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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
June 26, 2013
Farmers Markets Opening Tour – Secretary Fisher kicked off a farmers market opening tour on June 17 with a visit to the Robbinsville Farmers Market to highlight the many farmers markets operating statewide. New Jersey’s farmers markets offer residents the opportunity to enjoy freshly-picked, Jersey Fresh produce directly from the state’s farmers, while supporting state agriculture and their local economies at the same time. The Robbinsville Farmers Market is in its fourth season and has 15 vendors. It is open June through the end of September, Mondays 3:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is situated in the town center part of Robbinsville. Market organizer Linda D’Amico said friends and relatives urged her and her husband, Frank, President of the Mercer County Board of Agriculture, to start a market. On June 18, Secretary Fisher travelled to the Hasbrouck Heights Farmers Market, which is in its 10th year and has a variety of farmers and other vendors. The market is organized by the town’s chamber of commerce and was started by Ray Vorisek and is open Tuesdays 12 noon to 6 p.m. through the end of September.
Month of the Horse – Secretary Fisher celebrated the Month of the Horse on June 11 at Showplace Farms in Millstone, one of the country’s premier harness-racing training facilities. During his visit, Secretary Fisher took a ride with trainer Linda Toscano in a jog cart several times around the facility’s 1,000-meter track with Bettors Edge, a horse that won more than $500,000 last year. New Jersey is home to thousands of pleasure horses, show horses and race horses. In 1977, to honor the important place horses play in New Jersey’s economy and quality of life, the horse was named the official State Animal. This is the fourth year Governor Chris Christie has proclaimed June the Month of the Horse in New Jersey.
Jersey Seafood Challenge – Christopher Albrecht, Executive Chef at Eno Terra in Kingston was the winner of the 2013 Jersey Seafood Challenge on June 20 for his signature dish, Golden Tilefish and Green Vegetable Chowder. As the champion, Albrecht and his sous chef, John Crawford Koeniger, will be New Jersey’s official representatives at the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans in August. The competition was held at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s residence in Princeton. Albrecht grew up on Long Beach Island and attended the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, Albrecht went to work in Manhattan at Danny Meyer’s world renowned Gramercy Tavern. There, he worked closely with “Top Chef” Tom Colicchio before assuming the role of Executive Chef at Craftsteak Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
Jersey Clams -- As part of this year’s Jersey Seafood Challenge event, the Department of Agriculture kicked off a sensory evaluation project for New Jersey clams. Guests at the event were given samples of clams from the Great Bay, Sea Isle City and Highlands and were asked to rate the clams on: saltiness, sweetness, chewiness, earthiness and the color of the meat. The purpose of the project is to show consumers that there are differences in taste experience from clams grown in different areas of New Jersey, similar to oysters. In this way, we hope to bring a better understanding and appreciation for the quality and taste of Jersey clams. In addition to the clams, guests were able to try Delaware Bay oysters, including Cape May Salts. They were treated to a pairing lesson from Ventimiglia Winery from Wantage, NJ.
Plant Industry Surveys -- Blueberry Scorch Virus Survey began at blueberry nursery in Burlington County. Thousands of blueberry mother plants were tagged and hundreds of samples were collected and delivered to the plant laboratory for testing. The Emerald Ash Borer Survey (EAB) grid survey continued with traps deployed at 123 sites. EAB has been confirmed in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut in recent years but has not been detected in New Jersey. The Gypsy Moth Aerial Defoliation Survey began. On June 25, Secretary Fisher accompanied the surveyors, criss-crossing the state to determine the extent of any gypsy moth damage to trees.
Mosquito Suppression Efforts -- The tiny aquatic mosquito predator, Macrocyclops albidus, is being reared at peak levels. As part of an agreement between the Department and the Department of Environmental Protection, copepod production was increased this year and releases will occur at selected sites in Burlington, Morris, and Ocean counties. Copepod behavior and survival will be regularly monitored throughout the summer.
Beekeeping Courses – State Apiarist Tim Schuler taught two three-day beginning beekeeper classes through the Rutgers University Office of Continuing Education this year and an advanced class in June. Interest in these classes is still great. Since 2006, over 2,500 people have taken this class.
Healthier US School Challenge Award Ceremonies – NJDA and USDA officials presented Long Beach Island Grade School and Ethel A Jacobsen Elementary School in Surf City on June 13 with the Healthier US School Challenge Award, which recognizes schools that promote good nutrition and physical activity. Both schools attained the Bronze Level of the award, which carries a $500 prize. The schools were presented with banners and certificates for their achievements during a ceremony at Jacobsen School. The Long Beach Island Grade School in Ship Bottom has been closed since sustaining damage during Superstorm Sandy in October. Its third-through-sixth grade students have since attended Jacobsen School, which houses the district’s pre-K through second-grade students. On June 14, the officials presented the bronze level of the award to Ethel McKnight Elementary School in East Windsor, as well. The Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages all schools to take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime.
Summer Food Service Program – There will be 101 sponsors in the program this year, providing meals to children, filling the gap for the School Lunch Program over the summer. New this year will be an educational component. Working with the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-Education, children participating in the SFSP throughout New Jersey will be provided with nutrition education.
Blueberry Season Promotion – The Department promoted the start of the blueberry season with a press release on June 19. The release said that Jersey Fresh blueberries, the official state fruit, are now in season and available at local supermarkets, farmers markets, roadside stands, and pick-your-own farms. According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, 54 million pounds of blueberries were produced last year on 7,500 acres with a value of $80.8 million. New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation in blueberry production. Atlantic and Burlington Counties are the main harvesters of the state fruit, accounting for 97 percent of the blueberry acres harvested in 2012. Consumers were directed to visit the Jersey Fresh website to find pick-your-own blueberry opportunities or community farmers markets where they could purchase blueberries.
Eastern Produce Council Dinner -- The Department hosted the June 11 Eastern Produce Council dinner for the 26th year, taking the opportunity to promote Jersey Fresh and New Jersey agricultural products to more than 240 EPC attending members representing the NYC regional retail, sales (brokers & buyers), and transportation and service companies related to the produce industry. This year’s event was again held at Demarest Farm in Hillsdale, Bergen County. The Department co-sponsors this event with the Vegetable Growers Association of N.J., N.J. Blueberry Growers Assn., and Sunny Valley International which represented the NJ peach industry.