NJ Lt. Governor’s Agri-Business Tour

The Lt. Governor of NJ, Kim Guadagno is currently touring Agri-businesses across the state of NJ. On Wednesday the Department of Agriculture along with the  Lt. Governor’s office went on a tour of Comarco products in Camden, NJ. Comarco products specializes in food processing, and have been located in New Jersey since is founding in 1978. During our time there I was able to sit in on a meeting and hear about some challenges that are facing Comarco, and other businesses all around NJ.

What was especially cool was that one of the issues discussed in the meeting overlapped with a project I did for a course at Dickinson. It is always great to be able to apply something you learned in class to a real life experience. Unfortunately, I cannot say anything else due to privacy issues.

Following the meeting the took us on a tour of the premises. I was fascinated by how hard their workforce was working, and how efficiently the plant ran. What I found to be most interesting about the employees is that 86% of them reside in the Camden area. It was hard not to notice the cohesiveness around the plant. For me this is a result of a message resonated from the top down.

The highlight of the day was definitely being able to meet the Lt. Governor. She was so nice and well spoken, it was truly an honor. Below I have posted 2 pictures taken of me at the event. Also, I am providing a link to Comarco’s website.
 http://www.comarco.net/default.htm

 

Connecting the Community and Agriculture

The previous week at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture was a busy one. Both Governor Christie and the US Secretary of Agriculture have declared Aug. 5-11 NJ Farmers Market Week. On Thursday, I traveled with the Secretary of Agriculture and my advisor to the Long Valley Farmers Market to celebrate the kick-off. It was a really exciting event and marked the peak of the summer harvest. It was great to be able to meet with representatives from the market, the USDA, and other state, local, and federal agencies. At the market the NJ Secretary of Agriculture presented the Farmers Market Week proclamation, signed by Governor Christie.

Before and after the Farmers Market event were filled with two other stops. First, we went to the 2012 Great Zucchini Race held by the YMCA of Rahway and cosponsored by The Square Foot Gardening Foundation. The event celebrated the efforts of 60 young campers, who used the Square Foot Gardening method to grow zucchini and other produce. The Square Foot Gardening Method was developed by their Founder, Mel Bartholomew. “The Square Foot Gardening Foundation is a non-profit whose purpose is to end world hunger by reaching out to families and teaching them how to grow healthy food for their daily meals, thus improving their diets and getting the family  members interactive with each other.”  The method uses less resources and requires very little work, yet produces a crop equal to a single row garden 5x its size. At the event, the children decorated zucchinis and fashioned them into race cars. Once completed, they raced them down a track. It was great to see how passionate the young children were. We spoke with one girl who was especially intrigued by their gardens. She showed us around, and articulately described how the process worked, and what her favorite plants and vegetables were. Its nice to see that children as young as 10 are realizing how important eating healthy is.

After the Farmers Market event we filmed a clip that will be used for the intro of the Department of Agricultures, “Know Your Farmer” campaign. It will be a great tool which will allow citizens from all across the state to see who is growing their fresh local produce.

A link to the Square Foot Gardening website is below. It is truly a great operation.
 http://www.squarefootgardening.org/my-we…

Invasive Species

Invasive species in NJ pose a serious threat to the agricultural industry. Throughout the years the Department of Agriculture has develeped numerous strategies to combat invasive species.

The gypsy moth is one of the more problematic insects in New Jersey. The gypsy moth was brought over to the United States by a French scientist in 1868. When they escaped from his lab it quickly became apparant that they would not only thrive in their new habitat, but also be extremely destructive. They feed on hardwood trees, and eventually kill them. Gypsy moths cause roughly $870 million dollars worth of damage.

In 2009, 91,890 acres of land in NJ were damaged because of gypsy moth infestation.

To combat this destructive bug, NJ has developed a spraying program. In order to qualify, “a residential or recreational forest must have an average of more than 500 egg masses per acre and be at least 50 acres in size.  A single egg mass contains up to 1,000 eggs.”

This program has proven successful. In 2010, New Jersey had 3,813 acres of defoliation in 107 municipalities in 20 counties last year.

More information can be found at the following link:

http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/news/press/2011/approved/press110105.html

Event Video

My project for the past week was to create a video showcasing an event I spoke about in an earlier blog. The Jersey Seafood Challenge was a competition held in Princeton at the Governor’s Mansion. It brought 8 of the best seafood chefs in NJ together to compete and see who is the best. The winner, Demetrios Haronis will compete in the national seafood challenge in New Orleans, as the NJ representative.

I was asked to put together a video showcasing all of the great chefs and their dishes. It was one of the coolest projects I have gotten to do all summer. I used pictures and videos that my advisor and I took at the event, and compiled them to make what I feel is a pretty interesting video. I quickly learned that the editing was the hardest part. Making the video transition well was extremely difficult. It is important however to make sure that it isn’t choppy. To make the video I used Windows Movie Maker. It was easy to use and made creating the video a lot more manageable.

Below I have provided a link to the video if anybody is interested.

Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown

Since I last blogged a lot has been going on at the Dept. of Agriculture. My favorite activity has been visiting local farmers markets and getting the word out about the New Jersey Fresh produce. The NJ Fresh program promotes produce grown in New Jersey. The advertising campaign, which has been around since 1983 is designed to inform consumers about the about the availability and variety of fruits and vegetables grown in New Jersey, which as a state, grows more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs.

One way the Department of Agriculture has advertised the campaign is through their “Farmers Market Tour”. The first farmers market that Secretary Fisher and the Dept. of Agriculture attended in the 2012 season was the West Orange Farmers Market. Here, along with leaders from the West Orange community, and representative from the NJ Main Street initiative, New Jerseyans celebrated the commencement of farmers market season.

The New Jersey Grown program is a separate entity from Jersey Fresh, however, both are run by the Dept. of Agriculture. Their goals and functions are the same. The only difference is that the Jersey Grown program promotes a new brand of locally grown plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers.

One project I have been working on is updated the Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown websites. Here you can find a comprehensive list of gardens, arboretums, farmers markets, and more!

Exciting Events

This past week was spent traveling all over New Jersey to events hosted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The first was the NJ Seafood challenge, and the second was the release of copepods all the way down in Cape May.

The NJ Seafood Challenge was a really fun and great event! It was held at the Governor’s Mansion. There 8 chefs competed to prove who was the best seafood chef in all of New Jersey. The winner will eventually represent NJ in a national competition in New Orleans. Not only did I get to eat a lot of delicious seafood, but I also learned so much! Before the event I had to call numerous newspapers and news channels to get press to come to the event. I had never done anything like that before and it was a great learning experience. Once at the event I helped my advisor by working with the press and even taking some pictures to be put up on the NJ Fresh website. Once the event was over I went back to the office and helped post pictures to online.

The next day we went down to Cape May, New Jersey to a Mosquito Research Lab. There we met with experts who were working on the release of copepods. These copepods feed on mosquito larvae and help to combat the overabundance of mosquitoes in certain areas of New Jersey. Before the event I barely new or cared what a copepod was. However, after seeing what these tiny crustaceans can do I am fascinated by them. The Secretary of Agriculture helped scientists release the copepods into the wild, and hopefully New Jerseyans won’t get bit as much!

I thought it was really great how I was able to learn about things that I never thought I would. Going into my internship I thought I would be primarily dealing with policy issues. However, I now realize that I will be doing tons of public relations work and even dealing with some biology!

Week #2

The programs offered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture affect nearly every citizen of New Jersey. The Departments main objective is to promote, protect, and serve New Jersey’s diverse agriculture and agribusinesses industries. Not only does the Department of Agriculture run programs to develop the production of agriculture in the Garden State, but it also manages initiatives to feed schoolchildren, conserve natural resources, protect farmland from development, and expand export markets.

Within the Department of Agriculture I work for the Office of the Secretary. The current Secretary of Agriculture for the state of New Jersey is Douglas Fisher, and he serves on Governor Christie’s cabinet.  Secretary Fisher’s duties include fulfilling executive, management and administrative duties prescribed by law, executive order or gubernatorial direction. The Secretary also oversees the development and implementation of specific programs required to meet State Board policy directives.

One of the responsibilities that the Office of the Secretary is in charge of is public relations. This is the department I primarily deal with on a day-to-day basis. The Public Information Officer, and my internship advisor, is Lynne Richmond. However, occasionally I have to opportunity to interact with other departments. On Thursday I was able to go to the State Annex House with the Legislative Liaison to the State Agricultural Board. There we sat in on the State Agricultural Committee Meeting where they discussed legislation with constituents. On that particular day they were reviewing legislation involving fisheries protection, and animal rehabilitation.

Next week on Thursday I will be attending the New Jersey Fresh Seafood Challenge. I will discuss it in full detail in my next blog!

First Week at NJ Department of Agriculture

My first week at the NJ Department of Agriculture was an exciting one. On my first day I got shown around the building and had to fill out tons of paperwork. Once I got settled I was given my assignments. I was given the task of writing a press release and briefing for an event being held at a local farmers market. I had never written a press release before so I was really excited. The key is add detail and portray the most exciting aspects of the event to make it more appealing to members of the press. The more press that shows up to an event the better! Once I submitted the press release to my advisor she asked me to write up a briefing for the Secretary of Agriculture. This allows the secretary to gain more knowledge about the event. In this case I included information about what vendors would be present at the farmers market, and some important facts.

One thing I learned my during my first week is to always ask questions. There were numerous times where I was unsure of how to do something, and instead of doing it wrong I asked my advisor how she would like it to be done. A quick question is a lot less bothersome than having to redo an entire project.

My first week was really exciting and I cannot wait to get back to work!