Thursday, November 24, 2011

Getting back to gobbles at Haines Farms in Union

The most hidden of New Jersey is the stuff that's not there anymore, brought to life by memories at particular times of year. Thanksgiving always brings me back to a very specific recollection from grade school: the annual visit to Haines Farms to see their gaggle of turkeys.

My mom tells the story of the first time my older sister brought home a permission slip for the trip. The idea provoked visions of little first graders taking a bus ride out of suburbia into New Jersey farm country, and learning all about turkeys from a farmer. While there were more farms in the state at that point than there are today, Union was already pretty well built out and certainly not host to any.

What Mom didn't realize was that the trip was to a farm stand just a couple of miles away from our grammar school. The Haines family ran a produce and poultry farm in Union for quite some time, but all I remember was their retail location on Chestnut Street. In November, they'd show a large contingent of live toms and hens in a big pen for local residents who preferred their turkeys extra fresh. The Haineses would welcome the schools to bring students by for what was probably the first time any of us had seen a live turkey. I don't know if they were just being nice, or if someone there realized what a good marketing opportunity it was. You know: the kids come home, talk about their field trip, and the parents get the bright idea of where to get the holiday bird.

As kids, we didn't really follow the logic chain. We just liked seeing the huge birds clucking and strutting around their large enclosure. I can't remember there being much more to the trip than getting off the bus, watching the turkeys for a few minutes, and then getting back on the bus for the ride back to school. The whole thing couldn't have taken more than an hour, round trip.

Haines Farms went out of business years ago and is virtually non-existent on the internet, but a recent posting on the "Growing up in Union in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's" Facebook page offered a little more information. Word is that their greenhouse was part of an exhibit in the 1939 World's Fair and was donated to the Smithsonian after the business closed in the 1980s.


  1. Yes its being discussed again on FB same "Growing up..." We would love to see some pictures and find out what happened to some of the Haines children. (Who would now be around 60).

  2. I remember a class trip to see the turkeys at Haines Farms on Chestnut Street. From looking on Google Maps, the address was around 450 Chestnut Street, Union, NJ. It appears there is a pizza place and a Professional Building in that location now. I was in the 1st or 2nd grade. It was a 10 minute trip from Washington School, about a half mile away, but it seemed like the greatest adventure. I became familiar with Haines over the years, as we would buy fresh produce there. A fond memory I have, as simple as it was, is Ray or Bill (I think they were brothers) showing me how to shine up an apple. Haines was a bit of country in the middle of suburbia.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.