BORDENTOWN, N.J. — Members of the New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association will open their gates to provide New Jersey’s legislators an opportunity to see firsthand New Jersey’s innovative & state-of-the-art horticultural practices in the sod and nursery industry, inventive growing practices, sod automated harvesting systems, greenhouse poly recycling balers, automated chemical applications, drip irrigation, and water recycling processes. Legislators will come away with a wealth of information to take back to their constituents.
The tour starts at Johnson Farms (1633 Hwy 77, Elmer, NJ 08318) at 10:00 am on Wednesday, September 18th. In 1910, Charles F. Johnson was a dairy farmer who moved into a small town known as Deerfield, NJ and purchased 185 acres of beautiful rich farmland. In the 1960’s we got out of the dairy operation to focus more on crops and added green beans to the mix. This decision also helped support the local frozen food processing plant known as Seabrook Farms. By this time, Charles Johnson & Sons were widely recognized by their community and neighboring states as a large potato grower with a big share of the crop sales going to potato chip companies such as Herr’s, Wise, Frito-Lay and Eagle snacks. In 1968, Charles passed away and Albert and Donald continued the legacy of their father under the name of Johnson Farms. The two brothers over 20 years of their diligent work ethic allowed them to acquire an additional 775 acres. This additional ground allowed them to increase the crops grown by adding sweet corn, spinach and peas. In 1982, Albert, Donald and his three sons united in ownership to create what is now ‘Johnson Farms, Inc’.
With the closing of Campbell Soup in 1986, the Johnson’s were looking for new crops to grow. With their knowledge and confidence, the Johnson’s expanded into Sod farming in 1988 and two years later added Nursery stock. Today, these two commodities are the staples that make Johnson Farms, Inc a reputable name in the agricultural industry. The Johnson’s are pleased that you will be able to view some of the latest innovations in the sod and nursery industry. From the newest sod automated harvesting systems to greenhouse poly recycling balers, automated chemical applications and drip irrigation, we are excited to have you here.
The next stop is Overdevest Nurseries (578 West Bowentown Road, Bridgeton NJ 08302). Their beginning traces back to 1952 when the nursery was founded by John and Jean Overdevest. What started out as an immigrant’s dream, soon developed into a small operation specializing in Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Dogwoods, and Japanese Maples. With the energy and determination that has proven to be the hallmark of our nation’s immigrants, the nursery expanded and prospered.
They are proud to continue in this same spirit as they continue their expansion and diversification. Fittingly, these efforts are admirably accomplished by yet another wave of immigrants and others who through their ancestors share that same bond of coming to America for a chance to better themselves and their families.
They have embraced environmentally-conscious growing practices from the very beginning – whether it is recycling irrigation water, integrated pest management, or using renewable potting substrates. In 2012, they formally acknowledged their commitment to sustainability by achieving the rigorous requirements of the Veriflora® Sustainable Grown certification program — recognized as the gold standard of sustainability in the floriculture and horticulture industries. To this day, they are one of a select few wholesale nurseries to carry the distinction of Veriflora® certification.
Our visit to Overdevest Nurseries will allow us to see agricultural innovation in the form of state-of-the-art farm facilities and equipment. Additionally, we will hear about sustainably certified farm and managerial practices that have earned this company’s reputation as one of America’s leading nurseries.
The final stop on this tour is at Halka Nurseries (351 Backneck Road, Bridgeton NJ). Halka Nurseries Inc. started in 1954 by Chester Halka Sr., the nursery is now run by his son Chet Halka Jr., and with Chet’s daughters, Jaime and Kate, a third generation has now entered the business. During the 1940’s and 50’s Chester Halka Sr. worked for Hunter Higgins, a pioneer in the sourcing and transplanting of large caliper material. In 1952 Chet and his brothers lined out some nursery stock on his father-in-law’s cow pasture. Halka Nurseries was officially started in 1954 and the growth of the business has paralleled the growth of the trees the brothers planted – bigger and bigger every year.
They grow over 200 varieties of trees on 2,500 acres in central and southern New Jersey. Halka sells smaller trees (3 and 4” caliper) but specializes in specimen trees as large as 20” in caliper. Their motto of “Quantity and Quality in Variety” speaks to their extensive inventory, exceptional quality and wide selection of trees. Architects and landscape contractors throughout the east coast (and at times the west coast) use Halka trees in government, institutional, commercial and residential landscapes.
Through the decades Halka has experimented with different tree varieties, different growing and digging techniques, the latest technologies, and the most capable equipment. The result is trees of extraordinary size, exceptional quality and variety, that weather the stress of the transplanting process with remarkable predictability. With Halka trees it is no longer necessary to wait for trees to grow, instant size and maturity are possible in any landscape.
They will be giving us a tour of our Growing On Program! With their new system using “Air Pots” they are now able to grow material above ground; large or small specimen trees will be available any time of the year! This program provides a superior plant that will meet the demands of any unique project. They are not container grown, or just being held in a yard. They are field grown under close supervision. They are watered, fertilized and ready whatever time of the year they are needed.
We will run through soils used, watering and fertilization practices. As well as be able to show attendees the extensive root growth put on in just a few short months.
—New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association