by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
As a recent national poll demonstrated, farms and farming are “top of mind” for most people who are asked about New Jersey. For years, many New Jerseyans have been savoring “Jersey Fresh” produce – and appreciating the tremendous importance of agriculture to our state.
Buying New Jersey-grown fruits, vegetables and farm products has more than a few benefits. One, it’s healthy. Two, it saves energy on transportation. Three, it tastes better. Finally, it helps keep farming profitable – and thriving farms stay in business and keep New Jersey green.
Gov. Chris Christie recently approved a new package of bills that reinforce this link between “buying local” and preserving land. The bills raise the profile of “Jersey Fresh” and “Made with Jersey Fresh” products and provide $90 million to permanently preserve more of our state’s fertile farmland.
One of the new laws requires “Jersey Fresh” and “Made with Jersey Fresh” products to be clearly identified and displayed in prominent locations. “Jersey Fresh” was developed by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture back in 1983 to help farmers inform consumers about the availability and variety of New Jersey produce.
New Jersey grows more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. And although the Garden State is small, it’s ranked in the top 10 nationally for blueberries (2nd), peaches (4th), bell peppers (4th), squash (7th), tomatoes (8th) and cranberries (4th).
Only those growers who abide by the state’s quality grading program are allowed to use the “Jersey Fresh” logo on their packages. “Made with Jersey Fresh” is a similar program, open to food processing companies that use products inspected through the “Jersey Fresh” grading program.
So if you can’t make it to your local farm market in the upcoming fall harvest season, you can still help the cause by buying “Jersey Fresh” at your grocery store!
Just as New Jersey is a top national producer of fruits and vegetables, New Jersey’s farm markets are also making a national impact. In the 2011 “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” contest, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, four of the top 20 farmers markets were from New Jersey!
The farmland preservation funds approved by Governor Christie will help ensure that the Garden State’s agricultural heritage continues into the future. Preserving local Jersey farms means greater food security and access to healthy food. Less energy is used, and less pollution is produced, because products don’t have to travel so far to market!
For more information on the nation’s most popular farmers markets, go to www.farmland.org and click on the “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” link on the homepage. To learn more about Jersey Fresh products, including recipes and buying tips, visit www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov .
And if you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources, please visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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