Spurred by Latino, African American, and Asian growth in the Vineland-Bridgeton-Millville triangle, Cumberland reached 50.1 percent minority last year, joining 348 other counties - 11 percent of the nation's 3,143 - whose populations had already passed the same marker.
New Jersey's other majority-minority county is Essex, home to thriving Brazilian and Portuguese communities.
Pennsylvania has only one: Philadelphia, where blacks, Latinos, and Asians account for about 62 percent of the population.
Delaware has none.
It may be an exception now, but Cumberland represents "the demographic future of the U.S.," said Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey, an expert on migration. "The country is headed toward majority minority.
"Places where it is happening first are the so-called micropolitan areas," such as Vineland-Millville.
Latinos, many of whom came to Cumberland County for jobs in agriculture and manufacturing, have driven the county's entry into the majority-minority ranks. While its general population (about 157,000) grew 7 percent between 2000 and 2011, the number of Latinos rose 36 percent, from about 27,000 to 43,000. Meanwhile, the proportion of whites fell almost 10 percent.
"That's a lot of change in a short period," said Robert Bernstein, a Census Bureau information specialist.
Puerto Rican-born Maria LaBoy runs Hispanics Pro Educacion, an education advocacy group in Vineland.
"Fifteen or 20 years ago, we read articles that said [majority-minority] would happen in 2020," she said. "Here it is 2012, and it has happened."
Slightly more than 10 percent of New Jerseyans live below the federal poverty line, defined as $23,050 a year for a family of four. In Cumberland County, the poverty rate is dramatically higher, about 17 percent.
Many newcomers are working for minimum wage, yet see plentiful opportunities.
"We don't starve. There are lots of jobs," said Ancelmo Cruz, 54, who was born in Mexico, spent a decade as a San Diego farmhand, and moved to Vineland with his wife and two sons in 2000.
At first, the whole family worked on a South Jersey vegetable farm. Now Ancelmo does maintenance at a Target store. His wife works on a flower farm. One son is a truck driver; the other a construction worker.
Cumberland's Asian population - less than 2 percent - is small. But it grew from about 1,400 in 2000 to 2,200 last year, a rate roughly the same as the Latino rate.
African Americans make up slightly less than 20 percent of the county population. Their number went from about 30,000 in 2000 to 34,000 last year, an increase of approximately 12 percent.
By setting up shop in Millville after being downsized at Aetna two years ago, Michelle Ellis, 40, the eldest sister at Apron Strings, turned her love of baking into a livelihood.
"In the first year, the majority of our customers were white. We never felt out of place. They came in, they were friendly," she said. "Then we got a lot of African American customers, who were proud to see women, minorities who are black, owning their own business."
While some black customers recalled racial tension in years gone by, Ellis has not experienced that. "We live by the adage, 'When you know better, you do better,' " she said. "The culture is changing."
Some of the county's blacks are from Jamaica and Africa, but most are U.S.-born. Some Latinos are from South and Central America, but most newcomers are from Mexico.
Before the 1990s, said Princeton's Massey, two-thirds of all Mexican immigrants went to California. After the United States beefed up border enforcement at the busiest crossings, migrant flows were deflected to other parts of America.
"Places that became growth centers for Mexican immigrants were food-processing and farming areas," he said.
Stricter enforcement also made crossing back and forth between the United States and Mexico "risky and costly," Massey said, "so [immigrants] without documents tended to settle" - another factor in Cumberland's minority growth.
Because the Vineland-Bridgeton-Millville hub has plentiful rental housing, minorities also make up a large share of the county's transient population, said Donna Turner, director of Affordable Homes of Millville Ecumenical, a nonprofit housing-development corporation.
Another "contributing factor," she said, is the presence of a state prison and a county jail in Bridgeton and another prison in Delmont. Families move in from other parts of New Jersey to rent near incarcerated loved ones.
Marianne Lods, who runs Glasstown Arts District, a Millville cultural attraction, said the county's new residents "have assimilated very well."
"Just read the local paper," she said. "Who is going to the prom with whom? It is very diverse. I see it with my granddaughter. When there is a big party, the League of Nations attends."
The Latino presence in South Jersey dates back at least a half-century to "the days of Campbell Soup bringing in farmworkers from Puerto Rico," said Nelson Carrasquillo, executive director of the Glassboro-based farmworkers support group known as CATA.
Migrants "used to follow the picking seasons from Florida to Maine. Now, undocumented people don't want to risk being stopped" on I-95, he said, so they settle, frequently as renters.
On his 1,500-acre farm in Cedarville, Tom Sheppard harvests asparagus, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, and peppers. Of his 260 employees, 200 are Hispanic. Sheppard speaks Spanish and hires at least one bilingual worker for every department.
"Some of the people who came to work for us as harvesters years ago became mechanics. Others are running my packing houses," he said. "Their children are going through school, picking up skills. Their daughters are nurses. Their sons are electricians and plumbers. It is the American dream."
Sheppard also said: "There are some horror stories in every group. Single men who go down into town, alcohol gets involved, and they get into trouble."
With the highest teenage birthrate in New Jersey, Cumberland has significant public health and social-services challenges. The influx of minorities is expected to add to the demand and the financial pressures.
Minority groups consume a lot of social services. "That is just a fact," said Tony Melendez, director of Casa PRAC in Vineland, a nonprofit, multiservice center for Latinos.
"We need to be able to accommodate them in their language," he said. "It's not that they don't want to learn English. It just takes time. During that time we need to be able to communicate."
Thomas Isekenegbe, president of Cumberland County College, is a member of the county planning group called the Future Is Now Steering Committee, tasked with preparing for 2020 and beyond.
An immigrant from Nigeria, Isekenegbe came to the United States in 1981. He worked in university management for two decades and joined Cumberland County College in 2002.
Recognizing the growth in Spanish-speaking minorities, he said, the college's strategic plan "does not require bilingualism, but for the last four years we have encouraged [staff] to learn basic Spanish." The college plans to add a Spanish salutation to its taped telephone greeting.
Social services, public transportation, education, workforce development, and health care are Cumberland's critical needs, he said.
His forecast for the future is simple: "If people come in with high skills, it would be great. If people come in with low skills and a lot of social needs, it will be a problem."
Resentments crop up, he said, when services are stretched "to the breaking point" and new arrivals are perceived as "looking for welfare, or using the hospital without paying."
LaBoy, the education advocate, sees two dimensions to the minority surge.
"On the positive side, there is a whole new world right in front of you. Your children do not have to leave the county to learn about other cultures and languages," she said. "Or you can look at it negatively, confronting the new people in an accusatory manner."
Whether viewed as a net plus, or a challenge for the county's limited resources, the changes in Cumberland County are entrenched.
"America," said Massey, the Princeton sociologist, "has a remarkable ability to take in immigrants and turn them into Americans. The more upset, the more xenophobic you get about it, the worse you make it. But it happens in the end anyway."
Contact staff writer Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.