BACK IN THE DAY
According to The Story of Hammonton by William McMahon , the year 1864 saw the formation of a Pomological Society which was a mutual assistance group in which the farmers shared their knowledge of the latest advances in farming and farm equipment . This in 1867 led to the formation of what is believed to be the first cooperative organization , Fruit Growers Union , in the nation .
Today , West End Avenue , the street where the town ’ s agricultural cooperative was once based and where a platform and a building remain as markers of that previous use , is the proposed location for a portion of six new buildings that will house 60 to 65 townhomes . It ’ s hard to believe that horse-drawn wagons once jockeyed for position in line with trucks on the street that is still lined with the tulip poplar trees that existed decades ago .
What follows is a condensed history of the agricultural cooperatives in Hammonton , taken from The Story of Hammonton .
“ The earliest reported association to market fruit and vegetables on a cooperative basis in these United States was formed at Hammonton in 1867 , according to the U . S . Department of Agriculture which records the fact in its year book .
“ The association was the Fruit Growers Union which organized for the purpose of “ combining the fruit growers of the town into an organization for mutual helpfulness and to market the farm products of its members at the least possible cost , receiving for same , the greatest possible return .” By uniting , it was found , rebates could be secured on freight rates and percentages from the commission merchants . This was a much bolder move in that day than it would be today when “ co-ops ” are taken for granted . Cooperative methods were looked upon by the majority as a form of socialism or communism dangerous to the open competitive spirit of the country . In spite of this thinking , Hammonton farmers met on June 19 , 1867 and organized their cooperative . They elected the following officers : P . N . Parkhurst , president ; Doctor Stiles , vice president ; Doctor H . E . Bowles , secretary ; and George W . Pressey , treasurer . The members of the board of directors were : H . F . Crowell , William A . Elvins , Captain Abraham Somerby , H . T . Pressey , George F . Saxton , Merill Parkhurst and Loami Monfort .
“ The new organization concentrated its first efforts on the marketing of strawberries , blackberries and raspberries , with produce from South Hammonton being placed on the Philadelphia market and the produce of North Hammonton ( now Elm ) going to the New York market . This organization continued its operation until 1898 .
“ After the final breakup of the Fruit Growers Union a number of farmers still wished to market their crops with the help of a cooperative and formed the Shippers Union of Hammonton , at a meeting in the Main Road schoolhouse , January 21 , 1899 . The officers were named as follows : L . Hurd
See WEST , P . 20
THE HAMMONTONIAN | FEBRUARY 2023 | P . 19
West End was once home to produce auction
by GABE DONIO
PHOTOS : IMAGES OF THE WEST END PRODUCE AUCTION DURING THE 1920S ( COURTESY OF THE STORY OF HAMMONTON BY WILLIAM MCMAHON ).