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December 11, 2013

Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Season – In an annual tradition, Secretary Fisher ceremonially cut down the first tree of the season on December 2 at Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm in White Township, winner of this year’s New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association annual tree contest.  Governor Christie proclaimed December 2, 2013 as Jersey Grown Christmas Tree Day, encouraging New Jersey residents to support the state’s farmers and visit choose and cut Christmas tree farms, as well as helping their neighbors in need and the military during the holiday season.   The tree cut by Secretary Fisher was donated to the Trees for Troops initiative, a charity program that donates real Christmas trees to service members and their families, sponsored by FedEx and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation.  In addition, during today’s ceremony the Belvidere FFA chapter presented the Wyckoffs with $2,025 in cash donations they received to purchase 81 trees for the Trees for Troops effort.   The Wyckoffs also are donating another group of trees to Trees for Troops and 20 trees to NORWESCAP Family Success Center in Phillipsburg for families in need in the area.  Members of the Phillipsburg FFA Chapter will be assisting in the delivery of the trees.  Family Success Centers are funded through the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.  Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake joined Secretary Fisher at the ceremony.  The Wyckoff’s also won the National Christmas Tree Association’s tree contest and on the day after Thanksgiving presented First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters with several trees from the farm for use in the White House.

Gleaning Grant – The Department announced on November 20, that Farmers Against Hunger is the recipient of a $100,000 Gleaning Support Grant, made possible through the Department of Agriculture’s State Food Purchase Program.   Secretary Fisher made the announcement at Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck, where he joined teachers from the Monmouth County Career Center in Freehold in harvesting Brussels sprouts that will be distributed by Farmers Against Hunger (FAH) to agencies preparing Thanksgiving dinner baskets for those in need. This is the second season Eastmont Orchards has worked with Farmers Against Hunger.  So far, farm owner David Barclay has donated 13,000 pounds of apples and 24,000 pounds of various types of squash, most of which was gleaned – or picked – by FAH volunteers.  Thirty-three farms, including seven new farms, donated their surplus produce to FAH this season.  Since July, FAH collected more than 430,000 pounds of fresh produce from those farms, which was distributed to more than 70 organizations, including soup kitchens, food pantries and the state’s food banks.  Much of that produce was gleaned by FAH volunteers. Kristina Guttadora, Farmers Against Hunger program director, said the Gleaning Support Grant will be used for general operations including staff, truck fuel, maintenance and programmatic expenses.  Last year’s grant allowed them to expand to accept new farms, host additional gleanings and reach new feeding organizations.  They also added a third part-time driver to help host gleanings and make deliveries.  One of the new distributions established this year was to Camden on a weekly basis from July through September.

NJDA’s Jets Play 60 Eat Right, Move More Program -- Secretary Fisher and New York Jets Kicker Nick Folk honored Roosevelt Elementary School in Rahway on December 3 as this year’s grand prize winner in the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Jets Play 60 “Eat Right, Move More” program.  The Jets and Nick Folk treated the third through sixth-grade students at the school to a fun program and presented the school with a $5,000 prize for a kitchen makeover, made possible by the Jets and American Dairy Association & Dairy Council.  In addition, the school principal, physical education teacher and six students were honored on the field during the Jets/Oakland Raiders game on December 8.  The Play 60 Eat Right, Move More program, a partnership between the Jets, the Department of Agriculture and the American Dairy Association & Dairy Council, encourages New Jersey school children to take advantage of healthy foods in their school cafeterias and become more active.  This year, there was an emphasis on selecting schools that offer breakfast in the classroom.  Additionally, school lunch and breakfast menus were reviewed and the schools had to show strong support and demonstrate efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity among their students.  The winning school is required to participate in the Jets Play 60 Challenge, where at least 100 students must commit to log 60 minutes of physical activity every day for four weeks. Secretary Fisher also announced 10 finalist schools, which will compete to be among four additional prize winners chosen based on their performance in the Jets Play 60 Challenge.  The finalist schools are: Atlantic County Special Services Middle School in Mays Landing; Egg Harbor City Community School in Egg Harbor; Roosevelt School #7 in Garfield; High Tech High School in North Bergen; Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville; Whiting Elementary School in Manchester Township; Clifton Avenue Grade School in Lakewood; Pines Lake Elementary School in Wayne; and Queen City Academy Charter School in Plainfield.  The winners will be announced at a later date and will receive a Jets player visit and a cash prize.

Governor Christie’s Season of Service -- Secretary Fisher joined a group of 10 Jersey Cares volunteers today at the Garfield Senior Activity Center in Garfield in brightening up the facility, damaged during Superstorm Sandy, with a fresh coat of paint.  The center suffered foundation damage from flooding and roof damage from wind and rain, which also damaged the kitchen area.  The outside issues have been repaired.  Jersey Cares began its indoor painting project during Sandy Service Day in October.   Jersey Cares is a nonprofit organization established in 1993 that works to increase civic engagement in New Jersey by coordinating volunteer opportunities to address community-identified needs.

Healthier US School Challenge Award Ceremonies – The Department, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, honored several schools in the state with Healthier US School Challenge Awards recently.  On November 26, a ceremony was held in Stafford Township for McKinley and Ocean Acres Elementary Schools, Ronald L. Mienders Primary Learning Center and Stafford Intermediate School, recognizing the schools for promoting good nutrition and physical activity.  The four schools attained the Bronze Level of the award, which carries a $500 prize for each school.  Also on November 26, Lakehurst Elementary School in Lakehurst was presented with the Silver Level of the award, which carries a $1,000 prize.  On December 6, Bartle Elementary School in Highland Park and Campbell Elementary School in Metuchen were honored for attaining the Bronze Level.

Medicinal Marijuana Testing -- Three samples of medicinal marijuana were tested for the presence of mycotoxins as part of a collaborative project with the Department of Health.  Medicinal marijuana contaminated with these naturally occurring toxins could be very dangerous if given to immuno-compromised patients. All samples tested negative for the mycotoxins: Aflatoxin and Ochratoxin. 

Deer Bait Program – The Department assisted sweet potato and apple growers in marketing their off-grade product as deer bait.  Advertisements were placed in the New Jersey Hunting Digest, generating interest among hunters looking for quality deer bait.  Lists of New Jersey growers interested in participating were disseminated.  The Department is contacted annually by several hundred hunters looking for this information.  Selling their product as deer bait provides growers with an important source of additional farm income.

Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling – During the 2013 program, 249 individuals participated in the program, a two percent increase in participation from 2012.  Out of the participants, 29 percent came to recycle even though they did not need core credits. Final tallies on the volume recycled in 2013 won’t be available until early 2014; however, preliminary figures indicate that New Jersey will exceed more than half-million pesticide containers recycled since the program was started in 2002. Begun in 2002, this program continues to be a strong program operated with no additional financial burden placed on New Jersey taxpayers or participants.