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HILLSDALE, NJ — The record for the largest crowd ever to attend a regular meeting of the Eastern Produce Council was set June 8, 2010. That record lasted exactly one day shy of a year when it was broken Tuesday evening, June 7 — by the same sponsoring groups.

 

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Joe Marino of Sun Valley Orchards and president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey gave the Garden State vegetable crop report at the June 7 meeting of the Eastern Produce Council. (Photo by Gordon M. Hochberg)
Led by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, a record 250 people came to hear reports on many aspects of the 2011 New Jersey produce deal, according to EPC Executive Director John McAleavey. The meeting, the last one before the council’s traditional summer break, was held under a tent here at Demarest Farm, the same venue that proved so popular last year.

 

EPC President Dean Holmquist of Foodtown Inc. noted that New Jersey had sponsored its first EPC meeting back in 1987 as he welcomed everyone to the event and announced the record crowd.

He also introduced some of the special guests in attendance, including Douglas Fisher, the state’s secretary of agriculture; Al Murray, the state’s assistance secretary of agriculture; and Art Brown, a former longtime secretary of agriculture for New Jersey.

Secretary Fisher spoke first, proudly declaring, “We have the best growers in the world. They do such a great job. And we have the best distribution system in the world.”

He added, “We’re looking forward to a great year,” and “the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is here to support you.”

Joe Marino of Sun Valley Orchards and president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey gave the vegetable report, noting that despite a “cold and dreary spring,” with growers having to “work around the raindrops,” the quality of early vegetable items was “very nice” and “markets are doing pretty well.”

As to timing, he said that compared to last year when most items were quite early, 2011 crops would offer a normal schedule.

“We look forward to a great season,” Mr. Marino said.

Francisco Allende of Sunny Valley International, who was recently named to New Jersey’s State Board of Agriculture, gave the peach report, noting that “we’re still three weeks away.” But the peaches “look very clean,” he said, and the state should have “a full crop” in 2011.

Dennis Doyle of Atlantic Blueberry Co. gave the blueberry report, saying that there was “excellent pollination this year and the timing is where we want it to be.”

Mr. Doyle added that blueberry-producing states in the South were finishing on time this year and Michigan looks to be late, so he was expecting a good marketing window for New Jersey blues, which were expected to start the week of June 13.

Secretary Fisher concluded the evening by thanking the “great staff” of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture as well as everyone involved throughout the state — growers, shippers, retailers, wholesalers and others — in making New Jersey agriculture so successful. Looking directly at the crowd, he declared, “This is a fabulous night. Let’s celebrate what you all do so well.”