More than 200 years ago on Dec. 18, 1787, New Jersey became the third state to join the Union. Not long after, in the late 1800s, Abraham Browning of Camden described New Jersey as an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians at one end and New Yorkers at the other. This earned New Jersey its nickname, the “Garden State.” Fast-forward a few centuries, and the nickname still holds true. With 9,100 farms across 720,000 acres of land, New Jersey grows everything from cranberries to Christmas trees. In fact, in terms of fruits and vegetables, the Garden State is leading the pack, ranking in the top 10 in the country for cranberries, bell peppers, spinach, blueberries, peaches, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, apples, sweet corn and snap beans.
Beyond produce, the Garden State literally represents its namesake with a $455 million horticulture industry, consisting of nursery and greenhouse products, sod and Christmas trees. In 2012, the value of sales for floriculture crops such as bedding and garden plants, cut flowers and foliage plants totaled just over $176 million. Bedding and garden plants alone brought in $109 million.
To promote the state’s cornucopia of crops, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture went a step further by creating the Jersey Fresh branding program in 1984 – the first of its kind in the nation. The program features a Jersey Fresh logo, which lets consumers know about the availability and variety of locally grown produce.
As the program progressed over the years, restaurants began offering Jersey Fresh dishes, made with locally grown products, and a “Made with Jersey Fresh” program was added for processed products such as salsa, sauces and teas made with New Jersey produce.
New Jersey agriculture – the state’s third-largest industry – continues to grow steadily, ensuring the Garden State will continue to be an agricultural powerhouse for years to come.
The Produce Trifecta
Next time you dig in to a fresh salad, topped with crunchy bell peppers and sweet dried cranberries on a bed of spinach, thank New Jersey. The state is the No. 3 producer in the nation for these three crops. Take a closer look at each:
- New Jersey grows bell peppers for processing and fresh market. They’re grown in almost all counties in the state. In 2013, New Jersey harvested 3,100 acres of fresh market bell peppers.
- The Garden State harvested 1,300 acres of spinach in 2013, which translated to 25.4 million pounds of the leafy green.
- Cranberries are a historic crop for New Jersey. By 1910, there were 12,000 producing acres in the state. In 2013, farmers harvested 3,000 acres of cranberries.
Rows of Success
From wheat to soybeans, the Garden State’s farmers keep the agriculture industry strong with a variety of field crops.
In 2013, the state’s major crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay, contributed a significant amount to New Jersey’s economy.
In fact, the state planted 90,000 acres of corn, resulting in a production value of $51.7 million.
Soybean farmers brought $42 million to the state in 2013, and helped support the animal ag industry, providing the soybean meal used as feed.
The state is also home to two large Perdue facilities processing grain for stateside and several international customers.
Growing the Green
New Jersey is a national leader in turfgrass research, spearheaded at The Center for Turfgrass Science (CTS) at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, New Jersey’s sod industry brought a whopping $19 million in sales. A 2007 Rutgers University study showed the turfgrass industry contributed $3.2 billion to the state’s economy, 53,588 jobs and accounts for 890,425 acres – 19 percent of the state’s total land area. To keep the important industry at the forefront, CTS works to generate and disseminate knowledge, training and education in turfgrass sciences.
A key component for keeping New Jersey beautiful, the state’s cultivated turfgrass is used widely across the state and country at places such as Central Park and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to golf courses, local and national sports stadiums, parks, schools, churches and more.
Farm to School
Cafeteria lunches have a reputation for being boring, bland and unhealthy – but not in New Jersey. Garden State students look forward to lunch, thanks to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s (NJDA) Food Nutrition Programs.
The NJDA has several initiatives to provide students with the best nutrition possible, including the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs and the Farm to School Program.
Through the Farm to School Program, New Jersey schools can source more than 100 types of Jersey Fresh produce from local farmers. Students enjoy fresh fruits and veggies at lunch, learn about healthy nutrition and participate in gardening activities to grow their own food.
Learn more about all of NJDA’s school nutrition programs at nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn.
As the official state insect, honeybees are vital to New Jersey agriculture for crop pollination.
The Garden State is currently home to 20,000 bee colonies, valued at $350 each, translating to a $7 million industry for New Jersey.
Because honeybee colonies have been declining across the nation in recent years, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture immediately took action to maintain the state’s imperative industry.