Agritourism in New Jersey — ‘My grandparents invented it!’
Before I get to my maternal grandparents, these are photos of my favorite example of local agritourism and agritainment. It's Johnson's Corner Farm in Medford.
I stop in about once a week this time of year and pick up local produce and annuals in the spring. We even get our Christmas trees there every December. The family that owns the property is great and the local kids that work there are outstanding.
When my children were young we took them there for strawberry picking, pumpkin picking and hayrides here. It's a great suburban way of life that has been enjoyed for a generation at that corner of Hartford and Church Roads. There are a several great examples of these family farms turned into suburban "agritainment" centers all over Jersey.
Now let's go back about 100 years to when my grandparents had recently emigrated from Sicily and were raising 8 kids in Philadelphia. A farm labor bus would come and pick up the family in the city and take them to a farm in Vineland NJ. They weren't there for "entertainment."
They piled off the bus and picked fruits and vegetables for maybe a few dollars, but usually their pay was some fresh produce that they could take home and eat. My grandfather was a street vendor who sold produce on the streets of Philadelphia for most of his life here. He couldn't read or write and spoke very little broken English.
So whenever I go to a place like Johnson's and remember the great times I had with my kids there, I also think of Dario and Dorthea, my nonno and nonna. For if not for their courage and sacrifice to come to this great country over a century ago, I would get to enjoy all of the many amazing things that America and New Jersey has to offer, like "agritainment!"
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