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Good outlook for N.J. crops

HILLSDALE, NJ — Retailers and other distributors of New Jersey produce crops have enjoyed good early-season items so far this year, and they can look forward to high-quality vegetables, a full crop of peaches and a beautiful harvest of blueberries as the 2013 season progresses, according to several reports given at the June 11 meeting of Eastern Produce Council.

With the New Jersey Department of Agriculture hosting the event for the 26th consecutive year, a big crowd was on hand, as usual, at Demarest Farm, here, in northern New Jersey to hear the reports.

Rain had threatened earlier in the day, but skies brightened as the event began and the crowd arrived.

This was the fourth time that Demarest Farm had provided the venue for the outdoor event under a big tent, prompting EPC President Paul Kneeland of Kings Food Markets to welcome everyone to the “fourth New Jersey cookout.”

The annual June meeting — the last one before the council’s traditional summer break — is “our most popular event,” said Kneeland. The Jersey Fresh Promotional Program is “the most successful program of its kind in the country,” he declared.

He welcomed the many growers and suppliers from the southern part of the state who were in attendance and thanked them for their hard work.

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher, who led the state’s delegation at the meeting, said, “We place a high priority on the relationships we have.”

He pointed out the members of the State Board of Agriculture who were in attendance, referred to the staff of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture as “the unsung heroes,” and specifically acknowledged Arthur R. Brown Jr., a former secretary of agriculture for New Jersey, and Al Murray, the state’s current assistant secretary of agriculture, both of whom were in attendance, for initiating the Jersey Fresh program all those years ago.

Joe Marino of Sun Valley Orchards and president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey gave the vegetable report, noting that while this season seems late, it is only late compared to last year — one of the earlier on record. The 2013 vegetable season is actually “right about on time.”

There was “a nice run on Jersey grass,” he said, using the industry term for asparagus. “A lot of the field crops have started, and most other vegetables look like they’ll fall into line.”

He assured all buyers that when purchasing vegetables from the Garden State, “You have the best of the best when it comes to the growers of New Jersey.”

In the peach report, Lewis DeEugenio Jr. of the Jersey Fruit Cooperative Association also noted last year’s extremely early start but said that this year would see more traditional harvest dates.

He was looking at mid-July for the early varieties, “then we’re looking for a full crop” during the rest of the season. “It looks like just a very pretty crop this year.”

In his blueberry report, Dennis Doyle of Atlantic Blueberry Co. said, “We have enjoyed a great spring.” He expected harvest to begin in some fields in the southern part of the state around Saturday, June 15.

As to quality, “This crop is absolutely gorgeous,” he stated with conviction. “I’m telling you straight up, this crop is one of the best. I guarantee it.”