Andrew Antoch (left) accepts recognition for his Nolan Family Foundation Scholarship, awarded by Theresa Nolan and Marianne Santo, president of the Eastern Produce Council, at the May 17 barbecue dinner meeting sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at Demarest Farm in Hillsdale, N.J. ( Amy Sowder )

HILLSDALE, N.J. — Eastern Produce Council members honored two scholarship winners, learned the status of New Jersey crops and heard the latest marketing efforts of the Jersey Fresh brand program at their May dinner meeting.

Theresa Nolan hugged scholarship winner Andrew Antoch as she congratulated him at the May 21st meeting at Demarest Farm, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

“It’s tough to be a kid these days,” Nolan told the full house. 

With the combined efforts of the council this year, the 6th annual Nolan Family Foundation scholarship awarded two $5,000 scholarships for the first time. The foundation selected the winners based on personal essays detailing an ethical challenge they faced.

Antoch, son of Mark Antoch of FreshPro Food Distributors, wrote about how he handled a tricky situation with drinking at a high school party. The other winner was Jillian Young, daughter of Jeff Young of A&J Produce Corp. Young wrote about how she handled sexual harassment at work, when speaking up could hurt her job security.

Attendees also listened to crop reports.

Lewis DeEugenio, president of the Jersey Fruit Marketing Cooperative and owner of Summit City Farms and Winery, said peaches will start by the end of June.

“We’re looking at a full crop of fruit, and we have wonderful new nectarine varieties,” DeEugenio said. 

Bonnie Lundblad of Sunny Valley International told the crowd that New Jersey blueberries should be ready June 11-15.

“Everything looks great. The weather was perfect. By the 17th, we’ll be in full production, plenty of room for Fourth of July ads,” Lundblad said, noting that blueberry growers from elsewhere also had a great season, so “keep everything local, and we promise to do a great job for you.”

John Banscher, president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey, said growers have bounced back from a little bit of a wet spring and sweet corn should be ready by June 20. Squash is coming back, the greens are “excellent” quality, and prices have been fair to not-so fair, likely because of California’s 2018 romaine safety issues.

“We gotta stay Jersey Fresh and Jersey strong,” Banscher said. “Please everybody, stay strong and we’ll have a better year.”

Tom Beaver, marketing director for the state’s agriculture department, told the crowd that they’re placing more Jersey Fresh advertisements on billboards statewide, on an aerial banner at the Jersey Shore, and on traditional, public and streaming radio. A recent survey showed the brand is still popular. Consumers need to know that the label means locally grown produce at high quality and food safety standards, he said.

“We believe we are a leader unequivocally in food safety preparedness,” Beaver said. “That’s an area we take great pride in.”

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