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Distinguished Service - Click to enlarge

February 10, 2024
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330                     

Jeff Wolfe
P: (609) 913-6559
C: (609) 433-1785

Recognized During State Agricultural Convention

(TRENTON) – Two farmers and a long-time Ag education teacher and advocate received Distinguished Service to Agriculture Citations from the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture during the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention earlier this week.

Those honored at the Joint Agricultural Convention Dinner Banquet were James Abma Sr., James Giamarese, and Frank Yesalavich.

“Each of these individuals have made significant contributions to agriculture here in the Garden State,” NJDA Assistant Secretary Joe Atchison III said. “Their innovative ideas, dedication, and ability to anticipate factors that would ensure the long-term success their operations and sectors of the Ag industry make them very deserving honorees.”

James Abma Sr. of Bergen County has had a passion for agriculture since childhood and that created the thriving farm that is Abma’s. Throughout his career, he has managed vegetable production, created, and grew the Abma's composting and topsoil division, introduced hayrides and pumpkin picking, and flourished their small greenhouse operations into what they are today. Jim’s dedication to agriculture has allowed Abma's to stay in business in a bustling suburban area allowing residents to have access to agriculture. Their Community Supported Agriculture program provides residents with healthy locally grown produce, their petting zoo lets kids to see the many different animals on a farm, and their many different community events like the "Potato Dig" encourage the community to see first-hand where their food comes from. Jim has been a part of the Bergen County Board of Agriculture for 40 years and was President for the past nine years. He is also on the Bergen County Agriculture Development Board and Vegetable Growers Association, sat on the board of the Farm Bureau Board of Directors and Rutgers Board of Managers, and was a member of the first class of the Ag Leadership Development Program.

Jim considers one of his biggest accomplishments not only running a successful business that he is passionate about, but also having his family share in that passion as they have worked beside him. Jim received the New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer Award in 1991, an award his son James Abma Jr. also won in 2019.

James Giamarese, of Middlesex County, and his wife Sue farm roughly 100 acres including their home farm of about 30 acres. Jim's family has been in agriculture for generations. They migrated from Italy, circa1910, to farm in Jamaica, Long Island. They then moved to New Jersey in the 1920's, farming in Jamesburg, then in 1930 in East Brunswick on Dunham’s Corner Rd. In 1941, they found their American dream and bought 20 acres surrounding a pond on Fresh Ponds Road in East Brunswick. In 1947, the neighboring farm was purchased, adding another 20 acres, where the barn and market now stand. Jim and Sue purchased the land from his parents, aunts, and uncles in 1986. They changed it from a wholesale truck farm, trucking their own produce into the city, to a “pick your own” farm with a retail market. Jim has been very progressive and was one of the first farmers in Middlesex County to market this way. Very visible in the community, the Giamareses host farm tours for schools and organizations throughout the season. They have always been willing to try new techniques and have cooperated on various Rutgers University research projects benefiting farmers throughout New Jersey.

The Giamareses grow a wide variety of produce including asparagus, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, peas, pepper, squash, eggplant, okra, sweet corn, watermelon, broccoli, along with other leafy greens and herbs among others. The farm also features hayrides and pumpkin picking in the fall, and then completes the year by offering choose and cut Christmas trees. The Giamarese Farm and Orchards is open from early May through December each year.

As a result of their hard work, the Giamareses received the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award in 1989, recognizing them for innovation, leadership, and community involvement. Jim provides leadership on the Middlesex County Board of Agriculture and has been a member of the New Jersey Ag Society Board of Trustees for 20 years, serving as President from 2006 to 2008. Jim and Sue were involved with Farmers Against Hunger for 18 years making extensive contributions to the program by opening their farm to gleanings each year. 

Frank Yesalavich was nominated by the Essex County Board of Agriculture and has an impressive resume of leadership in the agricultural field and in furthering the mission of agricultural education. He understands the value of involvement in professional organizations as he is a member of the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) and the New Jersey Association of Agricultural Educators (NJAAE). Yesalavich’s leadership in the NAAE includes serving as the Vice Chair and Chairperson to the Policy & By-Laws Committee, serving on the Planning Committee to host the Regional VI NAAE Conference in 2007, and attending numerous Regional and National NAAE Conferences as a voting delegate.

In the NJAAE, Frank currently serves as the NJ FFA Foundation Representative. He previously served as Treasurer, Secretary, President and as an Executive Committee member. He is active in supporting the Career Technical Student Organization, FFA, and serves as a Trustee to the New Jersey FFA Foundation where he previously served as Chair.

Frank frequently judges competitive events such as Floral Design, Public Speaking, Nursery/Landscape, and the Teach Ag Event, and often volunteers to evaluate student applications such as the Garden State FFA Degree and scholarships. Frank has also volunteered as a judge on the national level for the National FFA Proficiency Award program.

As a classroom teacher he piloted the National Quality Program Standards (NQPS} for Agricultural Education and workshop in St. Louis that focused on the implementation of the resources at his school. This self-assessment tool encourages programs to evaluate seen standards that ensure high-quality Career Technical Education programs.

Organizations who qualify to send delegates to the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention may nominate a state farmer for the Distinguished Service Award.  For more information, visit


To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at and or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.