Governor’s Season of Service Events -- As part of the Christie Administration’s fourth annual ‘Season of Service’ initiative, Secretary Fisher participated in several volunteer events. Christmas Tree Cutting – On December 1, Secretary Fisher cut a Christmas tree at Perfect Christmas Tree Farm in Lopatcong Township, Warren County, ceremonially kicking off the choose and cut Christmas tree season. Secretary Fisher also thanked growers for their continued generosity and participation in the Trees for Troops Program. Governor Christie proclaimed December 1, 2014 as Jersey Grown Christmas Tree Day, encouraging New Jersey residents to support the state’s farmers and visit choose and cut Christmas tree farms, as well as help those in the military during the holiday season. Cynthia and John Curtis, owners of Perfect Christmas Tree Farm, were named Grand Champion in the 2014 New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association Christmas tree contest for their 7½ foot Frasier Fir. It has been a long-standing tradition that the kick-off of the choose-and-cut Christmas tree season takes place at the Grand Champion’s farm. The Curtis’ grow more than 42 tree varieties on 40 acres with about 1,000 trees available. The Nordmann Fir tree cut by Secretary Fisher was given to Riverview Arts Center in Phillipsburg. Christmas Tree Donation -- On December 12 Secretary Fisher and New Jersey Department of Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake accepted the donation of cut Christmas trees to the Morris County Family Success Center in Dover. Secretary Fisher and Commissioner Blake held a ceremony to distribute the trees and live wreaths donated by Christian Nicholson, owner of Hidden Pond Tree Farm in Mendham, to families in need from the local area. Secretary Fisher noted the generosity of our state’s Christmas tree growers, who annually donate trees to those in need and the military and collect funds to feed the hungry. Thanksgiving Meal Deliveries -- Secretary Fisher joined 6th District Senator James Beach for the Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantry's "Thanksgiving Community Cooking Project" on November 25. Fisher, Beach and David Snyder of the Jewish community Relations Council delivered meals to five Cherry Hill residents. In all, 300 meals prepared by volunteers at Congregation Beth El in Voorhees and Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, were delivered.
Thanksgiving Food Distribution Preparations -- Secretary Fisher visited the St. Andrew-Resurrection Ministries Food Pantry in Atlantic City, one of the city’s three largest pantries, on November 20 to see how preparations for the Thanksgiving meal distribution are progressing. About 70 recipients will pick up full holiday meals on Monday, November 24. The food pantry opened in December of 2012 with 100 households served in the first month and has seen a significant increase in need since then. Last month, 264 Atlantic City households were served at the pantry, a 20 percent increase from the month before. The St. Andrew-Resurrection Ministries Food Pantry relies greatly on food from the Department of Agriculture’s State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The State Food Purchase Program provides $6.8 million a year to the state’s six-contracted food banks to purchase healthy food with an emphasis on Jersey Fresh produce for distribution to their networks of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. TEFAP distributes U.S. Department of Agriculture donated foods to the food banks.
Gypsy Moth – A gypsy moth scoping session is scheduled for January 7, 2015 in Trenton to get public input concerning the 2015 suppression program. Following gypsy moth egg mass surveys in 22 municipalities and agencies this fall, seven spray blocks encompassing 498 acres were proposed for treatment in spring 2015 in Morris, Passaic and Hunterdon counties.
Promoting Jersey Fresh – The Division of Marketing and Development had a booth promoting New Jersey agriculture at the 5th annual New York Produce Show, held December 2-4 in New York City by the Eastern Produce Council in conjunction with Produce Business Magazine. The show broke records in attendance as well as exhibitors and has become the nation’s second largest produce trade show next to the Produce Marketing Association’s annual convention. There were more than 5,000 produce buyers wholesalers, retailers and industry executives with more than 400 exhibits on display.
Starting a Farmers Market Session -- Secretary Fisher participated in a session at the League of Municipalities conference at Atlantic City Convention Center on November on how towns can start farmers markets. Morris Plains Councilwoman Sue McCluskey talked about her town farmers market and Nicole Ort of Ort Farms in Long Valley gave the farmer's perspective.
National Poinsettia Day -- In honor of National Poinsettia Day, December 12, Secretary Fisher visited Hamilton Farms Greenhouses and Farm Market in Boonton Township, a large retail and wholesale grower of the plant. He toured their greenhouses and talked with owners Tom and Doreen Deckenbach.
Social Media – The Department’s social media presence has expanded to include Department and Jersey Fresh Facebook pages and Twitter accounts as well as Jersey Fresh Instagram and Pinterest. In addition, the Jersey Fresh website was modified to allow visitors to share website content on several different social media platforms. The Jersey Fresh Facebook page has 1,533 likes and the Jersey Fresh Twitter account has 504 followers. The Pinterest account now has 32 boards adding seasonal, ‘Tis the (Jersey Fresh) Season and a Jersey Fresh Milk board and there have been 511 total pins.
Agricultural Education Information Session – An informational session for schools interested in establishing agriculture programs of study will be held January 28, 2015 at Allentown High School. The Departments of Agriculture and Education session will discuss the academically/STEM infused national CASE program and show how the connection of secondary to post-secondary programs may increase the number of students preparing for agriculture careers. The informational session will discuss CASE as a method to achieve a program of study as well as awarding college credits for rigorous CASE courses. Registration information is at: http://education.state.nj.us/events/details.php?recid=21617.
Animal Health Laboratory – Since the Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory moved to its new facilities at the New Jersey Health, Environmental and Agriculture Lab in April 2012, the caseload has increased substantially to just under 28,000 tests performed to 31,456 tests in fiscal year 2014. The new and improved facilities allowed the lab to increase both the number and complexity of the work being performed, especially in pathology and ancillary tests needed by the pathology. New functions include: Forensic Pathology Investigations: The AHDL trained staff and implemented forensic pathology investigation procedures to provide law enforcement and legal system with objective data to make decisions on investigations involving animal death or human death due to animal attack. A number of State, County, and local agencies as well as non-governmental entities are using this newly added service. Interagency cooperation: The Marine Mammal Stranding Center and DEP’s Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics used out-of-state laboratories for majority of their testing and necropsies. The AHDL is now servicing them with their laboratory needs. The AHDL’s expertise, proximity and cost efficient services were major factors leading to the decision to use the local laboratory for their testing needs.