New Jersey State Agricultural Convention – The 100th New Jersey State Agricultural Convention and Trade Show will be held February 3-5 at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is hosting the convention in cooperation with the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey and Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. The 2015 convention and trade show will open on Tuesday, February 3, with educational sessions held by the Vegetable Growers Association. Highlights from the program include sessions on ethnic and specialty crops in demand by chefs, growing vine crops in high tunnels, choosing tomato varieties, pest management for organic operations and retail marketing and agritourism. There also will be in-depth workshops on food safety and basil downy mildew. A full schedule of Vegetable Growers events is available at http://bit.ly/1tGgrye. The New Jersey State Agricultural Convention will open on Wednesday, February 4 and will include New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher’s annual State of the State of Agriculture address, greetings from NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney, presentations on the Farm to School program and pollinators, award presentations and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno’s speech to the delegates. On Thursday, there will be updates from representatives from Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a discussion on Palmer Amaranth Weed and election of State Board of Agriculture members. The trade show will feature vendors and representatives offering a wide range of agricultural products and services.
Gypsy Moth Suppression Program -- Department surveys of 22 New Jersey municipalities have found areas in four towns in three counties that qualify for the state’s 2015 Aerial Gypsy Moth Suppression Program. The Department plans to spray a total of 498 acres in Morris, Passaic and Hunterdon counties. Gypsy moth egg mass surveys were conducted from August to December in the 22 municipalities and agencies that requested them. From these surveys, it was determined that 288 acres in Morris County, including two residential areas and 114 acres in Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Jefferson Township, and 40 acres in Silas Condict Park in Kinnelon Borough in Morris County had high enough gypsy moth populations to qualify for the Department’s 2015 spray program. In addition, 123 acres in West Milford in Passaic County and 87 acres in Lebanon Township in Hunterdon County were identified as qualifying for the spray program. Participation in the program is voluntary. Spraying will take place in late May and June. To qualify for the spray program, a residential or recreational forest must have an average of more than 500 egg masses per acre and be at least 50 acres in size. A single egg mass contains up to 1,000 eggs.
USDA Foods Conference -- The Department presented the Third Annual USDA Foods Conference on January 15 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick, showcasing the newest healthy school lunch and breakfast offerings that could appear in school cafeterias around the state next school year. More than 300 school food service professionals and business administrators attended presentations and a vendor show of the latest trends in prepared school menu items made from U.S. Department of Agriculture donated bulk foods. The manufacturers and distributors presented foods geared to meet the nutritional requirements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act school food regulations implemented in 2013. The USDA Foods Distribution program allows schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to utilize USDA foods and distribute them to processors who make nutritious, reduced-fat, lower sodium, whole grain products at a cost savings to school districts.
2014 Horseperson of the Year -- The 2014 Governor’s Award for Horseperson of the Year was awarded to Jacque and Cyndee Roszel January 25 at the annual Breeders Luncheon by New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Alfred Murray. The Roszels, former agricultural education teachers and FFA advisors at Allentown High School, have owned and shown horses for the last 45 years.
Summer Food Service Program – In an effort to serve more eligible students in the Bridgeton area meals during the summer months, Secretary Fisher, Division of Food and Nutrition Director Rose Tricario and staff attended a large-scale outreach meeting on January 6 with Bridgeton Break Out Group for the Positive Youth Development Coalition representatives. USDA Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator Patricia Dombroski attended and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Row has offered to extend support services to the Coalition to advance their interest and participation in the Summer Food Service Program.
Conservation Poster Contest -- New Jersey’s Soil Conservation Districts are now accepting entries in a poster contest designed to raise awareness of natural resources and related issues among young people. The theme for this year’s poster is Local Heroes-Your Hardworking Pollinators. Students may compete in the following categories: Grade 2-3; Grade 4-6; Grade 7-9; and Grade 10-12. First place winners in each category will receive $200 savings bonds; second-place $100 bonds; and third-place $50 bonds. All first-place winners will be entered in the National Association of Conservation Districts poster contest. The competition is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture State Soil Conservation Committee, New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts and the state’s 15 Soil Conservation Districts, which work to conserve and manage soil and water resources in the state. Since the initial phase of the contest is run by the local Soil Conservation Districts, please contact the district directly for details and deadlines for submission. To find your local district, go to www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/nrc/conservdistricts.html. The entry form can be found at: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/anr/pdf/conservationpostercontest.pdf.
Community Food Pantry Fund – With tax season upon us, the Department reminded New Jersey taxpayers about the Community Food Pantry Fund, a “check-off” on the state income tax forms. The fund pays for food purchases at the state’s food banks. Since the Community Food Pantry Fund check-off was created in 2010, more than $86,000 has been distributed to Community Foodbank of New Jersey, Hillside; Food Bank of South Jersey, Pennsauken; FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune; Southern Regional Food Distribution Center, Vineland; Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, Ewing; and NORWESCAP, Phillipsburg. The money was used to purchase healthy foods to distribute to the hungry through food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The check-off was first available on the 2010 tax year forms. It allows taxpayers to either contribute a portion of their tax refund or make a donation. Money collected for the fund administered by the Department of Agriculture must be used exclusively for food purchases. Those wishing to contribute should enter the code “09” on Line 64 to designate this check-off item on their NJ-1040 income tax form.
Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling -- The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has agreed to initiate a Pesticide Container Recycling program for their employees that are licensed pesticide applicators. NJDOT will make their Washington Township, Mercer County facility available for this initiative. Employees will be able to drop-off empty containers this spring through fall and receive one core credit towards their pesticide license. NJDA is currently working with the DEP to receive the necessary course number for this program.
2015 Office of Agricultural Education CASE Grant Opportunity Announced -- The availability of 2015 CASE grants was announced on January 15 to all schools approved by the Department of Education to offer agriculture, food and natural resources programs. Funds are made possible by the New Jersey Department of Education through the Memorandum of Agreement between the NJDOE and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Funds will be used to continue the development of the CASE model to build programs of study by supporting teacher professional development and expenditures for class/lab equipment and supplies. Grant awards will be announced in March.