(TRENTON, N.J.) ― The New Jersey Department of Agriculture was created by law on March 29th, 1916 to form a single agency to promote, protect and serve New Jersey’s agricultural interests. The new Department would include divisions such as the Bureau of Animal Industry; the Bureau of Lands, Crops and Markets, and the Bureau of Statistics and Inspection. The positions of Secretary of Agriculture, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and the eight-member State Board of Agriculture were established.
Before the Department would become a working entity, Board members had to be elected. During the first Agricultural Convention on May 17, 1916 all eight members were elected to the board and given the responsibility of selecting the heads of bureaus as well as the first Secretary of Agriculture, Alva Agee, a college agriculture professor. The first board consisted of Joseph S. Frelinghuysen (Somerville), Theodore Brown (Swedesboro), Henry W. Jeffers (Plainsboro), Edward A. Mechling, (Moorestown), L. Willard Minch (Bridgeton), Thomas E. Inslee (Newton), F. M. Curtis (Harrington Park) and E. A. Sexsmith (Belmar, R. F. D.).
Much has changed in 100 years since the creation of the Department of Agriculture. There have been seven Secretaries of Agriculture, four buildings, and new divisions added, from Food and Nutrition to Agricultural and Natural Resources. Throughout all of these changes, the main goals of the Department have always stayed the same; to nurture and protect the agricultural interests of the Garden State.