(TRENTON) – Farmers in the northeastern United
States must adapt to new and emerging markets, grow
crops more efficiently and educate the next generation
about the importance of farming in order to survive
the region’s development pressures, a report
issued as part of a regional conference on agriculture
The report, “Repositioning Northeastern Agriculture: Building on
the Region’s Past and Present to Prepare for its Future,” was
presented today on the last day of the Northeastern Association of State
Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA) annual meeting in Long Branch.
“We in the Northeast have long lamented how much of our farmland has disappeared
to residential and commercial development,” said New Jersey Agriculture
Secretary Charles M. Kuperus, the current NEASDA president and host of the meeting. “We
are now focused on making the best of the situation by preserving what farmland
is left, strengthening the vitality of our farms by boosting existing markets
and adapting to new ones, and equipping the next generation to be good stewards
of our agrarian tradition.”
NEASDA is made up of 10 states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island and Vermont. The report cited numerous ways in which farmers and
agriculture officials in those states have already adapted to the changing
face of their industry.
These examples were cited:
- New Jersey has studied ethnic population concentrations and the produce
offered at farmers markets near those centers to alert growers to unmet
demands for agricultural products specific to ethnic diets.
- Pennsylvania is pushing to establish supermarkets in underserved rural
and urban locations, which would provide more outlets from which to sell
- Vermont has become a leader in the emerging “agri-tourism” business,
luring visitors to vacations on working farms as an alternative to staying
in hotels, inns or bed-and-breakfasts.
- Rhode Island has battled back from a low of just two farmers’ markets
statewide before 1990 and used federal grants to spur interest. The state
now has 20 such markets, including four run by the Division of Agriculture
in state parks.
- New York is encouraging its school students to think more about eating
fresh produce and, in some cases, setting up School Gardens where they
harvest their own.
- Connecticut is emphasizing the state’s food processors with a
specialty foods guide, while also providing technical and marketing assistance
to small and mid-sized food-production businesses.
- Delaware has aggressively pursued the siting of a biodiesel facility
that would both help to improve air quality in the state and consume
vast quantities of soybean, the state’s number-one crop.
- Maine provides fresh, unprocessed, locally grown produce for free to
low-income senior citizens through a $100-per-share program that supplies
produce to agencies feeding lower-income seniors.
- Massachusetts established a Farm Viability Enhancement Program, including
consultants who work with farmers to draw up plans to boost producers’ bottom
lines through diversification, direct marketing and value-added initiatives.
- New Hampshire’s Coalition for Sustaining Agriculture has reached
out to groups not normally included in the farm-preservation dialogue
and is educating community planners about integrating agriculture into
The report also noted the growing importance of horticulture and aquaculture
as major sectors of the region’s agricultural landscape. In many
of the NEASDA states, horticulture accounts for the largest percentage
of locally grown products sold. That demand, ironically, has come from
the residential and commercial development of former farmland, leading
to the need for more landscaping products. Since most of the NEASDA states
border the Atlantic Ocean or its bays, both caught and raised seafood
account for another large portion of agricultural products.
“This report gives us both a clear look at where we’ve been and a
solid roadmap for how we get to where we’re going,” said Secretary
Kuperus. “The successes Northeastern states have had are not an accident.
They are the result of recognizing and then seizing opportunities for agricultural
growth. Far from being pessimistic about agriculture’s future, we should
be optimistic about the examples of innovation provided in this report.”
This report will lead to a more comprehensive NEASDA report that will
be released by the end of the year.
To read the full report, click