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For the 30th consecutive time, New Jersey hosts EPC meeting

epc4586HILLSDALE, NJ — Attendees of the Eastern Produce Council's May 23 dinner meeting, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, heard informative reports on three of New Jersey's key categories: blueberries, peaches and vegetables. The meeting represented the 30th consecutive year that the department had sponsored an EPC meeting.

As usual, the meeting was held outdoors under a tent here at Demarest Farms — and thus is known as the Jersey Fresh Cookout. (This year was the eighth cookout.) By tradition, this was also the last EPC meeting before its summer break; the council's meetings will resume this fall.

Paul Hlubik of Backacres Farm and Laura DePrado of Final Touch Plantscaping LLC.

EPC President Vic Savanello of Allegiance Retail Services opened the meeting by noting that this is the 33rd year of the Jersey Fresh promotional program, calling it "still the most successful program like it in the country." He added, "And the man who started it, Art Brown, is here tonight."

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher, who had sustained a broken leg in a traffic accident back in late January, was welcomed back warmly by attendees as he addressed the crowd.

"We've been consistent with the Jersey Fresh program, and we thank all of you in this room for valuing the program." After introducing a number of dignitaries from the Garden State who were in attendance, Fisher declared, "We at the department of agriculture stand ready to serve your needs. We're there to promote our products and our farmers."

Tom Beaver, who has been named director of marketing in mid-November 2016 and was thus attending his first New Jersey Cookout, talked about the state's availability report, which he said has "great information" for the industry. "We gave it a facelift to make it more user-friendly," he said.

Trade publication ads are underway, he added, and the department continues its social media and online presence, under the direction of the department's Christine Fries.

Francisco Allende of Sunny Valley International gave the blueberry report. "The crop looks healthy," he stated. "It's not a bumper crop, but it's a very good crop." He estimated that Jersey blues would start around June 10-12, with "very good volume" beginning about June 19.

Dr. Lewis DeEugenio of Summit City Farms & Winery gave the peach report. "We have a wonderful crop. Mother Nature did some natural thinning," he said. As to timing, "I think we're about a week early. We're looking to have peaches" from about July 1 to mid-September, he said. "I think it's the prettiest crop I've seen in years."

John Banscher of Banscher's Farm and president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey gave the vegetable report. "Early vegetables were good," he said. "Corn and tomatoes should be ready by the Fourth of July, and maybe a little sooner."

Also at the meeting, Theresa Nolan of The Nolan Network announced that Jacqueline Tannucilli, daughter of EPC member Tony Tannucilli of Dole Fresh Fruit, is this year's scholarship recipient. She is currently a student at Old Bridge High School and will be attending Towson University this fall.