Contact: Lynne Richmond (609) 292-8896
(TRENTON) – New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus, along with Assemblymen Douglas Fisher and Nelson Albano, visited family farms during stops on a day-long Jersey Fresh planting tour through Atlantic, Cumberland and Gloucester Counties. The tour highlighted the deep roots of New Jersey’s family farms and the diversity of the crops they produce.
“New Jersey has a proud agricultural heritage that is still evident today in our family farms, some operated by third generation farmers,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Not only are our farmers deeply committed to their land, but they are forward thinkers, producing traditional crops as well as produce in demand by consumers such as herbs and different ethnic crops."
Kuperus, along with Assemblyman Albano, toured Martino Farms, an herb and greens farm in Vineland, and spoke with owner Robert Martino.
“Farming is an important part of the economic and social fabric of Cumberland County,” said Albano. “We need to insure that we support and nourish this industry now and into the future.”
Assemblyman Fisher joined Kuperus for his stops at Laning Brothers Farm in Cedarville and Banscher Farm in Gibbstown.
“Farms in Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties go a long way toward keeping South Jersey’s economy strong, vibrant, and healthy,” said Fisher. “It is imperative that New Jersey do everything in its power to help its farmers. Today’s tour provided us with a valuable learning lesson in what we can do to help our farmers prosper and compete against farmers in neighboring states.”
During the tour, the Secretary made five stops:
Donio Farms – a 350-acre fruit and vegetable farm in Hammonton, Atlantic County. Dennis Donio is a third generation farmer from a family of Italian immigrants. The Donios have been farming in New Jersey since 1900. Dennis and his wife Nancy grow peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, sweet peppers and other vegetables. They also operate a roadside market, Pete’s Farm Market in Elm.
Martino Farms – an 85-acre farm in Vineland, Cumberland County. Robert Martino is a third generation farmer who is farming his mother’s homestead. He grows parsley, dill, arugula, cilantro, collards, kale, cherry peppers, endive, escarole, and red leaf lettuce.
Tom Pontano Farms – a 175-acre farm that produces 25 different vegetable varieties. Tom Pontano and his son Tom Jr. have been farming their land in Vineland, Cumberland County since 1971. Tom Sr. grew up working on a farm and decided to make it his livelihood. He now grows basil, arugula, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, beets, cabbage, collards, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, radishes, romaine, spinach and swiss chard.
Laning Brothers Farms – a 1,050-acre farm, in Cedarville, Cumberland County. Bud Laning is another third generation farmer who continues to operate his farm with his family. His partners are his counsins, John and Jim Laning, nephew Albert Miletta and his daughter, Delise. They have been farming at the Cedarville location since the 1940’s. They grow Asian vegetables and lettuces.
Banscher Farms – a 110-acre farm in Gibbstown, Gloucester County. John Banscher was born and raised on the farm, which his parents started in the early 1930’s. Banscher grows tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash. He also operates a seasonal roadside stand.
New Jersey’s fruit and vegetable industry is the second largest agriculture sector with $253.2 million in revenue in 2004. The Garden State ranks third in the nation in head lettuce production with 800 acres planted and a production value of $3.5 million; third in the nation for bell peppers with 3,500 acres and a value of $23.2 million; fourth in the nation for spinach with 1,800 acres planted and a value of $3.8 million; seventh in the nation for cucumbers with 3,000 acres and a value of $15.5 million; eighth in the nation for tomatoes with 3,000 acres at a value of $25.5 million; and, eleventh in the nation for sweet corn with 7,500 acres planted and a value of $10.9 million.
The Department stepped up its promotion of the produce industry this year with a new Jersey Fresh advertising campaign in April – “Jersey Fresh – as Fresh as Fresh Gets.” The campaign is designed to breathe new life into the 22-year old Jersey Fresh marketing program as well as highlight the other state agriculture brands of Jersey Grown for horticulture and Jersey Seafood for the seafood and aquaculture industries. The campaign includes 15-second television ads, print advertisement and a more aggressive public relations effort.
“One of the ways the Department of Agriculture can assist farmers is to set their products apart in the marketplace,” said Secretary Kuperus. “These hardworking families take pride in the produce they grow – and New Jersey consumers enjoy the freshness and good taste of eating something grown by one of their neighbors. Everyone benefits."