Our Family’s Blueberry History
The history of blueberries in the Haines family can not be told without giving the history of the first cultivated blueberry. Blueberries were first cultivated back in the early 1900’s in a place called Whitebog, a cranberry farm owned by Joseph White. Whitesbog is located in the pine barrens where the soil is not suited for most agriculture short of cranberries and wild blueberries. Joseph White’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was very interested in the farming industry and would ride on the cart with her father and the superintendent of the grounds, Joseph Haines, the grandfather of Tom Haines. He worked at Whitesbog from 1914-1944. Elizabeth was intrigued by the wild blueberries which were native to the area and began to work with botanist, Frederick Coville. In 1916, Elizabeth White had created the first cultivated blueberry and in later years, Whitesbog became known as one of the largest blueberry farms in New Jersey.
Being a superintendent of Whitesbog, Joseph and his family lived on premises and the family was involved with the blueberry and cranberry cultivation. Elmer, Joseph’s youngest son and father of Tom, helped Elizabeth White with harvest and punched tickets for the pickers.
After World War II, Elmer joined up with his brother Harold in the blueberry business by forming a partnership at Upton Station on Route 70. The partnership was entitled Upton Blueberry Company. In 1950, they expanded the business by purchasing an abandoned cranberry bog on Sheep Pen Hill Road in Pemberton. The partnership thrived for another twelve years until they decided to split up in 1962. Harold kept Upton Station and Elmer kept Sheep Pen Hill.
Sheep Pen Hill farm was cranberries at the time. Cranberries were not worth much on the market at the time so Elmer converted the farm to blueberries. The farm was predominantly the Weymouth variety. It was a forty acre farm with a company town similar to Whitesbog that consisted of a house for the manager, dormitories for the workers, a kitchen where all the food was cooked, a barn for the horses and numerous shacks called picker shanties. Tom grew up helping on the farm. He helped with the nursery in the spring and harvest in the summer.
In 1967, Elmer Haines passed away leaving the farm to his wife Gladys. Tom helped his mom run the farm and purchased it from her in 1969. The farm became known as Tom Haines Blueberries. All of the blueberries were marketed through Tru Blu Coop which was located in nearby New Lisbon; just as they had been when Elmer had owned it. In 1972 Tom initiated Pick-Your-Own blueberries and throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s began to replace the Weymouth varieties with Bluecrop cultivars.
In 1988 Tom’s son, Tim, became a full time employee on the farm while attending college. In 1990 he became the full time manager and began introducing new varieties such as Duke, Elliott, and Legacy to the farm along with reintroducing some cranberry bogs back into the business. In 1993 Tim and his wife, Traci, bought the 12 acre neighboring farm. In 2009, Tom Haines Blueberries became Haines Berry Farm, LLC with Tom and Tim working as partners. The farm became technologically advanced by adding automated packing machines with a color and soft sorter. The farm is predominantly picked by hand and a picking machine is used for cleaning up the last pickings of harvest. Eventually, in 2012, Haines Berry Farm was expanded from 40 acres to 140 acres after purchasing neighboring farms. The farm continues to be innovative with the hope that Tim and Traci’s sons, Thomas, Steven and Jonathan want to continue the Haines Berry Farm legacy.
In 2015, Haines Berry Farm entered the Burlington County Farmland Preservation Program to ensure it will remain an operating farm.