Furey offered some hope that the state could again win funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s grant program for specialty crops.
“Traditionally, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has created opportunities for fruit and vegetable nurseries from New Jersey’s share of that on the order of $400,000,” he said.
Furey said in years past, the department has kept about half of the appropriations, and given the other half in matching grants to local commodity associations who in turn have used it for Jersey Fresh-type initiatives.
“Between escaping the scalpel further on the $150,000 and the money from the specialty crops, we think we are holding our own with an eye on future restoration in upcoming years,” he said.
Growers weigh in
New Jersey suppliers are big proponents of the Jersey Fresh program, which they say has been especially helpful as consumers look for more locally grown products.
“We think there’s some good recognition, particularly in the Northeast. People really look for the Jersey Fresh logo,” said Art Galletta, president and co-owner of Atlantic Blueberry Co. Inc., Hammonton, N.J.
“Consumers ask for Jersey Fresh produce because they know it’s fresher.”
J.M. Procacci, chief operationing officer in the Cedarville, N.J., office of Plant City, Fla.-based Santa Sweets Inc. said that, as one of the top marketers for Jersey Fresh products in the state, the logo goes a long way for his business.
“We put Jersey Fresh on everything we grow,” he said.
Tim Wetherbee, sales manager for Diamond Blueberry Inc., Hammonton, N.J., said cash-strapped farmers rely on the state’s marketing efforts to supplement advertising that they themselves or their suppliers cannot afford.
“It still helps, all the promoting that they do with the advertising,” he said.
“Last year, there were programs that we generally benefit from that were cut or were limited, but one way or another they try to make an attempt to promote the product.”
Wetherbee said the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council helps somewhat, but a combined effort of multiple parties makes a greater effect.
“We have our own council and do our own promotion as well, but the Jersey Fresh program has always been a big plus for us,” he said.
“Farmers are up for anything that puts an extra dollar in their pocket,” said Peter Bylone, general manager of the Vineland Cooperative Produce Auction Association Inc., Vineland, N.J.