ENVIRONMENT

Down on the Farm, An Increase in Preservation and Agritourism

New Jersey has now reached a milestone in preserving 200,000 acres of farmland. Agricultural Secretary Douglas Fisher tells Managing Editor Mike Schneider said the milestone was celebrated in Salem County and beyond.

“We gave awards for counties all across the state about how their participation in the program and the wonderful results we have gotten from all the counties,” said Fisher.

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Identifying farmland for preservation is begins with an application by the farmers and landowners who have to decided to permanently preserve their land for farming activity.

“So they basically come to the county and the county works with the state agriculture development board, the county ag development board.”

The preservation of farmland does not involve a purchase of land but the development rights which would prevent the land from being used for non-farming purposes like housing. Funding for the program Fisher said. “If there is that much land, we have that much structure [that] we’ll be able to provide for all industries that takes place on the farms.”

The summer drought affected crops throughout the country left its mark on the Garden State’s harvest as well, especially with the state’s apple crop which produced under a million bushels for the second year in a row. According to Fisher, the 15 percent decline is modest when compared to the drought’s impact in other states.

“We’re actually okay with the apple crop in New Jersey. It’s actually other states that have really been severely impacted. New York State got devastated, Pennsylvania did fairly well but New Jersey — there’s plenty of apples to go around,” he assured.

One area of economic growth is in the area of agritourism which generates $60 million in business.

“This is high season with all the activities that take place on the farm where you can go out and go into the orchards. You can do hay wagon rides, crop mazes, there’s a lot of creative crop mazes around the state. It’s just a wonderful time to be able to enjoy this kind of weather — the snap in the air and so many farm products that’s being, harvested right now on our farms.”