New Jersey Apple Orchards
New Jersey has a long history of farming, earning its nickname of "The Garden State". This has not made the state's agricultural industry immune to the forces that have driven so many farmers around the country out of their livelihoods. Bookmarked between New York City and Philadelphia, pressures arising from suburban and recreational development are especially intense. In spite of this, much of the state retains its rural and agricultural flavor.
New Jersey is not a major apple producing state, ranking 15th in acreage and 13th volume of apple produced according to the most recent USDA statistical survey. Still, that represents 65,000,000 pounds of apples grown annually, and 246 farms with 4100 acres under cultivation.
The apple industry in New Jersey, perhaps more than any other state, has survived suburban and resort development pressure and declining prices through a combination of more efficient marketing and promotional operations. This includes retail marketing strategies and the promotion of the orchard as an educational and recreational experience.
This is more true in the northern part of the state, where, according to Win Cowgill, Agricultural Agent with Rutgers University, "the apple industry is pretty vibrant... ". Festivals, school tours, u-pick operations and traditional roadside retail marketing are among the strategies increasingly employed by the growers in this region, and the assumption is that this has contributed to their survival.
In New Jersey it seems we have the perfect example of the important role that consumers play in helping to preserve our farming heritage. By patronizing the orchards and farm markets we not only are putting fresher, more wholesome produce on our tables. We are also playing a small but not insignificant part in the worthy goal of supporting the survival of our rural and agricultural traditions for the benefit of future generations.