The state of New Jersey (better known as the ‘Garden State‘) ranks in the top 10 in the nation in the production of fruit and vegetable crops such as blueberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, spinach, cucumbers, squash, peaches, cranberries, sweet corn and asparagus.
Fresh produce represents a third of the state’s market value of agricultural products sold, specifically 20 percent from vegetables, melons and potatoes, plus 13 percent from fruit, berries and tree nuts. This is amazing, when you consider New Jersey is the 11th most populated state in the nation and ranks the 46th in land area. This juxtaposition offers a strategic advantage to retailers and restaurateurs alike to provide customers with fresh fruits and vegetables.
New Jersey is known for its leafy and other vegetables, says Ricardo Dimarzio, produce sales manager for ACME Markets based in Malvern, PA, and a subsidiary of the Albertsons Companies. ACME stores feature local romaine, green and red leaf lettuce, asparagus, corn, herbs, squash, peppers and cucumbers, among other produce, he adds.
Bell peppers are the state’s leading produce crop, and Sheppard Farms Inc. has nearly 400 acres of bell peppers in cultivation, according to Tom Sheppard, vice president of Sheppard Farms in Cedarville, NJ. The farm, founded in 1683, also grows 670 acres of cucumbers, 370 acres of asparagus and 200 acres of sweet corn, and is adding more squash and eggplant to the mix this year, says Sheppard.
“Our growers are outstanding, consistently delivering the best quality stone fruit and blueberries,” says Tom Beaver, director of sales and marketing for Glassboro, NJ-based Sunny Valley International. Sunny Valley is the exclusive marketing and sales agent for the Jersey Fruit Cooperative, the largest and longest-standing grower-owned cooperative in the state. Sunny Valley also markets yellow and white peaches for Larchmont, the largest peach grower in New Jersey by volume, and Gala Farms.
Organic production and demand are increasing in the Garden State, says Peter Dandrea, whose company currently offers a full line of leafy greens, herbs, lettuces, and radishes. Dandrea adds the farm has been converting acreage into organics for several seasons. “This year, we have expanded our New Jersey organics program significantly by converting over 100 acres of our farm to organic production,” he says. “Even though our organic production is up 35 percent this year, we are still unable to meet the growing demand of the market.”
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