The New Jersey cranberry industry is small, but it is mighty. Welcome to the next installment of our occasional series about some of our fellow New Jersey cranberry growers! This week, we spoke with our immediate neighbors to the south: Peggy Sooy and her sons Steven and Johnny.
1. How long has your family been in the business?
Stevie: Grandpop used to live at Stormy Hill behind where the Pine Island office is now. Otis gave him the lower track here and they moved over in ’45 or ’46. We’ve been working here ever since.
2. What’s your favorite aspect of cranberry farming?
Stevie: I just love the whole growing season. Taking the water off, putting the risers in, bringing in the bees…
Peggy: You’re a farmer and you enjoy what you’re doing!
Stevie: Exactly. Because at the end you’re looking out there at a sea of red, then that last truck heads for the receiving station and blows the horn. I just enjoy the whole thing from beginning to end.
Peggy: You dedicate so much of your life to this and you know, it’s part of you. It’s part of your thinking process. The paperwork will kill you, though.
3. What has been your biggest challenge?
Stevie: Getting the bugs under control!
Stevie: Yeah, that too. Cranberry growers are always calling each other: “What temperature are you getting? This guy’s at 32 already, that guy got hail, what are you looking at?” Everything else we can control, but you can’t control the weather or the insects!
Peggy: There are a lot of ifs. Weather. Surviving the season and meeting expenses. When we had blueberries the issue was getting the help but we have great neighbors!
4. What makes your operation unique?
Peggy: It’s not only a farm, it’s a friendship, it’s family, all of us. Anything we need. What’s so unique with us, unlike a lot of growers, we’re really small. So it’s great to take care of.
Stevie: It’s a big garden in a way. We can look out the window and say “no geese, no swans, we’re okay today!”
Peggy: We have the same strength as so many other growers: we’re family owned and you can depend on your family…which is the three of us at this point!
5. What’s a legendary story in your family?
Peggy: I think just how we started out and have managed to keep going, really. Art’s mother and father worked hard and managed to keep the place going. It’s a reward, being able to keep the farm up all these years. That’s our reward.
*Photos courtesy of Peggy, Steven, and Johnny Sooy.
Previously: The Lee Family