Making History in Rural America

Charles H. Harrison

In the first half of the twentieth century, a small corner of southern New Jersey became the first and probably the only rural global village of its kind and size in America. Here, in a township that did not appear on most state maps, thousands of men, women, and children from more than 20 countries and speaking as many languages, most of them uprooted and displaced by war or poverty, came to work at what Life magazine called in 1955, "the biggest vegetable factory in the world." That factory

was Seabrook Farms, which pioneered frozen vegetables for Clarence Birdseye and became the prime provisioner for America's fighting men in both World Wars and the free world's population as well.

Meet some of the people who worked and lived together harmoniously when multiculuralism wasn't even a word: Japanese American families who had been sent off to internment camps by their own government, Europeans who came from displaced persons camps, out-of-work mountain people who drove north from Appalachia, dark-skinned men from the West Indies who spoke with British accents and preferred cricket to baseball, and so many others. This extraordinary population formed the base of a very remarkable food processing operation.

C.F. Seabrook, engineer, farmer, astute businessman, and visionary was born a farmer—and hated farming. A self-taught engineer, he found that he could overcome his aversion to dirt by combining agriculture and industry. He pioneered in overhead irrigation and frozen food manufacture and built Seabrook Farms into the first industrial farming operation in America. Was he a humanitarian? Rather, he was a shrewd businessman who hired rather cheaply people who came to his village in desperate need of jobs—but he treated those workers with affection and respect.

Charles H. Harrison has written a compelling study of the Seabrook Farms global village. Combining the technological history of agriculture and the social history of its labor force, Growing a Global Village offers a heartening and enlightening look at an important but little known episode in America's past.

"The fascinating story of the conception and enactment of this grand and innovative project, Growing a Global Village is concisely presented in a highly recommended and absorbing account."
—Midwest Book Review

"Seabrook Farms represents a most unique experiment in American community life and business. A living precursor to 'globalism' and 'diversity'..."
—James E. McGreevey, Governor of New Jersey

"[Growing a Global Village] captures a very significant moment in American history, when the ideals of harmony and equality among peoples from all over the world, living and working together, were truly realized."
—John Dougherty, Social Studies Coordinator
New Jersey Department of Education

"This book makes an important contribution to the understanding of the post World War II 'resettlement' period in the history of Japanese Americans, a period that has not yet been sufficiently documented. The stories from Seabrook Farms provides a 'first person voice' to the challenges which the nisei faced as they left the camps and began to rebuild their lives. The work of Seabrook pioneers such as John Fuyuume and Ellen Nakamura are an important part of the legacy which the nisei have contributed to the building of America." —Irene Hirano, President & CEO
Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles, CA

"[Growing a Global Village] is the story of schools that productively responded to the realities of multi-languaged classrooms and children who brought their cultures as they constructed a freshened American witness. This book merits attention of all Americans."
—O. L. Davis, Jr., Catherine Mae Parker Centennial Professor
University of Texas

Charles H. (Chick) Harrison is currently the South Jersey editor and senior writer for the new quarterly magazine General Store. He teaches writing at Rowan University.

If you are in the South Jersey area and interested in having Mr. Harrison give a reading please contact

May 5, 2003 • 176 pp • photographs, index
ISBN 0-8419-1428-1 (cloth) • $29.95

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