The Indians who first settled in New Jersey were well aware of the importance of good agricultural soil. Therefore, they went the extra mile in its preservation. They used to bury the tails, heads and meat of fish and animals to fertilize the soil. Wood ashes were scattered everywhere. Water supply was persistent, and weeds were pulled out. The crops they grew were quite basic and included beans, melons, corn, pumpkins and squash.
When it comes to immigrants, people from Sweden were amongst the first settlers. In the 1600s, they began agriculture on the land they captured. The expansion of farms continued across the state but took a blow during 1776 with the advent of the American Revolution. During and after this time, many farms were devastated.
The rebuilding of farmland began once America was liberated. People who used to work as overseers started buying farmland and by working hard and attentively, they became quite prosperous and well-respected in their areas. Amongst the oldest farms to remain under the same owners is the Sayre-Howell farm which is located in Cedarville. A two hundred acre farm, it initiated in 1697 when Joseph Sayre bought the land and began farming. Currently, the farm is under the control of James Howell, a direct descendant of the first owner.
The Italian-American farming community has played a huge role in the farming department in the country. Most of the Italians came to the US hoping for a better life at the turn of the century. Even though many of them preferred the coal mines of Pennsylvania at first, they took advantage of that business to save money and build farmlands. The later moved to New Jersey and started clearing land for the production of truck crops.
Amongst the pioneers of agriculture in New Jersey was Charles F. Seabrook. He was particularly interested in corporate agriculture and the incorporation of technology with agriculture. (The State of New Jersey, 2015). He was the first person to begin the commercial freezing of produce, especially vegetables, and fruits. He also started the nursery industry in the South of the state.
Seabrook Farms Corporation first began in 1933. The farm was amongst the biggest farming and frozen foods firms in the country and had a production which spread over thirty thousand acres (dedicated to just vegetables). Koster’s nursery, also started by Seabrook, was amongst the most well-known nurseries in the USA. When Koster’s broke up, many smaller nurseries were founded, and they still continue to operate in the area.
Howell farm, another old farm in New Jersey extends on a land area of about a hundred and thirty acres. First started in the 1900s, one can still experience firsthand what farm life was like in the place back in the 1900s. (Jennifer battista, 2014).There are hog pastures, chicken houses, and sheep barns. Nowadays, the farm is open to field trips, and there is plenty for the kids to do.
Another old yet beautiful farm in New Jersey is the Longstreet farm in Monmouth County. It began in the 1890s. Despite the many years, it continues to reflect the sounds and sights of a typical NJ farm. Many everyday agricultural activities still take place there, including sheep shearing, ice cutting, and spring planting. (Jennifer battista, 2014). People who come to visit the place can take part in the many activities taking place on the land, including grinding corn, milking cows, and stove cooking. The farm also holds many yearly festivities and carnivals.
Present Day Farming and its effects
After the pharmaceuticals industry and tourism, agriculture forms the third largest industry in New Jersey. It continues to bring in billions in revenue for the state. Since it is such an important industry, the revenue it brings in goes to many different departments. It is easy to say that without agriculture in NJ, many departments would go hungry.
Only about two years ago the state’s agriculture industry brought in $1.12 billion in billings with farming activity on more than ten thousand and three hundred farms. (New jersey department of agriculture, 2014).The main industry was the nursery, sod and greenhouse industry with billings coming in at over four hundred million. After that, there were fruits and vegetables, followed by field crops. Equine, poultry and dairy products were also amongst the biggest billers.
New Jersey owes much of its scenic vistas to the farming industry. It is the single largest source of the scenic views in the state. Therefore, farming also helps the tourism industry in many, many ways. Taxpaying farmland is, therefore, critical to NJ residents. Currently, NJ has about 730,000 acres of farmland.
Over a hundred different varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown in the state and sold all over the world to consumers. The produce is either processed right here in New Jersey or is sent off to other places in the country or to Canada. On a national scale, NJ is amongst the biggest producers of cucumbers, spinach, bell peppers, cranberries, blueberries, snap beans, squash, and tomatoes. (New jersey department of agriculture, 2014).
Since NJ also needs something unique, the state produces about hundreds and thousands of dollars’ worth of crops that are found only in the state. There are currently about 46 varieties of wines that are uniquely produced in NJ.
The farming industry also consists of fish and seafood. Bluefish, flounder, shellfish, tilefish, hake and many other species are grown. The catch is not just sold in the USA but is also exported all around the world. The fishing industry adds over two hundred million dollars in total billings to agriculture. (Brian Ianieri, 2014)
Farmers Against Hunger (FAH)
Started in 1996, Farmers Against Hunger is a charitable organization through which the farmers of NJ are able to contribute their extra produce to the poor and needy. (Farmers against Hunger, 2014). Even though farmers did try to donate their produce to the poor before FAH began, they always failed to do so because transportation was very expensive. There was no time to have employees use the farm’s own trucks and transport goods from one place to another, especially when the destination did not pay for transport. Even if the pantries did have money, their trucks were usually not available or free to pick the material up. FAH has the financial support of the Bonner Foundation and through their support the first truck was bought and FAH started.
Today, the farmers have taken charge of FAH. They form most of the board members and play an active role in truck repairs, cleaning, fundraising, and outreach, amongst other activities held by FAH. They see the organization as their own vision and give it time despite working overtime on their own farms.
FAH sends off the extra produce weekly to four sites within NJ, and they further distribute the produce to the needy. Ten recipient agencies pick the produce up while it is still fresh. They then deliver the produce to elderly people who are unable to leave their homes because of illness and old age. Some of the produce is handed out either at soup kitchens or at agencies specializing in distribution. The four sites are overlooked by site leaders (mainly volunteers). They show up to manage the distribution of rain or the sun. FAH serves more than seven thousand people every seven days by distributing to over forty agencies. (Farmers against Hunger, 2014)
Industrial growth in NJ has vastly affected the state’s farm economy. NJ has lost about twenty-seven percent of its farmland in recent years. even though the trend has slowed down a bit in certain areas, it is still a threat. From 2007 to 2013, only two percent farmland was lost.
The reason why NJ is so good at preservation is the fact that they have largely shifted to smart farming. The main focus is preserving the land for farming, not agriculture. Many mechanisms are currently at play at both county and state level to preserve agricultural land. These include agricultural zoning, preservation easements, transfers and low-density residential zoning. (Brian Ianieri, 2014)
The cost of New Jersey stretches from Sandy Hook to Cape May. It constitutes to nearly a hundred and thirty miles of sandy beaches. The phrase “Down the Shore” is very popular in New Jersey. It refers to the fact that one can find something for everyone in the area. the beaches boast of barrier islands and bays with beautiful fishing villages, lighthouses, and scenic vistas. The most treasured of all Jersey beaches are the white-sand beaches that draw in a number of people from all over the country, but especially from New York since the city is closer. (The State of New Jersey, 2015)
Brian Ianieri, B.I. (2014).Smallest farms becoming rarer in New Jersey. Retrieved 26 June, 2015, from http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/breaking/smallest-farms-becoming-rarer- in-new-jersey/article_0783e99c-f00f-11e3-a552-0019bb2963f4.html
Farmers against hunger, F.A.H. (2014). Harvesting for the Hungry Since 1996. Retrieved 26 June 2015, from http://www.njagsociety.org/farmers-against-hunger.html
Jennifer Battista, J.B. (2014). Step Back in Time at NJ's Living History Farms. Retrieved 26 June, 2015, from http://mommypoppins.com/newyorkcitykids/nj-living-history-farms- milk-churn-pick-plant-and-learn
New jersey department of agriculture, N.J.D.A. (2012). About NJDA. Retrieved 26 June 2015, from http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/about/overview.html
The state of new jersey (2015). The Garden State. Retrieved 26 June 2015, from http://www.state.nj.us/nj/about/garden/