|(TRENTON) – The successful teaming of a New Jersey eggplant processor
with a New Jersey eggplant farmer took an unexpected
route through Chicago.
Last May, at the annual FMI Show in Chicago, New Jersey businessman Tom Hoversen
approached Al Murray, Director of the Division of Markets for the New Jersey
Department of Agriculture, with one simple question.
Where, Hoversen wanted to know, could he locate a New Jersey farmer growing eggplant
to supply Hoversen’s COMARCO Products Inc. of Camden with some of the 6.5
million pounds of eggplant it processes in a year.
“I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” said Murray,
who headed up a contingent of New Jersey agricultural officials and businesspeople
in the state’s FMI pavilion. “I know where you can get all the eggplant
you need, and it’s real close to where you’re located.”
Murray put the word out and Hoversen was quickly connected with South Jersey
growers like Kevin Flaim of Flaim Farms in Vineland, a large producer of eggplant
and other vegetables in South Jersey. A process that already had made the most
of connections to other area businesses became complete with the introduction
of Flaim’s eggplant and produce from other area farms.
“This just shows how you can make these connections,” Murray said. “Here
were two guys that were less than 50 miles apart, and they connected by us being
in Chicago at FMI.”
Now, from the farm to the table, the next prepared eggplant dish many people
eat could have been grown, processed and packaged all in South Jersey.
Once COMARCO strips, batters and fries the eggplant, it is sent on to D’Orazio
Foods, another South Jersey company that specializes in pasta and Italian food
processing serving the retail, food service and ingredient trades. There, it
becomes prepared dishes of eggplant parmigiana.
Besides their eggplant business, COMARCO also processes other Jersey Fresh vegetables
like zucchini, yellow squash and green and red peppers, grilling and roasting
that produce to sell to other processors as an ingredient or to the food service
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus recently visited the COMARCO
operation with Murray and Flaim to get the inside story of how these elements
came together to concoct a truly “Jersey Fresh” product.
Left to Right: Michael J. Novosel of D'Orazio Foods, Al Murray, Secretary Kuperus,
Kevin Flaim, Tom Dauria of Stokes Seeds, and Tom Hoversen.
“This really is a success story of businesspeople making the most of their
local connections,” Secretary Kuperus said. “Especially with today’s
rising fuel prices, it helps that these companies, all working together, can
be within such close proximity to each other. The savings on transportation and
shipping costs help to make them more viable as part of the food and agriculture