Archive for March, 2012

Lost in all the debate over the potential takeover of the Rutgers-Camden campus in South Jersey is the extended presence of Rutgers and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station throughout New Jersey and especially in the food producing regions south of 195.

Rutgers operates the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, participates on the State Agriculture Development Committee and has a presence in all counties in South Jersey through it’s county extension and cooperative services. The Rutgers-Camden Library serves the South Jersey extension agents and cooperative services programs and is a portal to Rutgers statewide network of 26 libraries and more then 10.5 million holdings.

As New Jersey’s land grant institution, Rutgers has a federal mission to serve the state.

If Rutgers is pushed back north of 195, what happens to the farmers, growers, producers, distributors, packers and canners in South Jersey?

Can the proposed regional university that is supposed to take the place of Rutgers in South Jersey quickly duplicate the reach, mission, and 150 years of service of Rutgers — New Jersey’s state university — to the New Jersey or South Jersey agricultural community?

Why further divide an already divided state and carve up one of the few institutions in New Jersey with real statewide reach? An institution that serves the entire $82 billion New Jersey agricultural and food sector from High Point to Cape May.


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A blast from the past, an opinion piece I penned last year after the state announced it was ending the casino subsidies for Horse racing at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands. I ended up not submitting it because of timing issues with obtaining and confirming some metrics that I’ve left out. Prompted by a class and the early Spring, I’m going to try and get this blog going on a regular basis again. Let me know if you’d like to write or do photos if you’re interested. And follow me on Twitter at PocketFarmsNJ -jack

As New Jersey’s horse racing industry goes, so goes New Jersey’s agricultural industry. New Jersey’s horse racing industry contributes 176,000 acres or one third of New Jersey’s agricultural open space, $160 million dollars in tax receipts, 13,000 jobs and provides a $1.1 billion dollar economic impact according to the Rutgers Center for Equine Research. The economics of New Jersey’s horse racing industry extend far beyond the profit and loss statement of any individual track.

While on the surface Governor Christie’s proposal to restructure New Jersey’s sports, entertainment and gaming complex makes sense, his short-changing of New Jersey’s horse racing industry will have negative long-term impacts on the health of New Jersey’s agricultural industry and quality of life. Any chance that New Jersey has to transition into a major East Coast production center for locally sourced, sustainably grown foods will disappear as New Jersey horse farms are paved over and replaced by subdivisions and strip malls. Our remaining open space corridors such as the proposed Upper Freehold byway will face increased pressure as the economic viability of the New Jersey equine industry decreases with the demise of local racing venues, or the transfer of control to outside operators who don’t have New Jersey’s best interests at heart.

Horse farms and horse racing are an old and historic part of New Jersey’s economy and part of our state’s heritage.

With Fort Monmouth closed, New Jersey’s historic communications industry has essentially ceased to exist and NJ pharmaceutical companies continue to shift operations to New England’s Cambridge to New Haven Corridor. New Jersey’s manufacturing and distribution services are just a shell of their former selves. But what we do have is our land and our location.

As bioregional food systems become increasingly important in America’s food industries, New Jersey’s land and location can once again become a major competitive advantage for the state providing farmers, business owners and entrepreneurs unique opportunities to compete in the Boston to D.C. corridor with fresh, locally grown and produced foods.

But New Jersey’s agricultural viability depends on the open space and vistas of the horse farms. As a small state, our agricultural operations are necessarily small scale. Our advantage is that we can grow a mix of nursery crops, fruits, vegetables and feed all within close proximity to horse and dairy farms. This crop and farm diversity prevents the state from becoming a monoculture state dominated by only a few cash crops such as beets, soy beans, or feed corn. Our small size and small farms also help drive our tourism industry in summer and fall, a $38 billion dollar industry according to Global Insights. Tourism isn’t all about gambling in Atlantic City or rides on the boardwalk. It’s also about the drive to the destination. It’s a short trip off the Parkway or Turnpike for dinner or for breakfast at a family-owned restaurant or coffee shop. It’s a drive through farm country to buy just-picked fruits and vegetables or locally produced jams, honeys and breads. It’s overnight stays at Bed & Breakfasts throughout the fall harvest season. And all these seemingly small, discrete activities add up and build off of one another.

Governor Christie’s agricultural transition team estimated that NJ’s food and agriculture sector has $82 billion in sales, contributes 8.5% of New Jersey’s Gross State Product, and employs 400,000 workers. Without a doubt, agriculture and food production is a critical part of New Jersey’s economy and the equine industry is a key part of New Jersey’s agricultural and food complex. However, between 1972 and 2002 New Jersey lost 384,000 acres of agricultural land, almost all of it to development. Combined, New Jersey lost 672,000 acres of farms, forests and wetlands over the same period, fourteen percent of our open space in a state of only 4.8 million acres!

New Jersey tourism, agriculture and food production all depend upon diverse agricultural lands. Horse farms are a critical part of New Jersey’s agricultural ecosystem and landscape. Without in-state racing venues, horse farms and their $1.1 billion dollar state economic impact will slowly fade away and put increased real estate pressures on our remaining agricultural lands.

Not looking at the whole New Jersey equine sector and agricultural value chain during this restructuring process is incredibly myopic.

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