McCormack reflects on 100 years of ag evolution in Monmouth County
FREEHOLD — The Monmouth County Board of Agriculture met for its annual meeting last month to celebrate the county’s agricultural heritage.
Monmouth County is home to more than 800 vegetable, horse and livestock farms.
Board President Bill McCormack of McCormack Farms in Middletown, noted events from 1918 in his opening remarks.
“As I started looking for a theme for this evening I kept seeing the year 1918. This year, the New Jersey Farm Bureau is celebrating its 100th anniversary, World War I ended in 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic plagued as many as 30 million people worldwide in 1918,” McCormack said.
“In 1920, the total farm acreage in Monmouth County was 206,856 acres used for ag purposes, and in 1924, there were about 25,000 acres that were just devoted to potatoes in Monmouth County,” he related in welcoming farmers and farm-related business people from around the county.
Freeholders John Curley and Lillian Burry were in attendance as was State Assemblyman Ronald Dancer and Farm Bureau President Ryck Suydam.
“Several years ago there was a movement afoot to take the Department of Agriculture and put it into the Department of Environmental Protection,” McCormack recalled. “There was a meeting held in Sayreville, I went to this meeting and after the meeting was over I tried to talk to a couple of [state] Assembly people. ‘This will be really bad for New Jersey,’ I said, ‘not just for the farmers but for the citizens of New Jersey.’ And one assemblywoman replied, ‘Oh, there’s nothing you can do, this is a done deal.’
“So we mobilized, we went down to Trenton and we had a gathering of farmers with tractors and we had a motorcade down West State Street. Some officials came out and spoke to us and one of those was Assemblyman Ron Dancer.
He stood on the steps of the Statehouse, had his racing silks on [Dancer raises horses for harness racing,] and said he would fight for us. He did, and as a result we still have a New Jersey Department of Agriculture.”
“We’ve been blessed in this county by the longtime support of the Board of Chosen Freeholders,” Dancer told the crowd in his remarks.
“Just sitting on the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I want to continue to do everything I can not only to enhance agriculture and preserve our farmland in Monmouth county, I also want to ensure that farming is financially viable for every aspect of agriculture here and in the rest of the state,” Dancer said. “It’s a big challenge, but we’re here to meet the challenge and win.”
New Jersey Farm Bureau President Suydam pointed out that the Monmouth County Ag Extension offices in Freehold put out a hefty, award-winning newsletter.
“You have a lot to be proud of in Monmouth County, whether it’s vegetables or horses or seafood or the ‘Grown in Monmouth’ marketing program,” Suydam said.
Suydam then offered a warning about the state’s exploding deer control troubles.
“A serious Farm Bureau issue that affects every county in the state, even Hudson, is deer,” he said. “Everybody has problems with deer, and New Jersey Farm Bureau is working very hard to address this problem. We’re working with Rutgers, we’re working with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, because it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. It’s affecting us from a safety standpoint, a health standpoint and if you’re in agriculture it’s affecting your bottom line.”
Farm Bureau is conducting more surveys about deer damage to get an even better picture the impact deer are having on farmers.
“And it’s not just agriculture,” he said, “if you drive a car in New Jersey, State Farm Insurance did a study in 2016. Your chances of hitting a deer in New Jersey? One in 250. I don’t know how many people we have in this room, but driving home tonight, you’ve got a pretty good chance of hitting a deer.”
Freeholder Lillian Burry offered praise for the Monmouth Chapter of FFA.
“We care about preserving our farms and we’re up to over 15,000 acres of preserved farmland in Monmouth County,” Burry said, “and the ‘Grown in Monmouth’ people are amazing, what they do, in terms of marketing locally grown produce.”
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