Alerting Consumers on Bogus Jersey Fresh Produce -- The Department and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs kicked off a joint effort on June 17 to make consumers aware of “Jersey” produce that does not actually come from the state, which hurts state farmers. Recently, “Yellow NJ Corn” was offered in a North Jersey grocery store circular four to six weeks before the first New Jersey-grown corn would be available, The Department sent advisory letters to all licensees authorized to sell New Jersey agricultural products about the misbranding of products. The Department has inspectors who routinely visit stores, markets and other vendors. If they notice produce advertised as being from New Jersey when they know it clearly cannot be, they will report it to the Division of Consumer Affairs for action. The Division has the authority to enforce penalties up to $10,000 for an initial violation and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations.
Somerset Medical Center Commits to Using Jersey Fresh – Somerset Medical Center in Somerville is providing regular access to Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables to patients, employees and visitors, becoming the first hospital in New Jersey, and possibly the nation, to team up with a state agriculture department’s farm products branding program. In a comprehensive program that addresses all facets of the hospital’s food-service operations, Somerset Medical Center has expanded its incorporation of Jersey Fresh, as well as Jersey Seafood and “Made with Jersey Fresh” items into patient meals, cafeteria and coffee shop offerings, and catered meals for meetings held on its grounds. In addition, on June 28th the hospital will begin holding a weekly community farmers market on its grounds and Executive Chef Peter Pascale will highlight Jersey Fresh items in monthly healthy cooking demonstrations for patients of the Steeplechase Cancer Center. The demonstrations are often shown on local cable television, as well as on the hospital’s website.
Jersey Fresh Promotion – Secretary Fisher, Assistant Secretary Murray and Marketing and Development staff met with produce-buying executives from Acme, A & P, Foodtown, Kings and Shop-Rite supermarkets in June to encourage the chains to place an emphasis on purchasing Jersey Fresh produce during this growing season. The Department hosted the June Eastern Produce Council Dinner at Demarest Farm in Hillsdale, with a record 240 attending members representing the regional retail, sales (brokers & buyers) and transportation/service companies of the produce industry. The event is the Department’s opportunity to promote New Jersey agricultural products. The dinner was co-sponsored by the Vegetable Growers Association of NJ, NJ Blueberry Growers Association, and Sunny Valley International, which represented the NJ peach industry. Each of these groups had the opportunity to give brief crop updates to the attendees.
Community Farmers Markets -- Secretary Fisher and Assistant Secretary Murray visited the Maplewood Farmers Market on June 14 to call attention to the fact that community farmers markets are opening all over the state right now, bringing Jersey Fresh produce to people who might not have access to farm fresh products. This year, there are 140 markets listed on the Jersey Fresh website, with 11 new markets opening this year.
2010-11 School Food Service Equipment Grants -- New Jersey has awarded $463,000 to 60 schools in 43 districts for the purchase, renovation or replacement of kitchen equipment used to prepare school meals. Grants were awarded to schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and have 50 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced priced meals.
Online Organic Registration System – The Department has launched a new online system designed to streamline the registration process for anyone selling or distributing certified organic products in the state. The New Jersey Forms and Registration Management System, known as NJFARMS, can be accessed at www.njfarms.nj.gov. The system allows people to create, access and/or renew their Organic Registration. They also are able to add, update, and/or delete locations, print current registrations and check their registration status. State regulations require those selling or distributing or attempting to sell or distribute certified organic products in New Jersey and all United States Department of Agriculture accredited certifying agents providing organic certification services in the state to register with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. In the future, more functions will be added to NJFARMS to include other department regulatory programs.
Agricultural Education Advanced Curriculum – Eight New Jersey School districts will implement the national Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) program next year as a method to increase the science, technology, engineering and math concepts taught in agriculture courses. This program will provide intense training for teachers, help increase science based class/lab equipment in ag classrooms, assess students’ learning and successfully connect more high school graduates to post secondary institutions by providing dual credits for high school and college courses. Schools using this cutting edge program next year include Buena Regional High School, Phillipsburg High School, Hackettstown High School, Northern Burlington Regional High School, South Hunterdon High School, Allentown High School, Ocean County Vocational School and Essex County Vocational School. CASE grants were provided for equipment, materials and supplies in FY10 and for (teacher) professional development in FY11. Attracting more students to agricultural education at the secondary levels will increase numbers at the graduate and post graduates levels in agriculture, helping to fill the growing gap between industry need and prepared agriculture graduates.
Month of the Horse – Secretary Fisher kicked off June-The Month of the Horse at Atlantic Riding Center for Health in Egg Harbor Township on June 1. He was joined by Dr. Karyn Malinowski of Rutgers Equine Science Center, Ann Dorsett and Assemblyman John Amodeo to announce the many equine events taking place during the month. ARCH is a therapeutic Riding Center that services more than 400 people annually. The Department also participated in a Community Day at the Gloucester County Dream Park.
Equine Scholarship – The Department will again take applications for the New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award, a $500 scholarship given to New Jersey residents who are entering their senior year in high school this fall and are planning a career in agriculture or science. The award is sponsored by Amy Butewicz, a former New Jersey Equestrian of the Year, who wanted to give back to the community. Contestants are required to be a current, active member of an organization either on the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board and/or represented at the Youth Reception portion of the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention. Applicants must submit a resume and an essay answering “How has your involvement within your respective nominating organization helped to shape your future career choice?” Resumes and essays may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.