For the past several months, we’ve been covering various Jersey Fresh food, drink, supporters, and events every Friday. This week, we thought it was time to check in with the Jersey Fresh team themselves. Al Murray, assistant secretary of agriculture for New Jersey, was kind enough to take some time out of his day to answer our end-of-summer questions.
JERSEY BITES: What can people expect from Jersey Fresh produce as summer turns to fall?
AL MURRAY: There are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables that are harvested in the fall: apples, cranberries, arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, scallions, spinach, squash, turnips.
Aside from apple picking, what are some great Jersey Fresh-related activities for families?
They can visit farms for hayrides, hay and corn mazes, pumpkin picking, pick-your-own fall vegetables, and cider pressings. Many farms have special festivals and other activities. September also is the wine harvest and a great time to take in a wine festival or visit a winery for a tour of the vineyard and a tasting. For pick-your-own farms or a list of current activities, visit the Jersey Fresh website or follow Jersey Fresh on Facebook.
Is the idea of Jersey Fresh still alive and kicking in the winter?
Yes. Our Made with Jersey Fresh program is available to companies who make food items using New Jersey’s agricultural products. The Jersey Fresh logo alerts consumers that the products are made using local ingredients. New Jersey’s produce season runs from May to November. Incorporating Jersey Fresh products into processed foods extends the season to year-round. It also expands distribution well beyond the region. For a food processor to utilize the Made with Jersey Fresh logo, they must first become licensed to use the Jersey Fresh logo. Then, they must use products that are inspected through the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program. Those products must adhere to specific criteria for grading and quality. Another great way Jersey Fresh stays alive through winter is with Jersey Grown Christmas Trees. Jersey Seafood is also harvested year round. Look for the Jersey Seafood logo identifying local, quality seafood produced by New Jersey fishermen or fish farmers when preparing holiday meals.
How can New Jerseyans best help support local farmers?
They can visit farms for agritourism, look for the Jersey Fresh logo when they’re in the supermarket, specialty store, farmers market, or farm stand, and buy New Jersey produce directly from New Jersey farmers. Also, they can focus on local when dining out. Many restaurants throughout the state source from nearby farmers to create seasonal menu items as well as participate in fall or harvest Restaurant Weeks. Another great way to support farmers is to participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Enrollment usually takes place in early spring in advance of the growing season. They pledge to support a farm operation and in return receive shares of the farm’s bounty throughout the season. They can also participate in our Jersey Fresh Love social media campaign. All they need to do is take photos of Jersey Fresh produce, dishes they’ve made with the produce, visits to local farms and restaurants that use Jersey Fresh and share on their own social media channels using #JerseyFreshLove. On Wednesdays, we highlight those photos on our own social media.
Anything else people should know about Jersey Fresh?
Jersey Fresh was the first state-sponsored agricultural branding program in the nation, launched in 1984. It is not only about promotion, but includes a quality grading component, and reminds consumers about the abundance and variety of New Jersey’s agricultural industry.
Keep up with Jersey Fresh!
Photos courtesy of Christine Fries/Jersey Fresh.