Annual New Jersey Farm Bureau Conference on Nov. 14-15
WEST WINDSOR — So you’re a second career or semi-retired person with a pension looking to earn a side income from farming? Or just out of college and have a burning desire to go into business for yourself? No better place to get acquainted with the state’s most talented growers, nursery and winery owners and livestock stewards than the annual New Jersey Farm Bureau Conference. The annual gathering is conveniently located near the geography center of the state, the Westin Hotel off Route 1 in West Windsor. This year’s gathering, “Family, Farming, United,” is held Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 14-15, at the Westin Hotel at Forrestal Center off Route 1 south.
Various types of memberships are available with the New Jersey Farm Bureau, one of the state’s oldest advocacy / lobbying organizations, which maintains headquarters in an old mansion on West State Street in Trenton, across from the New Jersey Statehouse. You can join as an associate member, full member or supporting member if you’re an advocate for open space and want to see the Garden State’s family farmers continue to survive – or even thrive — after this year, a truly nasty season which saw ridiculous price increases for fertilizer, fuel, equipment and parts in a combined one-two punch with a cold, rainy spring followed by a months-long drought over summer months.
If you attend, you will find out that Garden State farmers are a resilient, crafty, smart, creative bunch of people, most of whom have weathered droughts before. But this year, the dry weather in conjunction with across-the-board price increases made it very difficult for many different types of farms to remain profitable.
Fortunately, here in New Jersey, many types of off-the-farm jobs are available, as opposed to places like Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, but nobody likes to see their local farm sold off to become yet another warehouse, retail strip center, or high density housing complex. Nurseries remain the largest segment of New Jersey agriculture, yet, unless you’re a deer, one cannot eat Japanese maple trees.
“New farmers in New Jersey should attend the Farm Bureau convention in mid-November to hear policy discussions among farmers, listen to our guests and informative speakers, and utilize networking opportunities,” said Peter Furey, Director for the New Jersey Farm Bureau in Trenton. Prior to coming to Farm Bureau in 1981, Furey worked in county planning and administration in Ocean County and served as project director of the Grassroots report on farm preservation for the state’s Dept. of Agriculture. Even back in the late 1970’s, loss of all types of farms was an issue, and dairy farmers, who work harder than any other type of farmers, it seems, are now down to about 40 small operations around the state.
The NJFB is part of the American Farm Bureau, which has its own annual conference, this year slated for late January in sunny Puerto Rico. Environmentalists, local and county planning boards and others involved in open space protection are always encouraged to attend to learn about the tough realities faced by farmers in the Garden State, ironically, known around the country for its great diversity of soil types and generally farm-favorable climate.
Speakers this year include many good people: American Farm Bureau staffer Johnna Miller will speak on media relations for farmers; the dinner banquet speaker Monday night will be American Farm Bureau president “Zippy” Duvall; Carole Stanko from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife will offer updates on state wildlife issues, including pesky deer and black bear problems in many areas; Burlington County farmer Rose Robson will discuss her production of PawPaw fruits at her farm, and American Farm Bureau staffer Andrew Walmsley will discuss climate-smart growing techniques. Most years, New Jersey’s Secretary of Agriculture, Doug Fisher, and Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Dean Laura Lawson also speak at this annual gathering. State Senators and Assembly persons who sit on agriculture committees are usually in attendance as well.
To join New Jersey Farm Bureau or register for the conference, Nov. 14-15, go to: NJFB.org/2022-njfb-annual-meeting, or call “the Farm house” in Trenton at 609-393-7163.