Emerald Ash Borer – It has been confirmed that the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees, has been found in Somerset County. A landscaper investigating unhealthy trees in a retail area in Bridgewater last week alerted the Department. Inspectors took samples and insect larvae were sent to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory where the specimens were confirmed. For the past four years the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection (NJDA and DEP) have participated in an Emerald ash borer survey but none of the beetles were found in the more than 300 traps set up around the state. Emerald ash borer had already been detected in Pennsylvania and New York counties bordering New Jersey. EAB is now present in 23 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The state will now survey trees in the area surrounding the initial find to determine the extent of the EAB infestation. It is expected that a federal quarantine will be expanded to include New Jersey.
Census of Agriculture -- The detailed 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture released on May 2 shows consumers are demanding local agricultural products and are looking for on-farm experiences. The census, last conducted in 2007, says farmer direct sales to consumers through roadside stands, farmers markets, pick your own and Community Supported Agriculture increased from $30.1 million in 2007 to $33.3 million in 2012. New Jersey ranks 12th in the nation in direct sales and 20 percent of New Jersey farms report some type of direct sales activity. Twelve NJ counties are in the top 8 percent in the nation in direct sales and Salem County is in the top .5 percent, ranking 15th in the nation out of 3,077 U.S. counties, with $6.5 million in direct sales to consumers. The number of farms in New Jersey offering agritourism activities increased from 322 in 2007 to 347 in 2012. New Jersey ranks ninth in the nation in agritourism sales and nine counties in the state rank in the top 10 percent in the nation in agritourism sales. Burlington County is in the top two percent, ranking 51st in the nation. The census showed that New Jersey farmers deliver a high value product. The state ranks fourth in the nation in the value of market products sold per acre at $1,408, which is more than three times the national average.
Made with Jersey Fresh Honey -- Secretary Fisher is urging food processors to consider incorporating New Jersey produce, honey and milk into their products and taking advantage of the Made with Jersey Fresh and Made with Jersey Fresh Milk program. On May 9, Fisher visited chocolatier Diane Pinder whose Donna & Company in Kenilworth utilizes the Made with Jersey Fresh branding in the production of CocoaBee caramels and soy-, gluten-, dairy-, processed sugar- and artificial preservative-free chocolates, using honey from Tassot Apiaries in Milford. The Made with Jersey Fresh logo is available to companies who make food items using New Jersey's agricultural products. The logo alerts consumers that the products are made using local ingredients. New Jersey's produce season runs from May to November. Incorporating Jersey Fresh products into processed foods extends the season to year-round. It also expands distribution well beyond the region. For a food processor to utilize the Made with “Jersey Fresh” logo, they must first become licensed to use the Jersey Fresh logo. Then, they must use products that are inspected through the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program. Those products must adhere to specific criteria for grading and quality.
Eastern Produce Council -- The Department hosted the Eastern Produce Council on May 20 at Demarest Farms, Hillsdale, which was attended by more than 200 retailers, wholesalers and other members of the region’s produce industry. The Department used the event to officially kick off the Jersey Fresh growing season. Members of the New Jersey produce industry reported on this season’s crop conditions, volume and forecast. Secretary Fisher briefed the audience of this year’s edition of the Jersey Fresh campaign.
NJDA’s Jets Play 60 Eat Right, Move More Program – The Department held the last two school visits of the school year at Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville on April 30 with linebacker Nick Bellore and on May 21 at Roosevelt School #7 in Garfield with Alex Green. The schools were among the four finalist winning schools, earning them $2,000 grants each.
New Jersey Envirothon -- For the fifth year in a row, a team of high school students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Sciences (MATES) in Manahawkin was the winner of the New Jersey Envirothon, held Saturday, May 3 at the New Jersey School of Conservation of Montclair State University in Branchville. The team consisted of Jillian Hubbard of Manchester, Gillian Schriever of Little Egg Harbor, Megan Tumpey of Brick, Lauren Zodl of Little Egg Harbor, and Michael Signorelli of Toms River. All except Zodl were on last year’s winning Envirothon team. The Ocean County students competed against 33 other teams on knowledge of natural resources-related topics, including soils, forestry, aquatics, wildlife ecology and a current environmental issue. This year’s theme was “Sustainable Local Agriculture/Locally Grown.” Each of the MATES team members received $1,500 scholarships from the New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts, $2,000 scholarships from Richard Stockton State College and $1,000 scholarships from Applied and Health Sciences at Kean University.
FFA Convention – The State FFA Officers conducted the 85th State FFA Convention at Monmouth University in West Long Branch May 21-23, 2014. Convention attendance continues to increase each year. More than 500 students, advisors and guests attended this year. Both Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Secretary Fisher addressed the members during the three-day gathering.
Conservation Awards Ceremony – First, second and third-place winners in the 2014 Conservation Poster Contest were honored during a ceremony in Trenton on May 22. The 12 students received monetary awards and certificates. The first-place New Jersey Envirothon team, MATES, also attended and was awarded with various plaques and certificates.
Lab Career Day – About 30 students from several New Jersey colleges and one high school attended a career day on May 2 at the Public Health, Environmental and Agricultural Laboratories building in West Trenton. They visited the Department’s Animal and Plant labs and saw preparations for a dolphin necropsy.
Sire Stakes Board of Trustees -- Michael Gulotta, Dr. Richard S. Meirs and Mark Mullen have been appointed to the New Jersey Sire Stakes Board of Trustees. Michael Gulotta is the chief executive officer of Deo Volente Farms, LLC of Flemington. Dr. Meirs has served as the general manager of Walnridge Farm, Inc. with operations in Cream Ridge and Elizabethtown, PA. He is also a principal in the Walnridge Equine Clinic veterinary practice and has served as a past president of the New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners. Mark Mullen is the President and co-owner of Fair Winds Farm, Inc. of Cream Ridge. Re-appointed to the board of Trustees was Thomas A. D’Altrui of Hillsborough. D’Altrui has served on the Sire Stakes Board of Trustees since 2001.
Chinese Delegation Visit – On May 22, the Department hosted a delegation from Hainan Province, China at PHEAL (Public Health Environmental and Agricultural Laboratory). The delegation consisted of senior members of their Department of Agriculture as well as professors, insurance professionals and graduate students totaling 15 individuals. They were interested in learning from our response to Hurricane Sandy. Jeff Beach as ESF 11 Lead gave an overall view of emergency management with Dr. Tamassia and Joe Zoltowski from Plant Industry speaking about their specific areas of expertise.