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Jersey Fresh featured at EPC dinner meeting

By
John Groh, publisher

HILLSDALE, NJ — The New Jersey Department of Agriculture hosted the May 24 meeting of the Eastern Produce Council, here, at Demarest Farms, and as is in previous years, Jersey Fresh held a starring role.

Each year, the NJDA uses the event to feature its popular Jersey Fresh marketing program, now in its 38th year, making it the oldest state-sponsored program of its kind.

“Jersey Fresh is local, and local is Jersey Fresh,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher, who was quick to point out that the entire dinner menu — from the asparagus to the spinach to the strawberries, and even the pork and chicken — was sourced from state producers.

Fisher thanked those in attendance for their ongoing support of the Jersey Fresh program, especially during the last couple of years.

“It’s been an extraordinarily challenging time, with the pandemic and now with inflation and the high cost of production,” he said. “We do everything we can to promote our farmers’ wonderful products, and we applaud you — the people on the front lines — for all you do in making sure we had access to nutritious fruits and vegetables during the pandemic.”

Speaking further on the high cost of production, Fisher said one of the main advantages of carrying Jersey Fresh product is “that it won’t cost you $13,000 to get your product here,” referring to the local advantage in the face of soaring freight rates.

“There are amazing products being produced in the state of New Jersey, and it is important that you support your local farmers, because they rely on your support,” said Fisher.

John Banscher, president of the New Jersey Vegetable Growers Association, was next up on the dais, and spoke briefly about the outlook for the state’s vegetable crops, saying that quality and supply were both excellent. But he, too, referred to the high cost of doing business this year.

“The cost of fertilizer is up 400 percent this year, and everything else is also more expensive, including row covers, forklift rentals and packaging supplies,” said Banscher. “But we have not lost our dedication to producing the best crops possible, and we thank you for your support.”

Bonnie Lundblad of Sunny Valley International gave brief updates on the outlook for the state’s blueberry and peach crops.

For blueberries, she said the crop is looking similar to last year, with an approximate start date of June 12-15.

“You can start your ads June 19, because we will have product for the Fourth of July,” she said. “And this year, freight rates are a big advantage, especially with the cost of everything being higher.”

As for peaches, Lundblad said, “It was a very challenging spring, but we do have a good crop, especially in the southern part of the state.”

She said the state’s peach deal will kick off around July 15 and run into mid-September.

“There will be good ad opportunities through Labor Day, and as is the case with blueberries, we will have a great freight advantage in addition to top-quality product.”

Joe Atchison, director of marketing for the NJDA, closed the presentation by discussing some of the many ways the department is promoting Jersey Fresh products.

He said the NJDA plans to employ billboards again this year in high-density areas, and will also promote Jersey Fresh in radio spots. “And we will have a heavy social media campaign, in addition to our promotions with industry trade publications,” he said.

Atchison also said the NJDA would continue promoting the brand via banners that are pulled by airplanes along the state beaches, mentioning that it has proven to be an effective method to reach a captive audience.

“We also did demo days on some of the boardwalks last year, and they were so popular that we were asked to do them again this year,” said Atchison.

Scholarship award winner
At the May 24 meeting, the winner of the ninth annual James and Theresa Nolan/Eastern Produce Council Scholarship was announced. The 2022 recipient of the $5,000 scholarship was Molly Bender, daughter of EPC member Derrick Bender of Fowler Packing. The award is based on a 500-word essay applicants submit regarding an ethical dilemma they have faced in their life and how they handled it.

Next on the agenda for EPC is its 47th annual golf outing, to be held June 14 at the Fox Hollow Golf Club in Branchburg, NJ.

Photo: New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher looks on as Joseph Atchison, director of marketing for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, spoke about the multi-faceted plan to promote Jersey Fresh products this summer.

John Groh

John Groh

About John Groh  |  email

John Groh graduated from the University of San Diego in 1989 with a bachelors of arts degree in English. Following a brief stint as a sportswriter covering the New York Giants football team, he joined The Produce News in 1996 as an assistant editor and worked his way up the ranks, becoming publisher in 2006. He and his wife, Mary Anne, live in northern New Jersey in the suburbs of New York City.

 

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