Getting the history of Dreyer Farms from John and Jess Dreyer is truly amazing because each time I hear something new. Whether it’s finding out about the time they had a pet pig that escaped or discovering they had yet another farm somewhere in NJ, it’s always something new. So feel free to ask them about their history, if you see them around the farm.
In the late 1800s John Dreyer’s grandfather, Gustav, immigrated to the United States with his brother, Henry, landing in New York City. Gustav worked in a grocery store for a year before he decided to return to what he knew–farming. After buying a pig and vegetable farm in Secaucus, the brothers farmed for a few years before wanting to obtain more land. Henry bought land in Cranford which is now Union County College and some of the adjacent roads surrounding it. Shortly after Henry’s purchase, Gustav joined his brother in Cranford and bought the neighboring farm which is the land we still farm today. At this point, both farms were considered truck farms which meant they grew their produce, packed it into trucks and sold it to markets that included one in Newark and another in Elizabeth. Henry later sold his land to a golf course that would exist there until the Depression, while he farmed at a new land plot in Freehold. During the Depression, Henry bought back the golf course property and later sold it to UCC. Over the years, the Dreyer family would also come to buy land in Englishtown and other areas to ensure that they could always keep the family farm up and running while businesses and schools were constantly bidding on land in the area.
Gustav Dreyer would eventually marry and produce six children. He divided his 36-acre farm amongst them. The land we farm in Cranford today is the land that was given to his son Gustav, Jr. Gustav would go on to marry Henrietta who grew up on her family’s perennial plant and pansy farm right next door in Springfield! Henrietta was a school teacher until she became pregnant with Henry. A few years later, she had her second son, John. Both of her children would grow up to run the farm. When Henry was three years old. In 1946, Henrietta opened the original farm stand on the very land her husband, Gustav was given by his father. This stand stood for over 60 years. If you wander around the new farm store, you can find photos of the original building. It was a simple three garage door stand right near the road and was similar to the style we have today. Henrietta ran the stand alone for years with her husband picking the crops in the morning and her trying to sell them all day long since they didn’t have a cooler to store the produce. She hired a neighbor, the first Dreyer employee, after running it alone for four years! Gustav would grow the vegetables and harvest them for Henrietta to sell; but Henrietta also ran the perennial/plant side of the business in the Spring.
Over time, they would add on to the building to accomodate the growing demand for corn and other produce. At this time, a produce cooler was also added. Henry frequently worked in the greenhouse with his mother, adding bedding plants and many annuals to the family business. Henry added numerous greenhouses to the property increasing the season of the farm even more. When John returned to the farm, he decided his contributions would be starting the season even earlier in the year with Easter plants and extending the season further with Christmas trees. The first year of Christmas trees John was so excited for his new contribution that he rented a HUGE rack body truck to pick up his Christmas trees- he got 125 and it barely took up even a fraction of the truck. Years later we have figured it out and sell almost 2,000 trees this year (2016). Henry & John would both get married, have children, and stay in Cranford. Jess, John’s oldest daughter, would spend a great deal of time with her Grandmother in the greenhouse and at the farm learning the business. After Jess attended college for Soil Science and worked as a perennial landscaper for a bit to gain more experience she returned to the farm full of new ideas and inspiration. In 2013 Jessica authorized and planned the new building, using her Grandmother’s stand as a model. She re-did the logo using a Pansy, a sign of her Grandmother’s contributions, and Jess’s favorite vegetable, a Carrot. The logo came to symbolize the two women that made the farm stand as amazing and thriving as it is today. Always striving for the highest quality, Dreyer Farms is now in its 113 year of existence with no plans to stop any time soon.