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NJDA ANNOUNCES 2013 OUTSTANDING YOUNG FARMER, SEEKS APPLICATIONS FOR 2014 HONOREE
Hunterdon County Farmer to Receive Award at 2013 State Agricultural Convention
For Immediate Release: November 16, 2012
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(TRENTON) – Meredith Compton, a fruit and vegetable farmer and co-owner of Peaceful Valley Orchards in Pittstown, has been named New Jersey’s 2013 Outstanding Young Farmer by the State Board of Agriculture and will be honored at the February 2013 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City.
Compton, 38, also is in the running for one of the top four National Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) Awards.
“Meredith Compton is a dedicated steward of the land who is helping to shape the future for agriculture in New Jersey through active involvement in America’s Grow-A-Row, which provides Jersey-grown produce to those in need,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “The Outstanding Young Farmer Award helps to recognize young people, like Meredith, for the vital role they play in sustaining New Jersey agriculture.”
Compton is a first-generation farmer who chose agriculture as her career after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy and Environmental Science from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture. She worked at Rutgers Snyder Research Farm for 10 years, honing her production agriculture skills. After three years farming on her own while she worked at Rutgers, she decided to pursue farming on full-time basis.
Compton and her husband, Jeremy, operate Peaceful Valley Orchards on leased land. The 150-acre farm offers pick-your-own strawberries, apples, pumpkins and Asian Pears, as well as a Community Supported Agriculture opportunity called the Jersey Fresh Produce Club. Participating members receive a box of fruits and vegetables grown on the farm weekly from July to November.
Peaceful Valley Orchards also is the founding location of the non-profit organization, America’s Grow-A-Row, for which Compton is a board member. For the past eight years, the Comptons have donated land on their farm, as well as seeds and starter plants that are tended by volunteers, harvested and then donated to the hungry.
“We feel that it is essential to provide those in need with fresh fruits and vegetables and to educate people about the important role that agriculture plays in our community and to our well-being,” said Compton. “America's Grow-A-Row accomplishes both of those goals and we are proud to say that we have been able to be a part of the success of the program. Grow-A-Row has a lot of exciting plans for the future and we are looking forward to providing many more people in need with Jersey Fresh Produce.”
Compton is Vice President of the New Jersey Horticultural Society, a Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture board member, Vice President of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Board of Managers, and is a graduate of the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program.
New Jersey annually recognizes the outstanding achievements of a young farmer who is an upstanding leader, respected agriculturalist and is active in community or faith organizations. The Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the Year 2014 Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) Award. The submission deadline for nominations is January 15, 2013.
Nominees must be farm operators, deriving a minimum of two-thirds of their income from farming and must be between the ages of 21-40, not becoming 41 prior to January 1, 2014. Candidates who have a financial interest in the farm operation (a sole proprietor, partner, or a corporation) will receive higher ranking in the OYF judging process. However, nominees may also include salaried farm managers and employees who are actively involved in policy and management decisions. Submission of a financial statement is not required for state competition.
A panel of five judges reviews each nominee’s application based on the following criteria: progress in their agricultural career (50 percent of the total score); soil and water conservation practices (25 percent of the total score); and contribution to his/her community, state and nation (25 percent of the total score).
Any individual or organization can nominate deserving young farmers’ names. Persons who have been nominated in the past or previous state winners who did not make it to the National competition can be re-nominated. However, these candidates must still meet the eligibility criteria.
Since the first award was presented, eight New Jersey farmers’ names have been named National Outstanding Young Farmer: Abbott Lee (1985), James B. Giamarese (1989), Robert Von Thun, Jr. (2001), Jeffrey VanderGroef (2005), H. William Sytsema (2009), Richard Norz (2010), John Melick (2011) and Paul “Duce” Tallamy II (2012).
The OYF program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, with the first group of national winners selected in 1955. The goals of the OYF program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy. The OYF program encourages a greater interest in agriculture through the appreciation of the farmers’ contributions and achievements and recognizes local citizens’ contributions and encourages better urban-rural relations. The National OYF program is sponsored by Deere & Company, supported by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of County Agriculture Agents (NACAA), and is administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America (OFA) Fraternity.
For more information on the state’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html or call Karen Kritz, OYF Program Manager at (609) 984-2506 or email Karen.Kritz@ag.state.nj.us.