Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

According to  the Washington Post, A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm. 

For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population.

One of New Jersey’s biggest challenges in farming has been the aging of our farmers with a significant majority over the age of 55. This article raises some interesting issues about transitions to a new agricultural demographic and the speculative possibility (for NJ) of a statewide food shed or food system organized around small farm holdings such as the three acre farm tilled by Liz Whitehurst that is profiled in the article.

The cost of land in NJ remains prohibitive  however for young farmers.

Whitehurst leases a 3 acre farm in Upper Marlboro Maryland and her primary market is Washington D.C. Hudson Valley serve NYC farmers markets and restaurants.

What is needed in NJ is a concerted effort to define a NJ Foodshed that serves NJ, Philly, and NYC  markets.

We would simply be reclaiming a historical legacy in our state by emphasizing an integrated statewide foodshed that serves local and regional markets.


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Via Asbury Park Boardwalk’s Facebook Page

From 12-12-12 The Concert for Sandy Relief: “This was a song I wrote for my adopted home town, Asbury Park, when it was struggling on hard times. For 25 years you could go to Asbury in the summer and there was no one on its beaches, no one on its boardwalk; then over the past decade, thanks to the arts community moving in, thanks to the gay community, thanks to people who lived there and toughed it out for that whole quarter of a century, the town has had a renaissance and come back and if you go there in the summer now, the beaches are filled with people and the boardwalk is lined with local businesses and there’s all kinds of people there: rich people, poor people, brown people, black people, white people, all on the boardwalk. So it was painful to see it damaged after all that time from the recent storm and to see our Jersey shore damaged, because the Jersey shore has always been a special place. It’s been inclusive. If you got a few bucks you can have a beach house. But if you’re a retired police man or retired fireman, you can have a cottage by the sea in Point pleasant or Manasquan or Lavallette, and that’s been a principal part of the characters of the Jersey Shore and it’s what’s made it special. I’m sure there will be a lot of difficult conversations when the rebuilding comes around but I pray that that characteristic remains along the Jersey Shore, it’s what makes is special. So tonight this is a prayer for all of our struggling brothers and sisters in New York and all along New Jersey. Here we go man.” Bruce then sings “My City of Ruins”

    And from America’s other bard, a poem by Walt Whitman, who also called New Jersey home:


Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

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Great post with some really visionary thinking from PermaJersey who began writing on post-Sandy issues for the Jersey Shore Bicycle coalition in November.

“Don’t Restore the Shore Regrow it!”

Some great ideas here including bundling the cost of new bike lanes and electrification on the North Jersey Coast Line from Long Branch to Bayhead into our overall rebuilding plan.

Even more intriguing is the idea of rebuilding the barrier island from Bayhead to South Seaside Park with streetcar lines along Route 35 with an emphasis on Dunes, boardwalks and amusement parks and limited or no residential development east of 35 and the new dune line.

Interesting proposal that is really forward-looking and would turn New Jersey towards the 21st century.

Great stuff!

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Two stories that highlight the dangerous games Governor Christie is playing with the state’s future:

1.) Atlantic City’s Revel resort, $1.3B in debt, faces potential bankruptcy or foreclosure

2.) NJ stallions seek greener pastures, find them in Pa.

“New Jersey is no longer competitive, putting more than 170,000 acres of equine farmland in jeopardy,” said Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association President Tom Luchento on the association’s website, sboanj.com. Luchento also pointed to what he said are more than 10,000 jobs at stake should New Jersey wind up out of the equine business.”

Research from the Rutgers Equine Center shows that the NJ equine industry has a $1.1 billion economic impact across the state and accounts for 13,000 jobs.

So it begs the question:

Q: Why are we gambling with New Jersey’s agricultural future?

But there some very simple answers that can help preserve NJ Agriculture and also rebuild Atlantic City.

a.) If preserving and improving Atlantic City is dependent on casinos and gaming activities, why not headquarter all of New Jersey’s gaming, equine and tourism marketing, regulatory and related law enforcement agencies in Atlantic City with satellite offices in Trenton and on the northern shore in Asbury Park, near Monmouth Park, or at Fort Monmouth?

b.) The partnership between Rutgers, Johnson & Johnson and the City of New Brunswick/Devco is widely seen as the key driver of the revitalization of New Brunswick over the last quarter century. Why not recreate this model in Atlantic City with state gaming, tourism and equine agencies and offices?

If we’re serious about saving and rebuilding Atlantic City why not allow gaming at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands and make Atlantic City the hub of New Jersey’s gaming and tourism agencies and commissions?

A steady stream of office workers everyday would help sustain and create new small businesses in Atlantic City itself.

Locating state and association headquarters and satellite offices in Atlantic City would also keep AC front of mind year-round, not just in the summer or when a casino hits hard times.

It’s not a quick fix, it’s a long-term process, but it’s a process that accounts for more than just the casino owner’s interests.

Cross-posted at Blue Jersey

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This is the first article for local publication in NJ I wrote after returning from New Orleans as State Communications Director for Repower America. It was published in the TriCityNews on January 21st 2010. TriCityNews only publishes in hard copy, so I reprinted it here, since it’s become suddenly relevant again in the last month.

So perhaps I’m crazy. After a decade in Minnesota where stores sell t-shirts emblazoned with umbrella-carrying penguins and the slogan “Minnesotans for Global Warming” I spent a chunk of 2009 in Louisiana where a football field’s worth of land disappears into the sea every 15 minutes.

So now I’m finally home in coastal Monmouth County in New Jersey – the Atlantic Coast state most threatened by sea level rise according to Geology, a science journal that reports on such things. New Jersey also happens to be the only eastern seaboard state with the same subsidence problem as Louisiana — the sinking of land due to geologic factors. Luckily New Jersey doesn’t suffer from the severity of the problem that Louisiana does — destruction of wetlands from oil and gas production and massive losses of land-building sediment from the mighty Mississippi, but New Jersey’s coastal lands are slowly sinking even as overall sea level rises.

Monmouth University began to address this issue last Friday with a conference on climate change impacts on the Jersey shore. The conference was organized to shed some light on the hazards facing our coastal communities. The presenters went to great lengths to emphasize that we not only face long-term threats from rising sea levels, but that we also face recurring threats from ordinary tidal flooding and storms simply because of our location in a coastal zone. Acting DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello’s comments that “we’re in a very vulnerable place, our job is keeping it on people’s minds” should make us think twice about what we do along our beloved shore. During lunch, I had the unexpected pleasure of sitting next to Bernie Moore, a long-time DEP administrator who spent forty years with the agency. His private comments mirrored Commissioner Mauriello’s public comments; that many of the issues we are discussing today – mitigating flood hazards, dealing with routine tidal flooding, the issue of riparian rights in fluid coastal zones, are issues that the DEP and their predecessor agencies have been dealing with for forty plus years.

The key issue both then and now seems to be a lack of political will to address these critical coastal issues in a responsible manner based on scientific realities. To be clear, scientific reality does not exclude economic opportunity. By following a simple principle of ecology – all systems are interrelated — we can start to create a future that builds on our area’s uniqueness by taking advantage of our remaining farms, fields, and streams.

New Jersey is a unique state as many people from around the country are fond of telling us. But our uniqueness arises not only from our culture but also from our history and our geography. We’re the Garden State and for much of our history we provided tables in New York, Philadelphia, and other eastern states with corn, tomatoes, peaches, blueberries, cranberries, potatoes, eggs, and poultry.

After moving back to New Jersey I was amazed that many of the small local farms, pocket farms really, still dotted much of the New Jersey landscape. Many are gone, but many do remain and it’s still very easy to pick up some fresh, in-season produce. For me, local farms and fields are part of great childhood memories with my grandparents. I remember pulling off the Parkway on the way to Asbury Park and seeing nothing but farms, fields, and streams as we drove to the boardwalk. So to honor both their memories and the Garden State’s agricultural legacy I created a small blog called Pocket Farms – Keeping Jersey Fresh. Subtitled Agriculture and Local Markets in the Garden State, the blog is designed as a resource center for those interested in local agriculture and a place to explore farmers markets, local farms and unique agricultural initiatives like the proposed Upper Freehold Historic Byway.

This is not just an exercise in idle nostalgia. Local agriculture can play a critical role in helping to mitigate climate change, diversifying New Jersey’s economy, creating jobs and redeveloping communities like Asbury Park. While living in New Orleans I began to note significant similarities between Asbury Park and New Orleans – a rich cultural history, people with passionate, almost mystical connections to the city, poverty, educational challenges and a need for good local jobs that encompass more than tourism. In Asbury Park there may be opportunity to build new food processing businesses that use local agriculture and employ local people to supply our homes, hotels, B&Bs and restaurants with locally farmed, locally produced foods.

We have an opportunity to recreate a sustainable Jersey Shore ecology that stretches from the farms to the beaches and that benefits farmers, small business owners, workers and students alike. All it takes is political will and a willingness to face scientific reality now rather than later.

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Salem County’s Cassaday Farms recently joined the state’s farmland preservation program, helping the state to surpass a critical milestone of 200,000 acres of permanently preserved farmland.

On October 9th, NJ Agriculture Secretary Doug Fisher and State Senate President Steve Sweeney joined George Cassady, the owner of Cassaady Farms, and other local officials to celebrate this milestone. Cassady plans on using some of the proceeds he will receive from the Farmland Preservation Fund to purchase additional farmland which he then plans to preserve under the program as well.

The Gloucester County Times Editorial Board in discussing the state’s farmland preservation efforts came out with strong support for continuing the farmland preservation program and rightly notes that under this plan 14,698 acres of farmland have been preserved in Gloucester County and an additional 13,000 acres of farmland in Cumberland County have been preserved as well. Salem County leads the state with 29,418 acres of farmland preserved.

The state’s overall goal is to preserve 550,000 acres of farmland statewide which is roughly equivalent to the existing farmland acreage in New Jersey. Over a thirty year period, New Jersey lost 384,000 acres of farmland to development and large-lot development is increasingly becoming the norm in New Jersey’s suburban and semi-rural counties. Or perhaps more precisely, counties that used to be semi-rural.

Farmland preservation is an issue of great economic importance to the state. Preserving and growing our statewide farming activities and redeveloping our agricultural processing sector is the right way to come back.

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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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