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NJDA helping growers through pandemic

njcraberries The New Jersey Department of Agriculture understands that growers in the state are having a hard time during the COVID-19 crisis and is doing its part to help and continue to make New Jersey’s produce industry thrive.

“New Jersey growers have proven over the years that they have the ability to adapt to any number of situations and COVID-19 was no different,” said Joe Atchison, NJDA’s director of marketing. “When the pandemic began in March, there was still time before New Jersey’s crop harvests began which allowed growers to adjust to their markets.”

One of the ways the NJDA is helping is by continuing to drive the Jersey Fresh label, which it established in 1984. The Jersey Fresh logo was designed to inform consumers which fruits and vegetables were grown in the Garden State and it guarantees that the piece of produce was grown in New Jersey.

The state of New Jersey is responsible for more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs and is ranked nationally in the top 10 as producer of such items as blueberries, peaches, bell peppers, squash, tomatoes and cranberries.

To assist growers in New Jersey during this challenging time, one of the first things the department did was adjust its marketing plan. In the spring, with so many people still at home, the Jersey Fresh marketing strategy featured more digital advertisements that appeared on laptops, phones, and tablets

“As more people began going back to work and the roadways became more active with traffic, we have featured Jersey Fresh utilizing radio ads and digital billboards along the major roadways throughout the state,” Atchison said. “We also made farmers aware that they were eligible for Small Business Emergency Grant Program through the State of New Jersey. We have informed our farmers about the federal initiatives, such as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, and Farmers to Families Food Box Program.”

Starting in July, NJDA began outdoor visits at farms, which allowed them to see farms first-hand and hear what needs they may have. With fall on the immediate horizon, things are looking strong throughout the state.

“The fall is wonderful time for families to enjoy many of the great things about New Jersey farms,” Atchison said.

“We have several locations that offer outdoor agritourism activities, though they may look a bit different this year due to COVID-19. We also have many farms that provide opportunities for pick your own, such as apples or pumpkins in the fall.”

Many state farms are also known for their creative corn mazes, which feature a special topic or person. New Jersey’s proximity to New York in the North and Philadelphia in the South, leaves residents of the populated areas less than an hour from a great family experience on a New Jersey farm.

Aside from coronavirus concerns, the other big challenges facing growers are things that NJ farmers have learned to adjust to over the years such as various weather patterns, price fluctuations, etc.

Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher and Atchison visited with some vice presidents of produce and floral at major supermarkets before the health crisis.

“We would like to get back to those visits as conditions permit over the coming months so that we can continue to strengthen existing and develop new relationships,” Atchison said.

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