skip to main content skip to main navigation
Photo of Bill Griffin, Abbott Lee and Secretary Kuperus - Click to enlarge
Abbott Lee
Abbott was born in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1950, to parents Marjorie and Stephen Lee, Jr., a 3rd generation native of the New Jersey Pinelands. Abbott grew up on his family’s blueberry/cranberry farm, Lee Brothers Incorporated which dates back to the 1870’s in New Jersey. He says he can’t ever remember wanting to do anything else but farm. As a young boy, he enjoyed tagging along and observing his father engaged in daily farm activities. During those early years, Abbott developed a keen interest in building things and working with metal. Abbott decided on Vocational Agriculture as an elective in high school and took on a personal project of raising blueberry plants for their farm. Young Abbott began to excel in agriculture after becoming a member of Future Farmers of America and was chosen as Star Green Hand, received the Dekalb Agriculture Achievement Award and was elected Chapter President. It was Vo Ag Shop classes that helped Abbott develop some decent metal working skills. In 1968, he designed the first multi-reel cranberry harvester used in New Jersey. 

Abbott attended Delaware Valley College. He graduated in 1969 as a member of Delta Tau Alpha/National Collegiate Honor Society with a degree in Horticulture. Abbott was not the type of college student who would waste time mingling around campus when school work was done; he’d opt to go home to start or complete another project. For him and colleagues of similar interests, recreation and work were often one in the same.

About the same time Abbott graduated from college, his mother Marjorie passed away. She was a very active participant in the farm operation until her death. Abbott became more active on the family farm along with his brother Stephen the third, who returned home from a stint in the Air Force. The brothers’ talents and education were a prefect complement to each other and the needs of the 128-acre cranberry farm. Eventually, Abbott concentrated on mechanization and cultural techniques, while Stephen the third focused on bookkeeping, farm related public policy and marketing. This relieved their father Stephen, Jr. so he could do what he enjoyed most -- hard work and running equipment.

Abbott’s father encouraged him to become involved in the Burlington County Board of Agriculture and New Jersey Farm Bureau, which according to Abbott began some of the most enjoyable aspects of his career. Abbott’s leadership involvement garnered participation in numerous agricultural organizations that include: American Farm Bureau Labor and Deciduous Fruit Advisory Committees, New Jersey Pesticide Control Council, American Institute of Cooperatives, American Cranberry Growers Association, Board of Directors Tru-Blu Co-Op, Founder & Director, Blueberry/Cranberry Research Council and New Jersey Forestry Association, New Jersey State Board of Agriculture and Chair of its Pinelands and Land Use Committees, which notably paved the way for farmers to have access to the Farmland Preservation Program. With a passion for Ag Research, Abbott has been at the helm of Lee Brothers Farm in cooperative research with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, private companies and Ocean Spray Cranberries Ag Research Division. Abbott’s scientific skills are exhibited in a blueberry guide he edited on insects and diseases and a co-authored manual on oil spill prevention. He currently serves as the Rutgers Representative on the Council for Agricultural Research, Education and Teaching and their National Executive Committee. He has served on the Board of Directors of First Pioneer Farm Credit since 2001 and is the Vice Chair of the Board and Board Executive Committee.

The Lee Family, along with their employee of 28 years, Herb Armstrong, is credited with the development and refinement of mechanical innovations designed to achieve and maintain the highest level of productivity in the cranberry industry at low unit cost. These innovations include:
  • Aquatic barge sanding for bog rejuvenation
  • Mechanical pruning machine
  • Industry’s largest and lightest floating harvester
  • Ultra light fertilizing and spraying apparatus
  • Intense underground drainage system, and,
  • Cranberry cleaning equipment

Over the past seven years, the Lees have planted 600 acres of selected forestry on their 2000 acre Cranberry/Nursery/ Forestry farm in the Pinelands. In 2007 they were honored as New Jersey Tree Farmer of the year and were one of three Northeast finalists in the national competition.

Abbott has received numerous awards acknowledging his accomplishments over the years:

  • American Cranberry Growers Association Citation for leadership and service
  • Phillip Marucci Center Citation for his efforts that enabled the Lipman Laboratory expansion to become a reality.
  • Burlington County Board of Agriculture Distinguished Service Award
  • One of four - 1985 National Outstanding Young Farmers, and,
  • 1985 New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer

Abbott is a member of the Holy Eucharist Church of Tabernacle. He’s active in the Society of St. Vincent DePaul which coordinates person-to-person support and financial assistance in emergency situations and provides groceries to nearly one hundred needy families regularly.

Abbott and wife Pam have been married for twenty-five years and have two children. Jeremiah is a Political Science & African Studies major at Rutgers University.  Rebekah, a Biology and History graduate of Rutgers University who aspires to become a trauma surgeon and is currently an Emergency Room Clinical Information Manager at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.

Being in agriculture is something that Abbott has always enjoyed and he says that he has been blessed throughout his career with many opportunities.