NJDA champions Jersey Fresh

njdachampions While the New England Produce Council show won’t be occurring in 2020 due to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture knows that it will be back again stronger than ever, and looks forward to next year.

“The New England Produce Council has played a significant role in expanding the Jersey Fresh footprint as a trusted brand for fruits and vegetables,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher. “While 2020 has presented challenges, our growers continue to uphold the Garden State’s outstanding reputation.”

New Jersey is one of the top 10 producers of blueberries, cranberries, peaches, tomatoes, Bell peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, apples, spinach, squash and asparagus. The NEPC show also helps to get the word out about the state’s growers and products, contributing greatly to its continued success.

“New England is the second largest market for Jersey Fresh products and we look forward to the NEPC show returning in 2021,” said Joe Atchison, NJDA’s marketing and development division director. “The connections we have made while attending this expo have provided a direct avenue for Jersey Fresh commodities to reach the region.”

The Garden State produced 15.8 million pounds of eggplant last year on 80 acres, accounting for the highest total in any state. New Jersey was second in spinach production, recording 1,900 acres and 23 million pounds, with a value of $6.7 million.

In terms of money, tomatoes yielded the most for the state, with $71.5 million in production value coming from 3,400 acres responsible for 89.3 million pounds, good for third-best in the U.S.

“In terms of the fall crops, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture, New Jersey is a top 10 producer of apples in the U.S.,” Atchison said. “We also feature broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, hard squashes and pumpkins as well, and peach season in New Jersey lasts through mid-September.”

The state is also a large producer of cranberries with the large majority going to OceanSpray for juices and other products.

“In general, the crops for 2020 have looked very good up to this point,” Atchison said. “The Jersey Fresh staples of tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, blueberries, peppers and squash, among others, have been in good supply. Peaches were just a little down in supply this year due to weather issues in some parts of the state in the early spring, but there appears to have been enough supply to satisfy the need in New Jersey.”

Despite the pandemic and the problems associated with it, those in the state’s Ag industry have been resilient.

“New Jersey growers have proven that they have the ability to adapt to any number of situations and COVID-19 was no different,” Atchison said. “When the pandemic began there was still time before New Jersey’s crop harvests began which allowed growers to adjust to their markets. Many on-farm and community farmers markets are reporting that they have had a good year up to this point, possibly fueled by the public’s desire to make quicker shopping trips in less crowded spaces. We hope that has made Jersey Fresh part of the ‘new normal’ for more consumers in our state.”

Photo: Visalli’s Market Manager Mike Visalli Jr.,  Joe Atchison and Secretary Fisher on the Visalli farm in Gloucester County, NJ.

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