Emerald Ash Borer – Following the May discovery of Emerald Ash Borer in New Jersey in Bridgewater Township, a second site was discovered in Hillsborough Township. Division of Plant Industry staff has been responding to numerous phone calls from residents reporting potential Emerald Ash Borer infestations. All investigations thus far have been negative for EAB and have identified severe ash decline resulting from a combination of ash yellows disease and native ash wood borers.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program – The Department announced on June 23 the 158 New Jersey schools in 15 counties that will participate in the 2014-2015 school year’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). The United States Department of Agriculture has allocated $4,021,620 for New Jersey for next school year’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh produce to students during the school day, along with nutrition education. The goal of the program is to expose children to healthy foods, increase their fruit and vegetable consumption and set them on the road to improved lifelong dietary habits. For the first time, the Department of Agriculture will provide additional funds to schools for connecting their FFVP with the Farm to School Program. The schools must provide Jersey Fresh produce a minimum of two days each month from September to November and from April to June and must verify where the produce was grown. Eighty percent of the 158 schools have agreed to participate. Starting in September, the selected schools will begin to offer fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis free to 74,475 students each week. Some of the criteria used in selecting the schools to participate included: Elementary schools with 50 percent or more of their students eligible for free or reduced price meals; schools that planned to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible; the program would be well-publicized and all students would have access to the produce offered; and plans to partner with outside organizations to enhance nutrition education.
Organic Farm Tour -- Secretary Fisher toured two organic farms in the state on June 17 to highlight the organic agriculture sector and the many opportunities for consumers to purchase organic produce. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed there were 72 organic farms in New Jersey with more than $3.04 million in product sales. Of the farm operators, 49 said their primary occupation was farming. Atlantic County had the most organic farms with 11 and Hunterdon and Morris counties each had eight. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is an accredited certifying agent for the National Organic Program and currently certifies 85 organic producers and handlers. Products certified include produce, coffee, tea, and cookies. Secretary Fisher visited Chickadee Creek Farm in Hopewell Township operated by 13th generation farmer Jessica Niederer, who offers community supported agriculture (CSA). He also toured Savoie Organic Farm in Williamstown.
Month of the Horse -- Secretary Fisher kicked off June as the Month of the Horse in New Jersey on June 6 by highlighting the state 4-H equine clubs. He observed a demonstration by the Gloucester County Equine Science Team at the Gloucester County 4-H Fairgrounds in Mullica Hill, organized by New Jersey Equestrian of the Year Angela Howard, a student at Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich Township. Angela Howard of Mullica Hill joined 4-H and started riding when she was 6 years old. In January, she won the Equestrian of the Year competition run by the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board. As Equestrian of the Year, Howard attends functions hosted by the Equine Advisory Board and represents the Board at functions. During the presentation for Secretary Fisher, Howard’s equine science team traced the skeletal system of a horse on a live horse and then gave a presentation on horse judging. Gloucester County 4-H offers 21 different clubs for youth interested in horses. Other New Jersey counties also offer 4-H equine clubs, all of which are open to all children whether or not they own a horse.
Honey Bees Death Loss -- A total of 430 beekeepers participated in the 2014 winter death loss survey and reported the conditions of about 2,415 of their colonies. The overall death loss reported was 32 percent. Beekeepers who treated for Varroa lost 29 percent of their colonies, while those who did not treat lost 44 percent. Those who treated early in July or August saved 4 percent more of their colonies, compared to those who didn’t. The key is to treat and treat early to minimize the overwinter death loss.
Animal Emergency Planning – Department personnel attended the New Jersey Emergency Preparedness Association meeting in Atlantic City in May. They attended a seminar on the fundamentals of Command, Command Staff and General Staff roles and responsibilities utilizing the Incident Command System in accordance with the National Incident Management System. Through active participation, NJDA representatives developed Incident/Event Action Plans using tabletop exercises. Also, during breakout sessions they learned how to utilize social media during an incident and using the lessons from Hurricane Sandy and applying them to future disasters. In addition, on June 24 Department staff attended a seminar on resiliency after a disaster.
Woodstown High School Agricultural Education Visit -- Secretary Fisher visited Woodstown High School’s agricultural education program on June 4 to learn more about the ways the program is preparing its students to move on to college and eventually science and technology-based agriculture careers. Woodstown is one of 44 approved agricultural education programs in 32 New Jersey school districts. Since 2009, 30 teachers from 19 New Jersey Agricultural Science Education programs have transformed their traditional horticulture or agriculture programs to academically infused agricultural science programs using the national Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE). Woodstown teacher Sara Cobb is one of those teachers. Secretary Fisher toured Woodstown’s new state-of-the-art agriscience laboratory and saw demonstrations from some of the students who have taken these CASE courses. Woodstown has more than 100 students enrolled in agricultural education courses. Cobb, a graduate of Woodstown High School, teaches Introduction to Agriculture Food and Natural Resources and Principles of Agricultural Science – Plant. She will be one of the teachers participating in a CASE Institute, hosted at Woodstown High School, to field test the newest CASE course, “Food Science and Safety.” Thirteen teachers, including Cobb, Nichole Carroll from Cumberland Regional High School, Dan Delcher from Essex County Vocational School and Keely Ditizio of Salem County Vocational Technical School will participate. Another New Jersey teacher, Jennifer Wilson of North Warren Regional High School, will also be field testing but will attend a CASE Institute in another state, being held in Minnesota and Texas. The teachers will field test the course this fall and after reviewing it, refinements will be made so it can be offered throughout the country. In addition to the new CASE course in the fall, Woodstown High School agricultural education students will have the opportunity to gain college credits at Rutgers University and Cumberland County College for successfully completing CASE courses. Woodstown is one of 8 high schools in the state to reach agreement with various colleges and universities to give students college credits for CASE courses.
National FFA Officer Candidate – Lauren Fillebrown of the Phillipsburg FFA Chapter was chosen on June 12 to serve as the New Jersey FFA’s 2014 National Officer Candidate. Candidates took a written exam, completed an essay, had a one-on-one interview, stand and deliver practicum, round robin conversation, facilitation practicum and two personal interviews. Lauren will go through intensive training this summer to prepare for the National FFA officer process in October.
Summer Food Service Program – A public service announcement was produced for airing on New Jersey radio stations to promote enrollment in the Summer Food Service Program in the state this summer. A kick-off press event is scheduled for June 30 at Winslow Township School #6.
County Fair Season -- The fair season begins on June 29 with the Stars and Stripes Livestock Fair in Burlington County. There are 20 county fairs scheduled this season.