Farm to School Week – The 5th annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week was held September 21-25. Secretary Fisher kicked off the week on September 22 with a visit to Philips Academy Charter School in Newark where he and other officials viewed the made-from-scratch lunch served family style in the school’s dining room. A salad bar provided an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the school’s roof, they toured a 4,600-square-foot garden and in the teaching kitchen, they sampled the dishes served to students for lunch, some made with ingredients grown in the garden. On September 24, Division of Food and Nutrition Director Rose Tricario visited Nathan Hale School in Carteret, one of the 151 schools this year participating the Department’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Students at the school sampled Jersey Fresh peaches from Larchmont Farms in Deerfield. Farm to School Week wrapped up on September 25 with visits to two South Jersey schools with school gardens. The garden at Dorothy L. Bullock School in Glassboro was installed in May with the help of Ahmed Hassan, a California-based contractor who hosted the HGTV show “Yard Crashers” and DIY Network’s “Turf War.” Supplies and labor were donated by Elite Landscaping of Berlin. An army of volunteers pitched in over the course of a weekend to install the garden. Since then, garden coordinator Sonya Harris, a first-grade special education teacher at the school, said the garden has thrived with the help of the staff, students, parents and community. Produce harvested in the garden is used by school food service and teachers. Tricario also stopped at Timber Creek Regional High School in Gloucester Township where she observed students on the school’s Green Team -- a club charged with the task of reducing the school’s carbon footprint -- plant soybeans and harvest eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and herbs for the culinary class, who prepared tomato bruschetta and eggplant parmesan for the guests to sample.
Farm to School Website – The new Jersey Fresh Farm to School website at www.farmtoschool.nj.gov has resources for schools on how to start a farm to school program, where to source New Jersey produce and how to plant a school garden. For farmers, the website provides information on how they can sell their produce to schools and gives them farm to school marketing materials. The website has a listing of farm to school events and news and has helpful links for students and parents. Also, each month a “Top Tomato” will be highlighted, a person who has made a difference in Farm to School. In addition, the website links to the newly-created Jersey Fresh Farm to School Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages.
Community Food Pantry Fund -- More than $31,000 was distributed in late August to New Jersey’s six food banks to supplement their food supplies. The funding represents contributions through the Community Food Pantry Fund, a state income tax form check-off program. Funds were distributed to: Community Foodbank of New Jersey, Hillside, $20,261; Food Bank of South Jersey, Pennsauken, $4,021; FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Neptune, $3,583; Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, Ewing, $1,368; Southern Regional Food Distribution Center, Vineland, $1,302; and NORWESCAP, Phillipsburg, $541. The fund was the result of recommendations from the state’s Hunger Prevention Advisory Committee in an effort to create an on-going funding stream to assist with the acquisition of emergency food to enhance the emergency food provider system. 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 will find the check-off item on their NJ-1040 income tax form. Since its inception, $117,195 of taxpayer-donated money has been distributed to the foodbanks through the fund.
Eat Right, Move More Program – The Department is again teaming with the NY Jets this school year to provide grants to help improve school meals and physical education. The application is available online for the first time at http://jets.formstack.com/forms/jetsplay60ermm.
New Jersey Wine Week -- The Department and Garden State Wine Growers Association on September 18 officially recognized New Jersey Wine Week September 18-27, encouraging consumers to visit a winery, restaurant featuring New Jersey wines or neighborhood liquor store to purchase local wines. Governor Christie signed the Wine Week proclamation, honoring the wine industry for being a growing contributor to the state’s economy. A whole host of events took place during the 10-day celebration, which concluded with the Jersey Fresh Wine Festival at the Burlington County Fairgrounds in Springfield on September 26 and 27. Along with wine tastings, visitors had the opportunity to purchase Jersey Fresh produce from New Jersey farmers. To kick-off New Jersey Wine Week, New Jersey Department of Agriculture Marketing Specialist Christine Fries visited Cedarvale Winery in Logan Township and observed the wine-making process, even trying their hands at testing the fermenting grape juice. Cedarvale Winery is one of 41 member wineries of the Garden State Wine Growers Association.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis -- A 2 year old Gloucester County mare was the first reported case in 2015 of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. The horse had not been vaccinated against EEE was humanely euthanized on August 25. 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 2014, New Jersey had four cases of EEE. No cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) were reported last year. Effective equine vaccines for EEE and WNV are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.
Bee Bills -- A meeting was held with representatives from the League of Municipalities, the SADC, MAREC and the New Jersey Beekeepers Association to discuss beekeeping issues, specifically three beekeeping laws that were signed into law in July. One law established penalty for destruction of man-made native bee hives. The second extends Right to Farm protection to commercial beekeeping operations with some restrictions and the third established exclusive state regulatory authority over apiary activities and allows for the delegation of monitoring and enforcement authorities to municipalities.
New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award -- New Jersey residents who are in their senior year in high school this year 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 $500 scholarship to honor their achievements. The New Jersey Agricultural Achievement Award, sponsored by Dr. Amy Butewicz, is meant to assist its recipient in beginning their future in agriculture. The qualifications for receiving this award include submitting an application, found here www.jerseyequine.nj.gov/agachievementapplform.pdf, 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 24, 2016 in Eastampton and will read his or her essay to the attendees.
Honorary American Degree Recipients Named -- Honorary American Degree recipients from New Jersey include – Jason Helder (Woodstown); Paul Hlubik (Hamilton Square); and Sharice Richardson (New Brunswick). In order to receive this award, an individual must have provided exceptional service to agriculture, agricultural education, and the FFA, as well as been nominated by FFA members. The awards will be presented at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of October.