support local farms, with Mayor Curtis Corson abstaining because he owns a farm in the county.
Simmerman faulted Corson for abstaining and called on the governing body to do more.
“How are we going to solve this problem? How are you going to help me? ” he said.
Committee member John Coggins said the township wanted to help and asked Simmerman what he suggested. Simmerman said he didn’t know but wished more was done.
Committee member Kim Hayes joined in criticizing the county’s action.
“Not only did they hurt your business, they didn’t really protect public health, which is their goal,” she said.
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Other speakers on the subject went further.
“The problem is that when you have a regulatory agency, not just the Department of Health, with no checks and balances, you end up creating a power that is dictatorial in nature, that believes it can do whatever it wants and that ‘He won’t be hurt,’ resident Jim Schroder said.
County health officer Kevin Thomas said Thursday that cryptosporidium is common in petting zoos and in newborns. He said there are basic precautions that can be taken, including washing hands after touching animals and before consuming food. Children should be told to keep their hands out of their mouths when around animals. He said the Department of Health does not test animals. When cryptosporidium is discovered in a lab test, there are questions that help clarify where the exposure took place.
According to Thomas, the county worked closely with the state epidemiologist, including on drafting public advisories.
“We are following the letter of the law,” he said. Sometimes that has meant closing restaurants or other businesses, he said, but the potential economic impact can’t be part of the decision.
“We are here to prevent the spread of disease,” he said.
In the April 8 notice, Thomas said there were four positive cases of cryptosporidium and 11 cases in which there were symptoms in the county. The parasite can be spread through water, by eating contaminated food or by touching the mouth with contaminated hands, for example after touching a contaminated animal or surface. The first case was reported to the Atlantic County Health Department on March 23. Atlantic County contacted Cape May County after identifying the farm as a possible source of contamination.
Part of the investigation is to identify possible sources of infection. The Atlantic County case and the Cape May County cases identified Misty Meadow as a common location visited during the infection period.
“Following this discovery, Misty Meadows Farm eagerly implemented all mitigation procedures requested by the Cape May County Health Department, including installing hand washing stations, installing signage and visitor education,” the county’s April 8 statement read. “As a result, the Department of Health determined that no further action was necessary and has never found it necessary to close Misty Meadows Farm.”
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