CLARKSBORO, N.J. — It has been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic altered our world. The pandemic revealed just how important essential workers are the to lives of all people – and in the agricultural industry – farmers. Honoring the tremendous efforts of farmers now and always is important. Agricultural Agent and Professor with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Michelle Infante-Casella followed the activities of farmers in New Jersey during the pandemic. She has worked with farmers for over 25 years as an educator and agricultural service provider with Rutgers. “I saw our farmers jump into action by opening farmers markets early in 2020 to help meet local food demands. Farmers also plowed ahead and began planting crops to keep Americans fed”. To show appreciation, Infante-Casella reached out to Vegetable Growers Association of NJ President, John Banscher. They discussed foregoing the “Vegetable Grower of the Year” award, presented annually at the NJ Vegetable Growers Convention, and instead honoring all farmers in NJ this year with a tribute video. Since the convention was being held virtually, an in-person presentation was not possible.
The 10:26 minute tribute video created by Infante-Casella, was posted to the Vegetable Growers Association of NJ website through the efforts of Jennifer LaMonaca, VGANJ Vice President. Jen and her husband Ryan own and operate Walking Bird Farm in Egg Harbor Twp, NJ – formerly B&B Farms previously owned by past NJ Secretary of Agriculture, Arthur Brown and his wife Carolyn. According to Vice President LaMonaca, “The pandemic has shown how important it is for food to come from local farmers and for us all to support the American Farmer”.
The “Tribute to NJ Farmers 2020” video can be viewed at https://vganj.com/convention.
Food shortages in the spring revealed challenges in distribution channels nationwide. However, farmers kept farming and eventually food shipments adjusted, and food once meant for the service industry eventually made its way to grocery stores and other retail outlets. Many farmers in New Jersey and other states helped provide increased volume of fresh foods to supplement the needs of consumers since there were some voids in availability on supermarket shelves. In addition, the Farmers Against Hunger program through the NJ Agricultural Society hosted increased gleaning events on NJ farms and farmers provided more produce for food banks to help with hunger in the state. The slogan from “farm to fork” became very evident.
–Michelle Infante-Casella, Rutgers Cooperative Extension