Katrina Relief – Thanks to generous donations from New Jersey farmers, their suppliers, and other agricultural organizations, the Department of Agriculture coordinated and shipped one 60-foot rail car of hay and fencing supplies to the Gulf States on November 26. The staff is in the process of coordinating a second collection of hay, grain and fencing materials for the gulf area hit by the Katrina and Rita hurricanes. A working agreement was developed that was key to the implementation of this shipment as well as being a model for other states to follow. The Department is working with groups such as FARM AID, the American Horse Council and CSX Rail Company. This joint effort will be used as a model for future shipments to the gulf area.
Jersey Equine – A new website has been created for New Jersey’s equine industry at www.jerseyequine.nj.gov/. The site includes information about the New Jersey Sire Stakes Program, Jersey Bred, the horse racing industry, and horse breeding and development, provides an equine calendar of events, provides helpful equine links and has a listing of New Jersey equine facilities.
Equine Science Center – The Department is a member of the partnership establishing a best management practices horse farm at Cook College’s Ryders Lane facility. The environmentally innovative farm will be a teaching and demonstration area hosting seminars and workshops for all livestock farmers in the state and region. The initiative was kicked off with a press briefing on Tuesday, December 13, at the Equine Science Center at Rutgers.
Christmas Tree Cutting – Secretary Kuperus visited Black Oak Farm in Bethlehem, Hunterdon County, for his yearly tree cutting ceremony to kick off the Choose and Cut Christmas tree season and close the agri-tourism season. The Secretary traditionally visits the farm owned by the Grand Champion of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association annual contest, who this year was Robert Housedorf, who won for his Norway Spruce. Housedorf has won the contest three out of the last four years. Along with state Senator Leonard Lance, Secretary Kuperus cut down a Concolor (white) Fir.
Holiday Food Visits – Community FoodBank of New Jersey: With inventories of canned goods and other groceries down and a shortfall in holiday donations, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside received a much-needed boost from the Department of Agriculture when Secretary Kuperus hand-delivered a grant check for $46,021on November 22. The Department’s grant complemented grants presented by Acting Governor Codey. FoodBank officials said the shortfall occurred after assisting those in other parts of the country impacted by recent hurricanes.
Mercer Street Friends: To honor the memory of Diane Fitzpatrick, the long-time Coordinator of the Division of Food and Nutrition’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, her coworkers in the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Food and Nutrition held the second annual Diane Fitzpatrick Memorial Food Drive. On November 16, the Secretary, Division of Food and Nutrition Director Kathy Kuser and Division employees presented the proceeds of the drive –more than 30 cartons of non- perishable food items -- to Mercer Street Friends Food Cooperative in Trenton. The Secretary also presented Mercer Street Friends with a grant check for $8,733.
Jersey Fresh Standards Expansion – The Department announced on December 5 the expansion of Jersey Fresh standards for wines, peaches and tomatoes. The State Board of Agriculture adopted rules allowing wines made from Garden State grapes and other fruit to bear the Jersey Fresh seal as long as they meet high quality criteria. The rule also set standards for a premium peach, which guarantees the peach was picked within seven days of shipping, has undergone a third party audit, and has met USDA fancy grade standards. Finally, the rule requires that tomatoes labeled as vine ripened must actually have ripened on the vine. The requirements are meant to ensure that customers have a true taste experience that comes from Jersey Fresh produce.
Nursery and Landscaping Groups Addressed – On Tuesday, December 6, Secretary Kuperus addressed the Professional Landscape Alliance of New Jersey (PLANJ) at the group’s first ever “Winter Showcase” and the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association (NJNLA) at that group’s annual dinner and awards ceremony, which brought together professionals from the nursery, landscape and retail garden center sectors. At both, the Secretary spoke of the connection between the landscaping industry and ornamental horticulture/nursery/greenhouse/sod, the largest single sector of the state’s agricultural industry. Both groups are part of an effort being coordinated through Rutgers University’s Cook College to bring a greater sense of awareness and professionalism to this important industry.
Economic Development – In an effort to improve the economic return to New Jersey’s farmers in the produce, horticulture, seafood, dairy, field crop, livestock, poultry, organic, equine, wine, and the agri-tourism agricultural sectors, 86 out of 101 of the department’s 2005 Economic Development Strategies have been completed or are making progress toward completion. Logan Brown, Chairman of the Economic Development Working Group, is coordinating the 2006 strategies for consideration at the 2006 Agricultural Convention.
New Jersey Grown Community Awards – The New Jersey Grown Community Awards Program has been created to recognize exemplary examples of design and excellent use and maintenance in the promotion of Jersey Grown plants by municipalities. The program was announced at the annual state League of Municipalities meeting in November.
Jersey Seafood – New statistics show that 2004 was a banner year for seafood harvesters who brought in more than 187 million pounds of seafood with a first receiver value of over $145.7 million. That was a $25 million increase over 2003. The harvest included many high value products, such as sea scallops and hard clams.
New Jersey Equine Industry – A report entitled “Focus on New Jersey’s Horse Racing Industry,” which examines the interconnectedness between horse racing and the various other components of the equine and agriculture industries, such as breeding farms and hay production, will be released by the Department in early-2006.