By Erin Delmore
Ask Away: Why do we call New Jersey the Garden State?
Our state is famous for its shore, its million-dollar views and yeah, its winding stretches of highway. But, its nickname is a mystery to 8-year-old Max Feldman.
“Why do we call our state the Garden State?” he asked.
And he’s not the only one wondering. A survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University and the New Jersey Farm Bureau found that two out of five New Jerseyans don’t know why our home state earned its moniker.
What are some of the delicious things to eat in New Jersey?
“Green apples, onion soup, bacon, chicken nuggets, pizza,” Max said.
How about things we can grow on farms? Do you know anything that grows in New Jersey?
“Bananas?” he asked.
Something that we eat in salads. Something that’s big and juicy.
Close. Less delicious than dressing.
“Salad?” he asked.
It’s got seeds in the middle. It’s red.
It’s not a cucumber. Starts with a T.
Add to the list cranberries, spinach and bell peppers. New Jersey ranks third in production, nation-wide, fourth for peaches and fifth for blueberries. Plus, a slew of corn, apples, strawberries, potatoes and soybeans.
In fact, Garden State farmers produce more than 100 different kinds of fruits and vegetables on 715,000 acres. That makes food and agriculture the state’s third-largest industry, worth over a billion dollars.
But where did we get the nickname?
We took a cue from Max’s generation and made our first stop Google.
From the official State of New Jersey web site: “Abraham Browning of Camden is given credit for giving New Jersey the nickname the ‘Garden State.'”
To find out more, I introduced Max to Bonny Elwell at the Camden County Historical Society.
Elwell told us Abraham Browning was not only born and raised here in Camden, he was prominent in the whole state. He actually served in the Constitutional Convention for New Jersey in 1844, creating the Constitution of New Jersey.
Browning served as attorney general of New Jersey from 1845-1850. Twenty-six years later, in a speech celebrating the country’s centennial, Browning described New Jersey as a barrel filled with our delicious, home-grown fruits and veggies with our neighbors from Pennsylvania and New York reaching into each end.
We learned that New Jersey has a long history of feeding it’s metropolitan neighbors to the east and west. And British and Colonial soldiers even gathered provisions here during the Revolutionary War. And early colonists relied on the rich soil.
That’s why New Jersey is famous for things like “Apples, carrots, peas, edamame, corn, tomatoes, … broccoli,” Max said.
Why does he think people from New York and Pennsylvania would want to eat food that’s grown in New Jersey?
“Because it’s good.”
That’s how we got our nickname.
“The Garden State.”
That’s right, you got it. Did you learn anything new today?
“Yes, why is the Garden State called the Garden State.”
And did we have a good time?
Do you have a question about New Jersey? You can ask it on our Ask Away page.