|Centre Street Farmers Market in Woodbury... |
Oh and BTW, that beautiful church is gone too.
Image: Images of America: Woodbury/Gloucester County Historical Society
|1929 Sanborn map showing size and location of the Thomas farm|
|Today the farm is a through road to single-use|
|19th century: Farm|
20th century: Farm
|21st century: Not a Farm|
|A once thriving local West Deptford farm now obliterated by....|
|... this! Ughh...|
|Farmerettes at a farm in Woodbury. cira 1920-1940. NJ State Archives|
Now for some good news.
For the first time in a very long while farmers are buying back their land slated for housing subdivisions. Leigh Gallagher in her new book, The End of the Suburbs, writes, "Residential land values plummeted so much--falling nearly 70 percent from 2006 to 2011--that developers who had bought up raw land during the boom started selling it back to the farmers they bought it from. It was a reversal from the boom years, when the amount of land for farms fell by two to four million acres a year as developers paid huge premiums to get their hands on farmland that they could develop. Now, farmers who sold during the boom, making multiples they never dreamed of on their land, were able to profit on the other side as well, buying that very same land back for a song. In an additional does of irony, crop prices had soared, jumping 20 percent from 2007 to 2011, at the same time that home values plummeted, so the land was now more valuable to the farmers than ever. The Wall Street Journal's Robbie Whelan recounted the tale of the Englands, an Arizona cotton farming family that paid $731,000 for 430 acres of cotton fields sixty-five miles southeast of Phoenix in 2004, flipped the property to an apartment builder in 2009 for $8.6 million, then bought the farm back out of foreclosure for $1.75 million."
|Woodbury farm circa 1910, most likely the old DeHart Farm|
Gloucester County was once called the, "County that feeds Philadelphia." We would be wise to nurture these roots. Notable New Jersey author, John T. Cunningham wrote in his 1953 book This is New Jersey, "If industry and people ever crowd agriculture out, Gloucester County will be sadly different. Ever since the Swedes first poked up Raccoon Creek nearly 350 years ago, this land has seemed meant for a plow. It was reserved, in a way, as a garden patch, when cities elsewhere expanded--and ate what Gloucester County grew." Supporting "Smart Growth" and New Urbanism alleviates wasteful development on much needed farmland by building better structured towns and cities. Personally, I am grateful for the 669 farms in Gloucester County we have managed to hold on to (The closest active farm operation to the City of Woodbury that I can gather would be DeHarts Farm Market in Thorofare). I believe that we may even see this number grow over the next few years. Local folks like Zeke and Hillary Stecher, Alex Gassner (a Woodbury resident), John Hurff, and many others are apart of a nationwide trend of younger generations getting involved in farming.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go turn my compost pile.
For another glimpse at Woodbury's agricultural past see our other post: http://preservewoodbury.blogspot.com/2015/08/printers-ink-1899.html
Enjoy some random historic rural scenes from Woodbury and beyond: