Alstede Farms adds produce program

Community-supported agriculture has come to Alstede Farms LLC, Chester, N.J.

Kurt Alstede, general manager, said fans of fresh, locally grown produce can now join the club for a guaranteed share of production from the retail farm market located 40 miles west of New York City.

“This is the first year we are doing it. We already have 65 families who have joined our CSA,” he said.

“Everybody wants to be in a CSA,” Alstede said of the nationwide trend that has hit New Jersey.

Alstede said this is the first year that Alstede Farms will have a dedicated area for certified organic production.

“We do have a percentage of our customer base that is seeking that certified organic (produce),” he said of the decision to add organic after 30 years in the conventional business.

Dandrea Produce expands packing

Dandrea Produce, Vineland, N.J,. has settled into its new 100,000-square-foot facility that includes equipment for packaging, bagging and special packaging.

“There’s always variations of commodities or pack sizes,” said Frank Dandrea, president. “We pack some under Dandrea and some under conventional packaging.”

Dandrea said the company moved into the new facility eight months ago, and has 30,000 square feet dedicated to repacking.

New Jersey schools get federal produce funds

Children in New Jersey will be eating more fruit and vegetables, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Trenton.

State Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher announced that 101 schools in 17 counties across the state were chosen to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

The expansion of the federal program puts more than $2.5 million in the schools’ budgets for the purchase of fresh produce.

A department release stated that the schools planned to use the funds to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible.

The program will be well publicized, with all students given access to the produce offered. Outside organizations will also be sought as partners to help enhance nutrition education.

The award is meant to exposure children to new, healthier foods and increase consumption of fruit and vegetables. Last year, 60 New Jersey schools operated the program.

N.J. Farm Bureau sees community markets grow

Community markets are on the rise, according to the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton.

The “ever-expanding list of markets,” according to a newsletter from the organization, puts the current tally at 140 markets offering retail sales of Jersey Fresh produce.

“There is a growing demand for local home-grown product,” said Ben Casella, field representative.

“They are very popular to local towns, to the local consumers, and a lot of farms have been able to capitalize on this.”

Some markets will open in May to sell spring vegetables, while the remainder will open by mid-June.

Organic group offers help to first-time growers

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey, Hillsborough, is starting a beginning growers program this fall for first-time growers seeking assistance with organic and sustainable growing, said David Glenn, executive director.

“This fall we will be taking up applications for the first farmers to enter into the program,” he said.

“It is located on Duke Farms in Hillsborough, a couple hundred acres. But we are talking to other partners around the state and looking at building this network of beginning farmer training.”

If land can be acquired, Glenn hopes the farmer program will have various plots throughout the state.

As for the enrollment, Glenn expects up to 10 growers this fall, with hopes to grow by an additional 5-10 growers each year as farmland and training spaces become available.