Historic Whitesbog Village: Exploring New Jersey’s Agricultural History
Do you like cranberries and blueberries? Did you ever wonder where they come from? This winter I got to find out how these berries are grown when I visited the Historic Whitesbog Village in Browns Mills, New Jersey. I learned that cranberries are grown here in a special type of land called a bog. The cranberries grow on vines and when they are ripe the bog is flooded with water and the cranberries float to the top of the water. In the beginning of the 1900’s, Whitesbog was the location of the largest cranberry bog in the state of New Jersey, and cranberries are still grown here today.
Whitesbog Village is also famous for being known as the “birthplace of the blueberry.” Elizabeth White, who worked here with her father, grew the first highbush blueberries here in the early 1900s. This is a type of blueberry that farmers still grow in many different states today. She partnered with Dr. Frederick V. Coville to use different types of blueberries that were growing wild in the area and bred them together to make the first cultivated blueberry bushes in New Jersey. Today, the blueberry is the state fruit of New Jersey. In one part of the village you can see the many different types of blueberries that Elizabeth White developed here at Whitesbog.
The Historic Whitesbog Village is part of Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, which is one of the amazing state forests that we have here in New Jersey. It is also part of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. The Pinelands National Reserve is part of the National Park Service covers over one-million acres of farms, forests and wetlands. It is the home for many different types of animals and plants that only live and grow here in the Pinelands. In the pinelands, many of the trees are pine trees and the soil is sandy.
The Historic Whitesbog Village is a great place to visit if you like nature, history, or both! In the Village you can visit the General Store, some of the houses where the workers at the cranberry bog lived, the Barrel Factory, and a Blueberry and Cranberry Museum. You can also visit Suningive, which is the house that Elizabeth White lived in. It is decorated to look like the 1920’s, when Elizabeth lived here.
Near the Village there are also lots of great hiking trails where you can walk around the cranberry bogs and through the forest. The cranberry harvest takes place in the fall, but we were still able to see some cranberries floating around the edges of the cranberry bogs. This is also a great place to see many different types of birds and other wildlife.
The Historic Whitesbog Village has a day each month when volunteers come to help with different projects, so on our visit we helped with organizing and cleaning up in one of the buildings, and then we took a hike to look at the historic buildings and the bogs. I’m really looking forward to coming back soon to volunteer and coming to the Blueberry Festival that they have every year in June!