IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
May 17, 2018
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330
P: (609) 633-2954
C: (609) 433-1785
(LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today highlighted the Jersey Fresh season by harvesting asparagus at Sheppard Farms and viewing the electronic packing of asparagus at Eastern Fresh Growers to emphasize that locally grown produce and other farm products are now appearing in farmers markets and stores around the state.
“We think this will be a great season for our farmers and all of those who produce Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables,” Secretary Fisher said. “Now is a peak time for asparagus and we want people to know that when they see the Jersey Fresh label in supermarkets and farm markets throughout the state, they can be sure that what they are buying is locally grown. Buy local because you know you are getting the best and supporting the local economy.”
New Jersey ranks in the top 10 in the U.S. in the production of several crops, including being ranked fourth in asparagus. The 2017 New Jersey asparagus crop was valued at $12.5 million and the production value of vegetables sold in the Garden State in 2017 was almost $156 million, an increase of more than $6 million from 2016.
Other crops with an early harvest that are available daily include kale, lettuce, radishes and spinach. Expected to be widely available in the next two weeks are beets and strawberries.
“We are excited for this year and expect to have another great season,” said Eastern Fresh operator Tom Sheppard. “Our family has a great tradition in agriculture here in Cumberland County and with the advancements we have made in recent years and the commitment of younger members of our family to our operation, we hope to continue the business here for generations to come.”
The Sheppard family has been growing fruits and vegetables in New Jersey since 1683. The family has been farming in its current location in Cedarville since 1888. Today, Sheppard Farms under the leadership of Tom and Erwin Sheppard is 1,500 acres and during the peak of the season employs about 160 workers. Those workers include Tom’s son Alex, Erwin’s son Brandon as well as Fran Hancock, the husband of the Sheppards’ niece. They each play important roles in the business.
Sheppard Farms plants approximately 550 acres of cucumbers, 370 acres of asparagus, 150 acres of green peppers and 100 acres of lettuce each year.
Eastern Fresh Growers was incorporated in 1984 and has a 28,125-square-foot packing facility. The building has an 8,375-square foot mezzanine, a 2,000-square-foot employee break room, 2,000 square feet of office space and a 1,650-square-foot utility area. The packing area is temperature controlled and the product and employee flow is optimized for food safety.
To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.