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Eastern Produce Council enjoys the annual Jersey Fresh cookout

epc6419HILLSDALE, NJ — Under blue skies and near-perfect temperatures, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture hosted the Eastern Produce Council's dinner meeting Tuesday evening, May 21, the 32nd consecutive time that New Jersey has 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 10th cookout.) By tradition, this was also the last EPC meeting before its summer break; the council's meetings will resume this fall.

Al Murray of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, Eric Mitchnick of E. Armata Inc., Jim Allen of New York Apple Sales and Ben Brierley of the British Consulate, NYC.

EPC President Marianne Santo of Wakefern Food Corp. welcomed the big crowd to the event, noting that this meeting is always "one of our most popular events," before introducing New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.

Fisher acknowledged some of the dignitaries at the event, as well as the NJDA staff. Addressing the EPC members and their "strong support of the Jersey Fresh program," he stated, "You are our partners. Our farmers can grow [fresh produce], but you're the ones who can move it."

Referring to consumers' ongoing desire for locally grown product, Secretary Fisher emphasized that produce grown in southern New Jersey can be at retail outlets in metropolitan New York-New Jersey and surrounding areas within hours.

Lewis DeEugenio, president of the Jersey Fruit Cooperative, the gave the peach report, saying that with "no frost or freeze" so far this spring, "we're looking for a full crop of fruit in the state." He estimated that peaches would start around June 25-26, and was also expecting "some wonderful nectarines."

Bonnie Lundblad of Sunny Valley International gave the blueberry report, saying, "Weather was perfect, and everything looks great." She estimated that blueberries would start around June 11-15, with good volume beginning around June 15-17. So there should be excellent volume for retail Fourth of July promotions, she said.

John Banscher, president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey, gave the vegetable report. He noted that the state had experienced a wet early spring, "but now we're back on track." He estimated that sweet corn, one of the Garden's State's signature items, should be ready by around June 20. "You can't get [produce] any fresh than from New Jersey," he told those in attendance, "but we need your help to stay strong."

Tom Beaver, director of marketing at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, said that the department's outdoor advertising has been very effective, and that the state would also be utilizing radio and streaming radio this season to reach consumers.

"We think there will be a lot of great crops to promote," he said, adding, "We continue to be a leader in food safety."

Concluding the meeting, Theresa Nolan of The Nolan Network announced two $5,000 scholarships, sponsored by Nolan and the EPC. One went to Jillian Young, daughter of Jeff Young of A&J Produce Corp.; and one went to Andrew Antoch, son of Mark Antoch of FreshPro Food Distributors.