The 411 on Jersey Fresh

Here’s a close-up look at the Jersey Fresh campaign by way of answers to some frequently asked questions.

Wegman's fresh produce display, Jersey Bites
Wegmans fresh produce display

I’ve seen the Jersey Fresh logo and sign at my grocery store and at farmers markets. Does it really mean anything?
The Jersey Fresh sign/logo guarantees the produce was grown right here in the Garden State, and because of the geographic proximity to local distribution centers, the fruits and vegetables were picked at their peak and available to you in a much shorter amount of time. As a result, not only is your food fresher, more flavorful and less likely to be bruised but more of the very important vitamins and minerals are retained. Also, choosing Jersey Fresh means you support local farmers and are helping them to stay in business, maintain their farmland as well as uphold the quality of life for your community.

New Jersey farmers grow more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Also, the state ranks fifth in the nation in the production of blueberries, fourth in the production of peaches and spinach, third in cranberries and bell peppers, plus it is among the top 10 producers in the nation of cucumbers, corn, squash, tomatoes, snap beans and cabbage. New Jersey has so much to offer, so always look for the Jersey Fresh logo to be sure you are buying local and supporting NJ farmers. You can be sure it’s local if it’s Jersey Fresh.

Who is eligible to label their produce as Jersey Fresh?
Growers in New Jersey who register with the Jersey Fresh Quality Grading Program, are licensed to use the Jersey Fresh logo on their packages. The logo on their product indicates that the contents have been inspected and meet quality standards equal to or better than USDA No. 1 standards. Click here for more information on how to enroll in the Jersey Fresh program.

Who is part of the campaign these days?
The Jersey Fresh campaign has been around for over 30 years and has established itself as a reliable brand known for being quality, local and fresh. Any food provider can participate in the Jersey Fresh campaign to promote these attributes to their customers whether they are a farm, restaurant, grocery store, farm market, bakery or others. They are encouraged to source locally and promote the fact that they use Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables. Look for in-store point-of-purchase materials or the Jersey Fresh logo on menus or marketing materials to be sure.

What kind of impact has Jersey Fresh had?
greenwoodmarketIn recent years, we have seen a major shift in consumer demand as it pertains to produce. Previously, consumers were not as interested in where their food came from but rather the quality of the food. Now, consumers not only expect quality, but they demand to know where their food comes from geographically and even who specifically is growing it. Consumers are interested in forming relationships with their food growers and producers, visiting farmers weekly at farmers markets or supporting farmers in advance of the growing season by buying CSA (community supported agriculture) shares.

Greenwood Ave. farmers market, Trenton
Greenwood Ave. farmers market, Trenton

This demand for food grown close to home has resulted in the local food movement everyone is now familiar with. Even urban areas are seeing an increase in farmers markets as a result which allows people who might not normally have easy access to fresh food to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables. The ongoing support of this movement allows for not only more self-reliant and resilient food networks and improving local economies but has health and social impacts on communities.

What else should New Jerseyans—and everyone!—keep in mind?
The Jersey Fresh program’s success has spawned state programs across the country as well as several others within New Jersey including the Jersey Seafood program. Despite our small size, New Jersey is a fishing powerhouse. The port in Cape May is the second largest on the east coast and New Jersey ranks second in the nation for sea scallops and surf clams. The Garden State is also a large producer of tuna, aquaculture clams and oysters.

In addition, New Jersey has more than 50 licensed wineries and three American Viticulture Areas—the Outer Coastal Plain, Warren Hills, and Central Delaware Valley. With more than 40 wine varieties ranging from dry, Old-World style Syrah and Cabernet to approachable Chardonnay and Riesling, New Jersey ranks thirteenth in the nation in wine production, with more than 1.5 million gallons. New Jersey wines consistently succeed in major wine competitions, including double gold wins from multiple wineries at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis International Wine Competition.

Cape May Brewery
Cape May Brewery beet beer

And let’s not forget our local breweries! Several NJ breweries have expressed interest in incorporating Jersey Fresh products into their brews. Cape May Brewery in particular is already part of the Made with Jersey Fresh program offering a honey porter using Jersey Fresh honey and a classic American Pale Ale, which incorporates red and golden Jersey Fresh beets.Also, the popularity of local microbreweries has caused some NJ farmers to seek additional opportunities by growing hops and barley for beer production.

With that in mind, look for the Jersey Fresh label when picking out your fruits and vegetables as well as the next time you’re at your local liquor store!

Many thanks to Christine Fries and the Jersey Fresh team for their help with this piece!