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June 2011 Featured Article


Jersey Fresh – It’s Not Just a Slogan!

Triad Associates


Often when you tell someone that does not live in New Jersey that you live in the “Garden State” a chuckle follows given the perception outsiders have of our state from the large industries, rows of warehouses and factories along the New Jersey Turnpike. Of course, any good Jersey native will quickly tell them about the wonders of the fruits and vegetables that come from the Garden State. We could even rattle off a bunch of facts to support this claim, such as being second in the nation for blueberry production and one of the top three cranberry producers in the United States. And what about our wonderful Jersey tomatoes… enough said! 

It would surprise most people that agriculture ranks third in economic importance behind pharmaceuticals and tourism in New Jersey, especially since it only encompassed 16 percent of the State’s total land use in 2007.  New Jersey is a state of mostly small family owned/sole proprietor farms that have a vested interest in their communities.  Only 1 percent of farms are corporate owned, and the average farm is only 71 acres.  A whopping 86 percent of farms are less than 99 acres!

So what does this mean in economic terms for your local municipality?  Well, the money your residents and you yourself spend at a local farmers market is circulated right there in the local economy at a greater rate than the dollar you spend at a national chain buying the same selection of produce grown elsewhere.  Buying local also reduces the trail of carbon it takes to get that tomato from the farm to your table and reduces the amount of hands it passes through increasing the quality as well as the economic return of that produce on your local economy.  


How can you as a leader in your community impact the effectiveness of this economic engine sprouting right now?  Well, there are several grant and loan opportunities available through the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), as well as other state and federal agencies that can help local farmers and your regional agricultural economy expand.  The following are several grant opportunities available to your local farmers and food producers in New Jersey.  Keep in mind that you can reach out to your local farmers through trade organizations and chambers of commerce to inform farmers and food producers of these opportunities to expand their business and the local economy. 

Value Added Producer Grants - This grant helps farmers receive a higher portion of the retail dollars rather than exclusively sell their goods wholesale, and support planning activities such as developing a business plan or as working capital (e.g., labor, inventory or advertising).  10 percent is also set aside for projects focusing on local and regional supply networks and an additional 10 percent for beginning farmers and ranchers, the socially disadvantaged and small or medium sized farms and ranchers.  Non-profit entities can apply, as well as businesses, individuals, farmers, cooperatives, agricultural producer groups and etcetera.  For more information visit

Farmers Market Promotional Program – This competitive grant is intended to help communities support local food systems through direct marketing, including farmers markets, roadside stands, community supported agriculture and agri-tourism.  Priority is given to projects increasing access to local foods by low income consumers, developing training and educational programs for new direct farm marketers or providing professional training for market management.  Non-profit organizations, local governments, tribes, economic development corporations, agricultural cooperatives and regional farmers market authorities can apply.  A potential project may include the development of a plan to expand upon existing farmers markets or to increase marketing efforts and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation in the farmers market.  (Source:

WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program – Under the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services (NJDHSS), this program helps train local farmers to be Certified Farmer Venders in the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition programs.  This program directly markets to local families within these programs and helps them locate local roadside stands and farmers markets who accept these vouchers.  (Source: NJDA.)

Community Food Projects – This program funds proactive approaches to making communities more self reliant at maintaining their food systems while addressing food, nutrition and farm issues.  Grants are intended to help eligible nonprofit entities that need a one-time infusion of federal assistance to establish and carry out a multipurpose community food project.  (Source:  An example of a potential project includes creating a marketing alliance with farmers and consumers to increase education and awareness of local food and nutrition.  This grant does require a dollar for dollar match in resources, and awards range from $10,000 to $300,000.  Nonprofit entities are eligible to apply. 

Healthy Food Financing Initiative – This initiative through the Office of Community Services (OCS) is a federal grant opportunity with $10 million in funding available to Community Development Corporations (CDC’s) and Community and Economic Development (CED) projects improving access to healthy affordable foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, in primarily low income underserved communities.  The highlighted goals of this initiative include bringing healthy food choices to communities that are considered food deserts though the establishment of new healthy food retail outlets or by supporting the offering of a significant number of healthy food choices at an existing market that lack these foods; developing and enhancing food distribution systems to increase the amount of healthy food going to healthy food retail outlets in food deserts; and developing strategies that promote or encourage the purchase of healthy foods, including outreach and education to consumers about healthy food choices and how they can be integrated into their diets.  (Source: NJDHSS & OCS.)  Projects may include enhancing a food distribution network for fresh fruits and vegetables in an urban area.  Other opportunities include the improvement or installation of fresh fruits and vegetable coolers in corner stores in urban areas.

USDA Rural Development – Under the USDA Rural Development renewable energy programs, authorized by the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill), there is an opportunity for farmers, agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems or make improvements for energy efficiency projects.  (Source: USDA Rural Development.)  New Jersey’s allocation of funds is over $730,000, and eligible projects include installing renewable energy systems such as wind turbines, solar, geothermal, biomass, anaerobic digesters, hydroelectric and ocean or hydrogen systems.  Funding may also be used to purchase energy efficient equipment, add insulation and improve heating and cooling systems.

Agriculture Marketing Services – This USDA grant makes approximately $55 million in grant funds available, solely to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.  While this grant is only available to USDA State Agencies, advocating to your state representative that a marketing campaign for the Jersey blueberry regionally, or even nationally, will benefit the Blueberry Growers of New Jersey and can impact the amount of blueberries sold by farmers (think of what California’s avocado campaign has done for California avocados and the avocado in general).  


So while many of these grants are not available for municipalities to apply to directly, partnering with local businesses and farmers can help promote a healthier lifestyle in your community while improving the economy and the environment.  Create a task force within your community to communicate these and other opportunities to local farmers and business owners to help support the message that buying local is best for our economy and for our environment!


Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities. 


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