Today’s dairy farmers store their silage in bunkers which are dug out hollows in the ground. This method is much cheaper than constructing tile type silos and much cheaper to maintain.
After a few years of repeated farming the soil was soon tired and not producing as much as it possibly could. Unfortunately, artificial fertilizers were not available for if they had been there would never have been food or grain shortages. Since commercial fertilizers were not available a natural source of rich Marl deposits was found in Marlton. Bids were made by the farmers who were in need of the Marl to revitalize their farmland. The highest bidder got to dig up the Marl and transport it to his fields in need of the fertilizer. Many of these pits are still in existence today in the Marlton area.
David Peacock and the Iron Plow
In April of 1807 David Peacock of Medford was granted a patent for his invention of the iron plow. Peacocks plow was made of three separate pieces and therefore easy to repair. This plow invented by Peacock was one step ahead in the modernization of farming. Even without the Peacock Plow Medford was a very prosperous area for farming.
Fifty to seventy-five years ago if one were to stand on the corner of Union and Main (see picture to left) you would see teams of horses with wagons loaded with the products produced in Medford; on their way to Philadelphia. Most of the wagons would come from north and south Main Street, around the corner onto Union Street and continue on down the Old Marlton Pike.
A good team of horses could travel from Kirby's Mill to Camden in a little over four hours. An average team would take six hours or more to travel the same route.
In 1869 a railroad was formed between Medford and Mt Holly, and in 1881 a branch of the railroad ran between Camden and Atlantic. Just off Main Street was Medford's rail station. Dairy farming was also quite large in Medford and surrounding areas. Medford dairy farmers would deliver their milk to the rail station in Medford. The train would arrive in Medford and leave by 8:00 a.m. Many times the dairymen could be seen hurrying the streets to get to the train station on time. The milk cans would travel by train to Camden, and the empty milk cans would be back at the Medford station in that same evening.
Eventually because of the manpower required to load and unload the milk cans the railroad demanded that the farmers load the milk onto the train and not place on the platform as before. The farmers held a large meeting at 22 Bank Street. On the day that the railroad indicated would be the last day that it would load the milk, farmers brought the milk, set the milk cans on the platform as usual.
The train pulled up, the car doors opened but no one loaded the milk. The train then pulled away and left the milk cans set just where the farmers had left them. In a few moments, the owner of a small express service arrived with his truck and one borrowed one, loaded the milk cans onto the trucks, and delivered to its destination. This situation marked the decline of railroading in the Medford area.
The Medford area was ideal for dairy farms because of the fresh water, excellent pastures and the convenience of mills for grinding feed. During this time, cows were milked by hand and sanitation and bacteria counts, which can be kept at a minimum today, were then much higher.
The railroad was mostly responsible for the development of cranberries in Medford. Medford cranberries were shipped all over the United States and Canada. Cranberries were believed to be a prevention against scurvy when carried aboard a ship. Before refrigeration, if citrus fruits were not available, ship captains would pay as much as fifty dollars for a barrel of cranberries. The railroad made it easy to get the cranberries shipped so people began buying property for cranberry bogs.
Today if you visit the Pinelands, you may see some of the bogs that were not successful and sometimes what remains of their dams. Large quantities of berries were shipped out of Medford, mostly in large barrels. There was in Medford at one time almost twelve cranberry houses where the berries were sorted, packed and stored.
Some of the smaller mills had gone out of business due to the lack of water power. Millponds housed some of the major cranberry development for Medford. In several cases cranberry production was not very successful. Cranberry Hall (see picture below), today the township courthouse, once housed a small sorting operation for Medford's finest berries. Israel Garwood was the inventor of a variety of cranberry called the Garwood Belle.
The Medford born cranberry was unique because it was not uniform in size or color. John Hinchman of Taunton was known then as the largest cranberry bog owner in the nation, owning almost 3,000 acres of bogs. Centennial was the largest and most successful of his bogs. Mr. Hinchman hired 300-350 part time workers during the harvesting season. He also had several full time employees.
The demise of the cranberry industry was due to poor refrigeration and lack of suitable packaging. In order to buy cranberries a minimum had to be purchased. The store owner would buy a barrel of cranberries and would push to sell them all before they spoiled and any profit he would have made would have been gone.
Wives would buy large quantities of the berries for their families, and would hurry her family to eat them before they spoiled. Some of the older cookbooks produced by women of the Medford area always include large numbers of cranberry recipes. The cranberry bogs diminished and formed the places known today as Medford Lakes, Oakwood, Birchwood, Centennial, Taunton, and other lakes. Some are just brushlands today.
Jersey tomatoes are known across the United States and Medford played a large part in their development and production. Today farmers from nearby states purchase and import Jersey soil so that they too can reap the rewards a Jersey Tomato has to offer. Everybody wants to eat a Jersey tomato.
A man by the name of Pemb Griscom supplied tomato plants to farmers by the thousands. Farmers came from Marlton, Vincentown and surrounding areas to purchase his tomato plants. Pemb lived in the last house on South Street, across from Main Street Meeting House. Pemb raised the tomato plants behind his house in hot beds.
The demand for fresh Jersey tomatos was rapidly growing. Campbell Soup Company began growing Jersey tomato's at their farms in Riverton. During this time a farmer whose tomato crop produced ten tons of tomato's was considered very good. Today farmers in Medford are yielding thirty tons per acre, due in part to the fertilizers and growing techniques.
Medford was also idea for growing strawberries. The sandy soil in Medford; with its high acidity was ideal for growing strawberries and still is today. Fields of eight acres or more were seen growing this juicy red fruit. In Medford vendors sold their berries three quarts for a quarter. Strawberry fields required a lot of maintenance because weeds like to grow around the berry plants. Families had problems getting their children to help with the weeding so eventually the price of the strawberries was so high only the wealthy or very well off could afford them.
The fields where strawberries once grew are now the locations of apartments, or other crops which require less manpower to produce. Today if you walk in the woods or along streams during the late Spring you may find small patches of strawberry plants with their white flowers preparing to bear their red fruit.