Bell pepper, with both green and red colors, natural color by Martin LaBar
My parents’ farm was small. They raised the usual crops that everyone in the area who wasn’t a chicken farmer raised. And some of the chicken farmers also had small farms that raised the usual crops – tomatoes and strawberries were the basics for sale. These were called truck farms because farmers could truck the produce to the big cities- in our case it was Manhattan or Philadelphia- to try to sell. Or we would truck the produce to the canneries that were in our county. Ritters and Seabrook Farms were the two big tomato purchasers. These companies made ketchup and canned tomatoes.
Canned tomatoes by Unhindered by Talent
There were a lot of truck farms. That was why New Jersey was given the name The Garden State. Competition was fierce so the prices for the harvest was usually low. If everyone raised tomatoes and the season was good, the tomatoes were plentiful and the price the farmer got was low. Those years we had tomato fights. My mother canned a lot of tomatoes.
strawberries by Donald Lee Pardue
My mother started her own farm stand. Mostly she sold strawberries and flowers. Neighbors copied her. There were so few cars on the road in those early days that the farm stand did not bring in much money. What little was brought im, though, was greatly needed and appreciated. What didn’t sell became strawberry jam.
TheGardenLady’s House on the Farm
We were poor when I was a child growing up on the farm. But so was everyone else in my community and the surrounding communities, so no child felt the poverty. That was how things were. Yet my parents worked hard. Hard physical labor. Especially my mother, who not only worked in the fields and had a small dairy that she took care of by herself, she had two small children at the time and took care of the house.
My parents worked hard so that we always had food on the table. All summer we had an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and for the rest of the year Mom canned everything. No one had a freezer. The cellar was a dirt hole so it was cold like a root cellar. Foods like potatoes and onions could last a long time down there. And the shelves around the walls were filled with Mom’s canned food in glass jars. The jars looked as beautiful as any stained glass window any artist created.
In spite of all this labor, Mom loved flowers. I never thought to ask who planted the roses, the spirea bushes, the deutzia bush, the ornamental quince bush, the yucca, the apple tree, the lilacs, rose of sharon bushes, the gooseberries, weeping willows and other shrubs and trees that surrounded the house- they were just there. Yet this was a question I regret not having asked.
You see, my parents were the second family household to ever live on the farm. Before that the land belonged to Native Americans. The Leni Lenape Indians lived in New Jersey. And they must have spent time on the property that eventually became our farm. We bought the farm from a family who must have somehow bought it from the Leni Lenape- I wish I could learn more of that history.