A new addition to the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention and Trade Show was a panel on sourcing New Jersey produce, moderated by Joe Atchison, director of marketing and development for the NJDA. The panel featured Felix Donato of the Landisville Produce Growers Co-operative; Paul Ordille, Co-owner of John B. Ordille Inc.; and Bill Nardelli Sr. of Nardelli Bros. and Lake View Farms.
Among the topics discussed was the importance of the Jersey Fresh program and how the NJDA has been a supportive partner of New Jersey farmers. Nardelli Sr. added that support need to come from other places as well.
“We really need support of our local chains the chains that do business in this area,” said Nardelli Sr. “We like to see good participation from them.” He then made reference to Peruvian asparagus. “We are not happy about seeing Peruvian asparagus on the shelf when we have New Jersey asparagus in production. We need to get together to promote New Jersey farmers”
Increased competition was also a hot topic.
“It is getting more difficult to compete with others states than it was 15-20 years ago,” said Ordille. He also cited how Canadian farmers are using technology, specifically greenhouses, to better compete. One of the advantages he said Jersey does have is location.
“Wholesalers from Boston down to Maryland know they can get product from New Jersey in less than eight hours,” said Ordille. “Often times communication from the big chain stores is last minute, so it is advantageous for us to be here in New Jersey.”
Other topics discussed were the importance of certification and the ability to keep up with and anticipate new trends.
“We encourage our growers to move forward with third-party certification,” said Donato. “Certain customers require third-party audits at the grower level. There are many of our distributors that don’t require it, so we don’t expect everyone to have it, but we would then tell them to move toward it because in the future it is going to be a mainstay.”
Donato said that one particular trend is toward leafy green lettuce and away from romaine. Red kale and black kale are also gaining popularity. Ordille said organics are showing no signs of slowing and Nardelli Sr. was high on ethnic-type produce.