Our People of the Century
Charles F. Seabrook: A Head for Business, A Heart for People
Charles F. Seabrook, often called “The Henry Ford of Agriculture,” headed Seabrook Frams, which became one of the largest producers of frozen vegetables in the world.
Seabrook’s philosophy of applying factory methods to agriculture required a great deal of labor.
He’s credited for bringing refugees from many 20th century upheavals, to work at Seabrook Farms in Upper Deerfield.
In 1911-12, Seabrook bought out his father, Arthur P. Seabrook, a prominent farmer who was the first to use overhead irrigation and a gasoline tractor.
Expanding on his fathers’ property, Seabrook built two railroads, power, ice and canning plants, six gigantic greenhouses and a storage facility in a span of eight years.
Acquiring political power, he became a state highway commissioner and built Route 77, on which he transported his vegetables to Camden.
After he went broke in 1924, Seabrook re-established himself in 1930 and found fame when his family pioneered a method of quick-freezing vegetables through direct expansion ammonia.
He began freezing vegetables for General Foods, and in 1943, Seabrook Farms began selling its own brand of vegetables.
Business boomed during World War II. To meet the demand for labor, Japanese Americans were recruited from wartime internment camps.
Seabrook Farms was based on mutual promises: Seabrook would hire men and women at the current pay rate, give them a home and provide school for their children. Workers promised to stay there for six months.
From the 1910s through the 1950s, displaced Italians, Russians, Jamaicans, Barbadians, Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Japanese Americans, Estonians, Latvians, as well as Americans who had lost their jobs during the Depression, were all among the groups of people who migrated to what became simply known as Seabrook, NJ.
To house his workers, Seabrook built villages with homes and schools. During the 1940s and ‘50s, 30 different languages were spoken there.
Despite status as a national brand, a hurricane in 1954 and conflicts within the Seabrook family resulted in the company being sold to a wholesale grocery firm in 1959.
In 1979, the last owners closed the big Seabrook plant for good and gave the property to the township in lieu of taxes.
Two years later, two of C.F. Seabrook’s grandsons revived the business. By 1994, Seabrook Bros. & Sons had purchased back all of the original site of the old Seabrook Farms plant.
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