Updated: Jun 19, 2019
May 6, 1950 was a beautiful spring day. The sun rose at 5:53 am; the sky was clear; and the temperature was 65 degrees. It was a perfect day to welcome 8,000 visitors to a small village with a population of less than 200 people.
A somewhat time-worn program from the event
It was Soil Conservation and Machinery Field Day in Blawenburg, a big event sponsored for the regional farming community by the J. Percy Van Zandt Co. and the Mid-Jersey Soil Conservation District. Its purpose was to provide new information about farm equipment and farming techniques to farmers and others interested in agriculture. This was a time when many of today’s suburban communities in our region were predominately made up of farms.
World War II was still a fresh memory, and the country was busy getting back to work. It was a time of growth and industry. It was also a time of population growth, and farmers were beginning to feel the pressure to develop land for housing for the “baby-boomers” that were emerging.
In this year, it was the time for Van Zandt’s to host a special event at their farm along Route 518 in the western section of the village. Called Broad View Farm, it had developed a reputation for innovative farming beginning in the 1800s when James Van Zandt expanded the farm and built a mansion just north of the village where the SAVE animal shelter now sits.
A Farm Known for Innovation
Since the early 1900s when brothers Percy and Albert Van Zandt took over the farm and added a farm equipment and home appliance business to it, people looked to the Van Zandts for many of their home and farming needs. Whether it was putting lights in the chicken coops to help their 8,000 chickens produce more eggs or using a nearby rail line to ship milk and eggs to the urban markets in Philadelphia and New York, people knew that the folks at Broad View knew how to run a farm business. The farm also had an International Harvester dealership as well as products from New Holland and New Idea brands. They sold many types of equipment such as tractors, plows, balers, rakes, combines, mowers, spreaders, and tilling equipment along with refrigerators and freezers. It was the largest dealership for miles around during a time when farming was a big business in the Garden State. People came from 100 or more miles away to see the latest equipment and farming techniques.
The event was heavily marketed by the county agricultural departments throughout the state. Newspapers carried ads and feature stories, and WOR radio also promoted it at a time when radio and newspapers were the primary source of news. “It turned out much bigger than we expected,” John Van Zandt, Percy’s son, said in a recent interview. “All that promotion was good for our business.”