Organics draw mixed reviews among Jersey growers

05/26/2011 04:15:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Cedarville, N.J.-based Nardelli Bros. Inc. doesn’t grow organic produce, but it does market organic for some area growers, said Bill Nardelli, president.

“The awareness of organics seems to be increasing,” he said.

Even though Nardellis Bros. doesn’t grow organics, the company does use as few pesticides as it can, Nardelli said.

“We’re farming with a minimal amount because they’re so costly,” he said.

That’s a win-win for the company and for its customers.

“We save money, and we don’t have the residue levels,” he said.

Demand for New Jersey-grown organic fruits and vegetables is growing, said Jerry Frecon, agricultural agent at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in Clayton.

But in terms of overall volumes, organic’s piece of the pie remains miniscule, and for good reason, Frecon said.

“It’s a very, very small part — we just have too much pest pressure,” he said.

There are no New Jersey organic peach growers that Frecon is aware of, and the few organic apple producers sell what they grow directly to consumers, he said.

Making it even harder for organic growers this season, Frecon said, is the likely appearance of the brown marmorated stink bug, a nasty new pest that made its  debut in the Garden State last August.

The pest eats all Jersey-grown fruits and many of the state’s vegetables, he said.

  Ben Casella, field representative for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton, said more New Jersey growers looking to diversify their offerings are adding a small organic program, maybe four or five acres of production.

But much of that product is being sold at farmstands or through other direct-to-consumer marketing, indicating the small size of organic’s niche in the state, Casella said.

“I would say there’s growth, but it’s small growth,” he said.

Organic is easier for smaller New Jersey growers, who may decide to grow a 10-acre plot, said Tim Wetherbee, sales manager for Diamond Blueberry Inc., Hammonton, N.J.

“Some dabble in it, but with the size of operation we have, it has to be a separate entity altogether, and we haven’t gone in that direction,” he said.


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