There’s a reason it is called the “Garden State.” New Jersey’s diverse agriculture enables the state to hold its own with the largest fruit, vegetable and nursery-stock producing states in the nation. Each year New Jersey is a top-10 producer for such items as cranberries, blueberries, peaches, bell peppers, spinach and tomatoes. In fact, New Jersey is the most productive farmland in the United States based on highest dollar value per acre.
Many of the state’s farmers grow a wide array of items, helping agriculture make a strong impact on New Jersey’s economy. Throughout New Jersey, more than 100 different varieties of produce are grown, including bok choy and daikon radishes, that appeal to the large ethnic markets in and surrounding the state.
But gardens aren’t just about fruits and vegetables. They’re also about the diversity and beauty of the entire plant kingdom. That is reflected in New Jersey’s horticultural sector (nursery/ greenhouse/sod/Christmas trees).
Ornamental and functional plantings make up New Jersey’s largest agricultural sector, totaling more than $455 million annually. While many television and movie images of this Mid-Atlantic state are ones of small size and dense population, an impressive 733,450 acres of farmland yield quality products that rival those of its larger neighbors and nationwide competitors. Most notably, New Jersey has successfully preserved more than 200,000 acres of farmland, forever protecting that land from development.
New Jersey is home to 10,300 farms, with an average farm size of 71 acres. The state’s agricultural commodities totaled $1.12 billion in cash receipts for 2011, and production, processing, marketing and other agriculture-related industries employ 61,855 people. The tourist industry that supports many coastal towns is enhanced by both the commercial and private fishing industry and by the presence of “agritourism” spots such as wineries, crop mazes, agricultural fairs, pick-your-own farms, etc.
Seafood also is an important part of the state’s agricultural industry. Commercial fishing brought in $211 million in 2011. The state is home to Cape May port, the second largest port on the East Coast and fifth largest nationwide. New Jersey seafood such as tuna, swordfish, bluefish, tilefish, flounder, scallops and blue crabs are sold locally and to markets and restaurants in nearby states and around the world. The state also is home to a bustling aquaculture industry, and is among the leading states in the production of shellfish such as clams and oysters.
New Jersey’s orchards are bountiful. Blueberries, cranberries, peaches, apples and strawberries are the most widely harvested fruit and berry crops. New Jersey ranked fifth in the nation for blueberries and third for cranberries in 2012. That same year, New Jersey farmers produced 30,000 tons of peaches.
In addition, New Jersey has a notable equine industry. Home to the United States Equestrian Team, as well as numerous horse barns and parks, New Jersey boasted a $46 million horse industry in 2012.
The state is known for its thriving beekeeping industry. New Jersey, in which the honeybee is the State Insect, has more than 1,100 beekeepers. Honeybees are important both for pollinating about two-thirds of the produce crops grown in New Jersey, and producing honey. In 2012, beekeepers produced 462,000 pounds of honey, with a value of $869,000.
The dairy industry also is well-represented in the state. The milk produced by New Jersey dairy farmers is used in yogurt, butter, cheese and other products, which are marketed within the state and surrounding areas.
The NJDA has a USDA-accredited Organic Certification Program to certify organic crops, livestock, wild crafting, and handling (food processing) operations. Currently the program certifies about 58 farms with more than 1,820 acres in production, as well as 23 food handlers.
With a broad range of products and commodities, agri-food is the third-largest industry in New Jersey and contributes immensely to the state and national economy.