IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
September 16, 2017 www.nj.gov/agriculture
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330
Jeff Wolfe P: (609) 633-2954
C: (609) 433-1785
(TRENTON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today served as Grand Marshal of the Jersey Fresh-themed parade at the Sixth Annual Open Space Pace and Festival of Horses at Freehold Raceway. The event highlights the need for preservation and protection of open space and the equine and horse racing industry in the Garden State.
The New Jersey equine industry is valued at $4 billion and generates $1.1 billion annually in positive impact to the state’s economy, according to a study by the Rutgers Equine Science Center. New Jersey also has become a leader in land preservation, having preserved 2,486 farms on 226,207 acres of farmland – or about 31 percent of available agricultural lands, which is the highest percentage of any state in the nation.
“Events like this draw attention to the importance of open space preservation in New Jersey,” Secretary Fisher said. “Also, the horse racing and equine industry have long played significant roles in the Garden State’s agricultural economy and the need for open space is essential for our rich equine heritage to continue.”
The Rutgers study also noted the Garden State has 7,200 equine facilities on 176,000 acres and 42,500 equine animals. In addition, the 2012 Census of Agriculture shows 765 farms with horses, ponies, burros, mules and donkeys with $17 million in sales. New Jersey also ranks first in the nation in State Investment in Farmland Preservation program at nearly $1.7 billion and second in the nation in net farm income per acre at $531.
After the parade, the day featured a wide range of activities for families and children including booths with games for families, meeting retired race horses and other animals, a mechanical bull ride and giving away five $1,000 scholarships to college students in attendance. The day also featured a full card of racing that began after the parade.
“It was a great day and we appreciate everyone who came out to support open space and the New Jersey equine and horse racing industry,” said Open Space Pace and Festival of Horses President Brett Taft. “The popularity of an event like this shows that we have great support. Open space and horse-related activities remain a priority to people in the Garden State.”
Also after each race, there was a $1,000 donation made to an equine or agricultural non-profit group. Secretary Fisher presented a $1,000 check after the first race.
Harness racing has been taking place for more than 150 years on the site of the current Freehold Raceway. The first races were held in 1854 and the track had its first major meet of five days in July of 1917 with purses of over $1,000. The track entered the modern era in 1967 by reconstructing the track to have an eight horse starting gate and added enclosed grandstands in 1970 to allow for year-round racing. After a 1984 fire destroyed the grandstands and dining area, a grand opening in October of 1986 celebrated the rebuilt $12 million facility.
To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA1 and @JerseyFreshNJDA.