(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ ) ― The 2014 State Agricultural Convention, held at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, opened with its regular business session on Wednesday, February 5, and continued on Thursday, February 6, 2014. The meetings focused on developing and setting a policy agenda for the industry over the coming year through the resolutions process. This year’s interactive “listening sessions” on some of the most critical issues facing the farming community addressed Locally Grown, Microenterprises and Crisis Management. There was also a GMO Panel Discussion.
This was the largest annual gathering of the Garden State’s agricultural industry. Attendees included representatives of county agriculture boards, granges, breed and commodity organizations, and other members of the agriculture community.
New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno spoke at the Delegates Diner before the agriculture leaders, industry representatives, agricultural youth ambassadors and guests. The highlight of her speech was when she gave out her cell phone number to all in attendance. She told the packed dining room that if they needed any industry help to please call her after they have tried to solve problems on their own.
On February 5, several awards were also presented.
James and Sue Giamarese were the 2014 recipients of the Neil Robson Farmers Against Hunger Award. They have dedicated their lives to the New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger program since 1996. Through the years, Jim and Sue Giamarese have hosted hundreds of gleaning volunteers, often planting crops specifically for donation to the program. They also host regular fundraisers at their farm and help raise awareness for the program, which transports donated produce from farmers’ fields to those in need.
Captain Lou Puskas Jr. was awarded the New Jersey Commercial Fishing Industry Award. Captain Puskas began his career in the Coast Guard, tracking icebergs. He is one of those who discovered Gold Tilefish and helped create a national marketing campaign for the fish. He was instrumental in keeping foreign fishing fleets out of U.S. waters, when the 12-mile limit was widened to 200 miles off our coast. He is one of the founders of Viking Village and has survived three boat sinkings. His current fishing boat is the 80-foot Olympic Javelin.
Jim and Helen Miller, owners of Honey and Sweets Farm Stand in Port Republic, were awarded the Patrick Mullen Quality Grading Award by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. The farm was started in 2005 as a small retirement venture that blossomed into a full-fledged business. The Millers were chosen for their support of Jersey Fresh, even constructing a Jersey Fresh float for their town’s annual Fourth of July Parade.
New Jersey Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Alfred Murray was presented with an Honorary American FFA Degree. Murray, a resident of Audubon, Camden County, was chosen to receive the award, which is given to individuals who have provided exceptional service to agriculture, agricultural education, at the National FFA Convention last fall but was unable to attend the ceremony. New Jersey State FFA President Kyle Clement and Vice President Delaney Gray made the presentation.
Scott Fein of C.H. Robinson was presented with the Phillip Alampi Industry Marketing Award by the New Jersey Agricultural Society. Fein was selected to receive the award for his support of Jersey Fresh. He was tasked a few years ago with planning, developing and executing a “locally grown” program that would serve as a national model for the $8 billion, worldwide produce company. Fein convince upper management to pilot the company’s locally grown initiative in New Jersey with the goal to copy the model in other states. He partnered with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s marketing staff and identified New Jersey growers willing to expand their marketing sales to include C.H. Robinson as well as contract grow specific products requested by the company. Since then, C.H. Robinson has been marketing Jersey Fresh produce to its clients. One of those was B.J.’s Wholesale Club which incorporated the Jersey Fresh logo in their Farm to Club campaign. Fein assisted the club chain in creating an Outdoor Farmers Market promotion that emulated a tailgate market, selling all Jersey Fresh produce. Fein is now in charge of implementing the Jersey Fresh model into other states.