The Christie Administration has received a $707,065 Specialty Crop Block Grant to fund 11 initiatives to benefit Garden State crops such as fruits, vegetables, as well as horticulture and nursery.
The grants are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to promote specialty crops in the nation and stimulate food-and agriculturally-based community economic development. Specialty crops account for $907 million in sales annually in the Garden State.
“This federal funding will go a long way to educating and promoting the benefits of produce and plants grown in the Garden State,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “One example provides funds for 20 new school gardens that will teach children about the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and how we grow our food.”
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, nursery crops and floriculture. Most of New Jersey agriculture falls into the specialty crop category.
To be eligible for the grant, projects are required to “enhance the competitiveness” of specialty crops and might include, but are not limited to: research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, “buy local” programs, increased consumption, increased innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, product development and developing cooperatives.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will use $342,000 of the funding to support the popular Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown programs. The projects support agricultural marketing and cooperative development.
The projects to be funded by New Jersey’s grant include:
Jersey Fresh — Increase sales of specialty crops through print and television advertisements.
New Jersey Agricultural Society – Increase student understanding and interest in specialty crops, increase family consumption of specialty crops through hands-on learning at school gardens hosted by 20 new schools.
Atlantic County Board of Agriculture – Provide hands-on farm experience to student interns pursuing a career in specialty crop agriculture.
New Jersey Blueberry Growers Association – Promote New Jersey produced blueberries through a consumer-oriented radio campaign.
New Jersey Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association – Support specialty crop producers’ ability to direct market their products and attract customers through the development and expansion of electronic and print media marketing.
Garden State Wine Growers Association – Increase sales of and prominently promote New Jersey wines through the Jersey Fresh Wine Festival and introduction into the retail and licensed beverage spaces in the state.
New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association – Increase New Jersey plant sales through the marketing efforts of the Plant Something campaign.
New Jersey Peach Promotion Council – Promote New Jersey peaches through print media advertisements and various promotional events.
Trenton Farmers Market – Increase sales of all specialty crops by marketing the farmers market through local newspapers and radio stations, creating videos to share on YouTube, and hosting at least seven cooking demonstrations at the market.
Tri-County Cooperative Market Association – Expand the number of customers who purchase and increase the volume of products sold at the markets by enhancing the website.
The New Jersey grant is part of $63 million in 2016 Specialty Crop Block Grants that will fund 755 projects throughout the nation.