This winter was a tough one for New Jersey and many are wondering how it will affect the farms in the state. New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that a good, cold and hearty winter is fine for the farms because it kills off disease and pests.
Fisher said erratic weather would be worse. He said if there are 70 degree days and then suddenly it droops to sub-zero temperatures again, that would be a problem for the farms.
As for the water, Fisher said that it is always good to have the snow and rain but it is all about timing. He said that now winter needs to end and a good thawing needs to happen so the ground can start to dry out. The drying out is important in the spring because it needs to dry out enough that farmers will be able to use their equipment in the fields.
Fisher said that like other industries in America, farming is being consolidated and although the number of farms is down, the average size of a farm has increased from 71 to 79 acres.
“The acre increase just means that the biggest loss was very small — one- to nine-acre farms. Farmers look to other areas where they can expand, pick up some acreage and that is what is happening,” said Fisher.
Fisher said that farmers can’t operate the way that they used to years ago because they would not survive. He said that farmers are becoming even better business people and are taking advantage of the economies of scale.
According to the United States Census, the average age of a farmer is 59 and Fisher attributes that to the fact that farms are usually family owned and the older generation tends to hang on as long as they can. He said that even though the older member of the family is the head of the farm, there are usually younger family members helping with the farm as well.
“The farms are there and as long as there is opportunity, you will start to see younger people coming forward on the farms and we are probably getting to that point now,” Fisher said.