Farm History

At Lee Turkey Farm, we have a heritage to be proud of.  Sitting on 54 acres nestled in suburbia, our farm has been worked by seven generations of the same family. 

The current owners of Lee Turkey Farm are Ronny and Janet Lee. The farm was first purchased by Ronny’s great-great-great-grandfather, Clement Updike, in 1868.  The original farmhouse, where the owners still reside, was constructed by Aaron Forman in 1802.  The property was passed through several hands until Clement bought the property, and it has been passed down through the generations. 

Throughout the years, each generation built upon the contributions of the past.  From the 1860s to the 1900s, it was a basic subsistence farm of the time with cows, horses, chickens, and pigs.  Then they started focusing on orchards.  Half the farm became an apple orchard, and the other was various fruits and berries.  Apples were sold in Trenton markets and cider mills.  Ronny’s great-grandfather, Charles Lee, and his son, Levi, did well until the Great Depression.  Things were difficult for everyone during that period, but they pulled through thanks to Levi’s hard work and persistence.

Clement Updike
Ronny and Dylan

In 1938, Levi’s son, Richard, decided he wanted to join the 4H club. One of the last spots open was in the turkey club, so he joined that group and soon received his first set of turkeys. After that first year, he began raising a couple hundred turkeys annually, and sold them locally to neighbors for Christmas. He did this all throughout high school.

​During World War 2, Richard served in the U.S. Army. He could not wait to return home to his beloved farm. When he finally did make it home from the war, the Depression had ended, but his father owed the bank a considerable sum of money.  Levi was contemplating selling the farm and becoming a bus driver.  Richard did not want to lose the farm. He came up with the idea to begin raising turkeys by the thousands. Levi agreed, and they were out of debt in 2 years!  Turkeys really turned the farm around, which is why the name was changed from Lee Acres to Lee Turkey Farm, in honor of the birds. 

Richard Lee 1938 receiving his 4-H Club turkeys
1941 holiday turkeys
Ronny and his sister, Donna

At peak, our farm-raised 7000 turkeys, most of which we sold live to various places, including a Kosher plant in Lakewood.  When the Federal government became more strict in their regulations for processing, some of the clients could no longer stay in business, so we began processing ourselves, and built retail routes to supply turkeys to local “Mom and Pop” stores and butcher shops.

In the 1960s, small stores and butcher shops began to be replaced by supermarkets that had their own meat suppliers, so we cut back on the number of turkeys raised and did ALL the processing ourselves, selling directly to the customers. 

Ronny and Levi 1985

During this same time, we were also selling apples and other produce through the local auction market, but it became very corrupt. Bidders would get together before the auction and agree to bid on a certain price and then split the load afterwards.  Richard read about a farmer in Michigan who was doing pick your own cherries, so in 1964 Richard and Ruth decided to try it with apples and strawberries.  Thus Lee Turkey Farm became the first Pick Your Own farm in New Jersey.  It was so successful that we expanded it to include peaches, sweet corn, and all the other produce we grew on the farm at the time.

When Ronny was in high school, his father came up with the idea to give him some land of his own to plant his own crops to sell.  Ronny started with pumpkins and peas, and that quickly expanded to include peppers, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, melons, blackberries, and more.  Ronny went into partnership with his parents in 1984.

Richard and his wife, Ruth, began giving tours to local school children in the 1960s.  As they became more popular, neighbors were hired as guides.  When Ronny graduated high school, he began filling in when a guide didn’t show up, and it became quickly obvious that tour groups would much rather have the actual farmer as their guide, especially when that farmer was as entertaining as Ronny.  Eventually, he became the only guide. 

In 1999, our annual corn maze was first added to the farm. There was a drought that summer, and Ronny was looking for a way to still profit off of his cornfield.  There is a new theme every year, and it is fun for the whole family.

Ronny’s son, Dylan, works side-by-side with Ronny farming the property, and Janet runs the farm market. Their daughter, Charli, helps in the market as well as with various things like social media projects, designing the yearly corn maze theme, processing turkeys, etc.  Ronny’s mother, Ruth Lee, still resides in the small house that was built at the front of the property in 1923 by Ronny’s grandparents.

Lee Turkey Farm no longer sells to any markets;  we only sell directly to our customers.  We hold our farm to a very high standard and strive to produce the highest quality products possible, in addition to meticulously maintaining our beautiful property. 

Fun fact:  the brown farmhouse on our property was one of the first houses in East Windsor to have running water, electric lights, and a telephone!

We love our farm and hope you will too!

Richard, Ruth, Dylan, Charli, Ben (in lap), Tim, Matthew, Sadie, Ronny, Janet, Tyler