The South Jersey growing region continues to have an impact on the Eastern Seaboard and beyond with the myriad of commodities—from broccoli, lettuce, and squash to blueberries, peaches, and sweet corn—it supplies each year. Exploring this microcosm of productivity provides an engaging example of the trade. Learn how hurdles are addressed and business is kept flourishing by the industry’s focus on marketing local and much more.
Strong Local Branding
For growers and suppliers in Jersey, locally grown is not just a trend, it’s a mainstay. The Jersey Fresh program, which celebrates its 35th anniversary next year, “is synonymous not only with local in New Jersey and the surrounding states, but also with freshness and quality along the Eastern Seaboard,” says Tom Beaver, who knows what he’s talking about, since he directs the division of marketing and development for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
When the season gets started, John Molinelli, president of John Molinelli, Inc. in Vineland, NJ says, “We really push local produce.” This isn’t just because wholesalers want to sell it and there are lower shipping costs, but because the company’s customer base actively seeks it out.
This is backed up by another longtime vendor: “People look for it as soon as they walk in,” says Ryan Flaim, managing member for R&R Flaim Next Generation Produce, LLC, also based in Vineland.
Bill Nardelli Jr., secretary and treasurer for Nardelli Brothers, Inc., a fifth-generation grower-shipper based in Cedarville, also applauds the dramatic surge over the past decade with retailers, foodservice, and restaurants promoting the “local program and riding the trend on its upward swing.”
Beaver says the state is all in. “We’re so well positioned with the Jersey Fresh program—our brand resonates with consumers.” According to a shopper awareness survey, 72 percent are more likely to buy Jersey Fresh products than the alternative, up 10 percent from last year. Additionally, the poll found that 64 percent would ask for Jersey Fresh if they didn’t see it in the store, an 11 percent increase. “Retailers have taken note, partnering with us to promote the brand at point of purchase.” The label continues to expand, and Beaver says the agency’s new website is a “repository for all things Jersey Fresh, from grower directories to embedded recipe videos and farmer profiles.”
The unveiling is a testament to its increasingly robust online presence, built in recent years, and Beaver says the platform “will serve as the go-to resource for consumers, buyers, as well as retailers who want to know the latest about what’s in season and how they can leverage the Jersey Fresh program to appeal to consumers.”