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September 24, 2014

Farm to School Week –
The Department of Agriculture celebrated Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week September 22-26 with stops at three schools.  At Anthony V. Ceres Elementary School in Perth Amboy on September 23, Secretary Fisher visited third and fourth grade classes where the children sampled green grapes, mini sweet yellow, red and orange peppers, broccoli and Italian/prune plums as part of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, a federally-assisted program administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to provide healthier food choices; expand the variety of fruits and vegetables children experience; and increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption.  Ceres School Principal Michelle Velez-Jonte said they are very thankful for being selected to participate in the Department’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for a second year.  Secretary Fisher also visited the school’s “Garden of Healthy Choices,” planted with seeds from the fruits and vegetables used in last school year’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.  The garden is used as an instructional tool to teach students not only how plants grow, but also to learn about local produce.  On September 24, Secretary Fisher visited Salem County Career and Technical High School in Mannington where he taste-tested menu items made from Jersey Fresh produce and stepped inside the school’s new Farm2You van that will deliver nutrition lessons and Jersey Fresh produce to children around the county.  The final stop was at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell on September 26, where Department officials learned how the Plant Science Agricultural Education class uses a mobile, edible wall to grow produce.

Back to School Lunch – The Department of Agriculture and USDA celebrated the start of the new school year with a visit to Monroe Township High School on September 6.  Secretary Fisher and U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Region Administrator Patricia Dombroski talked about the district’s success in making students’ meals nutritious and appealing and enjoyed sampling healthy menu items.  The officials also visited a classroom to see a mobile, edible wall students will be using to learn about agriculture this school year.

Fall Gardening Month – Governor Christie proclaimed October as Fall Gardening Month in New Jersey and to celebrate, Secretary Fisher visited Willowwood Arboretum in Chester on September 17, joined by New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association representatives and public garden caretakers.  Secretary Fisher also encouraged public garden and arboretum visits this fall.  He also reminded residents and visitors that fall is a great time to tend to home gardens with new plantings.  New Jersey has more than 60 gardens and arboreta in 15 counties for the public to enjoy.  Willowwood is one of the state’s most comprehensive and longest continually operating arboretum and now covers 130 acres and has about 2,100 kinds of native and exotic plants, many of them rare. 

New Jersey Wine Week -- Secretary Fisher visited Working Dog Winery in Robbinsville on September 16 to announce the beginning of Wine Week in New Jersey, celebrating the Garden State’s 2014 grape harvest.  He encouraged people to visit the state’s wineries to learn more about the harvest and wine making in our state.  Governor Christie signed a proclamation declaring September 19 to 28 New Jersey Wine Week, honoring the wine industry for being a growing contributor to the state’s economy.  New Jersey has 50 licensed wineries.  New Jersey is 10th in the nation in wine production, with 1.6 million gallons produced in 2012.  Last year, New Jersey wineries sold 447,425 gallons of wine. Wineries around the state will be celebrating Wine Week.  Working Dog Winery will have a live music event on September 21 and is offering wine week case discounts.  Working Dog started in 2001 when a group of friends decided it would be great to plant some grapes and make their own wine.  They started with three acres of Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.  They now grow 17 acres on permanently preserved farmland.  Almost all of their 14 wine varieties are made with fruit they grow.  Last year, they harvested 48 tons of grapes and produced 3,700 gallons of wine. 

Agritourism – Secretary Fisher visited Liberty Farm’s Sussex County Sunflower Maze on September 3, heralding the start of the fall agritourism season.   The maze on Route 565 in Augusta is located on 50 acres with more than a million blooming black oil sunflowers.  Accompanying the maze are a variety of on-farm activities, including a kids’ scavenger hunt, build your own scarecrow contest and a self-guided bug safari.  Many farms around New Jersey invite the public during the fall season for hay rides, corn mazes, pumpkin and apple picking and many more activities.  These activities bring added revenue to farms to make them more viable and helps to ensure that the land remains in active agriculture.  New Jersey had 347 farms that offered agritourism activities in 2012 that generated $18.4 million in revenue.  New Jersey ranks 9th in the nation in total agritourism dollars and nine New Jersey counties rank in the top 10 percentile in agritourism sales, including Sussex County, which ranks 85th in the nation with more than $1.5 million in agritourism sales. The number of farms in the county offering agritourism more than doubled from 22 in 2007 to 49 farms in 2012.

First EEE Cases – Three horses from Burlington, Gloucester and Ocean counties were the first reported cases in 2014 of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses.  The 4-year-old mare from Gloucester County began showing neurologic signs of EEE on August 10 and was humanely euthanized on September 10.  A 2-year-old Ocean County mare began showing neurologic symptoms on September 11 and died on September 14.  The Ocean County horse had been vaccinated for EEE in the spring.  The 6-year-old Burlington County gelding was not vaccinated and began showing signs of illness on September 21 and was euthanized that day.  EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection.  West Nile virus is a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological systems.  The disease is transmitted by mosquito bite.  The virus cycles between birds and mosquitoes with horses and humans being incidental hosts.  EEE infections in horses are not a significant risk factor for human infection because horses (like humans) are considered to be "dead-end" hosts for the virus.  In 2013, New Jersey had two cases of EEE in August.  No cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) were reported last year.

Agricultural Achievement Award -- New Jersey residents who are entering their senior year in high school this fall and are planning a career in agriculture or science may apply for the New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award.  One winner will be selected and awarded a scholarship to honor their achievements.  The New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award, sponsored by Dr. Amy Butewicz, a former New Jersey Equestrian of the Year, was started because of her desire to give back to the community. Worth $500, this scholarship is meant to assist its recipient in beginning their future in agriculture.  The qualifications for receiving this award include submitting an application, found here, a resume along with an essay answering the question, “How has your involvement within your respective nominating organization helped to shape your future career choice?”  In addition, a contestant is required to be a current, active member of an organization either on the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board and/or represented at the Youth Reception portion of the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention.  Each organization on the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board and a participant of the State Agricultural Convention is able to nominate a maximum of two contestants.  The winner of the Agricultural Achievement Award must attend the Annual New Jersey Bred Equine Breeders Award Luncheon to be held on Sunday, January 26, 2015 in Eastampton and will read his or her essay to the attendees.

NJ Department of Agriculture Hydrologic Stormwater Database -- The Department and the 15 Soil Conservation Districts are continuing to load engineering, GIS and land use data into the Department’s web-based stormwater management database. The database warehouses the locations of stormwater management basins, outfall structures and water quality improvement structures along with copies of site plans and management plans for virtually all stormwater basins constructed in New Jersey dating back to 1986. Design and land use data can be used to model stormwater runoff, water quality, perform environmental analysis and planning and identify target areas for basin restoration or retrofits.  Future plans include the ability to upload and view stormwater basin maintenance information.   Data is viewable online at: