Garden Fresh Produce From the Garden State

New Jersey produce gets a lift from a robust promotional program.
The state’s Jersey Fresh program has been a familiar element in the state and surrounding region for 40 years.

New Jersey fruits and vegetables bring local flavor to Eastern Seaboard.

New Jersey is a major produce grower, with local cultivation in the spring, summer and early fall churning out everything from greens to a range of vegetables and fruit, with tomatoes and blueberries continuing to be the high-profile commodities.

In Tabernacle, NJ, not far from the growing fields, Murphy’s Fresh Markets bears witness to the popularity of local, in-season produce among consumers. With three stores across South Jersey, the operation serves customers who clearly favor local fruits and vegetables.

“Our customers absolutely love the seasonal produce from New Jersey farms,” says Ronald Murphy, vice president. “There’s a palpable excitement among our shoppers as they eagerly anticipate the arrival of their favorite local fruits and vegetables. Demand remains consistently strong for locally grown produce, with customers often expressing a preference for products that are sourced from nearby farms.”

He says Murphy’s Fresh benefits from its local connections.

“We’ve found that our customers appreciate the connection to local growers,” Murphy says, “as it reinforces our commitment to supporting the community and promoting sustainability. By highlighting links to local farms, we not only provide transparency about the origin of our produce, but also foster a sense of trust and loyalty among our customer base.”

Local produce is important to larger retailers operating in and around New Jersey. In Wegmans’ Woodbridge, NJ, store, the “Near Our Stores” signs tout the connections the supermarket has established with family farms in the vicinity of its stores, and the reduction of food miles.

Local produce is important to larger retailers operating in and around New Jersey, too, although they each approach it in their own way, including Rochester, NY-based Wegmans. In the company’s Woodbridge, NJ, store, the “Near Our Stores” signs tout the connections the supermarket has established with family farms in the vicinity of its stores, and the reduction of food miles.


Saker ShopRites, a chain of 39 supermarkets and a farm market operation based in Holmdel, NJ, operates throughout the Garden State and is part of the Wakefern Food Corp., the Keasbey, NJ-based cooperative. It is a supporter of the Jersey Fresh promotional campaign and local growers, a spokesperson noted.

At the opening of a new Saker ShopRite store in South Plainfield, NJ, Richard Saker, president and chief executive, said the mix of customers he’s serving is extremely varied, with backgrounds not only from multiple countries, but multiple continents, which requires suppliers who can deal with a tremendous range of tastes, traditions and preferences.

Yet, to all, the produce department is something of a unifying environment. “Every ethnic group wants fresh produce,” says Saker.

New Jersey growers understand the northeastern U.S. marketplace is rich with ethnicities and food preferences, and that everything crosses over from one group to another. As such, growers offer everything from corn to eggplant and bok choy to jalapeños.


New Jersey has a long history and experience growing fruits and vegetables, is just a short journey from the major New York, Philadelphia and Washington/Baltimore metropolitan areas, and is supported by a robust promotional program, Jersey Fresh.

Carol DeFoor, manager at the Vineland Cooperative Produce Auction, Vineland, NJ, says the Garden State is a prime location for growers of fruits and vegetables.

“Our produce gets its flavor from the outer coastal soil and climate, which is excellent for farming,” she says. “New Jersey produce is known for its flavor.”

The state’s Jersey Fresh program has been a familiar element in the state and surrounding region for 40 years.

Joe Atchison III, assistant secretary/marketing and development director at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Trenton, NJ, says that although much of the state’s produce is consumed close to the growing area, distribution and support range further afield.

“As the Jersey Fresh brand celebrates its 40th anniversary, our fruits and vegetables are widely known throughout the Middle Atlantic region and Canada. Jersey Fresh represents the highest quality produce that is picked at the peak of freshness.”

Murphy says Jersey Fresh still grabs the attention of consumers.

“The impact of the Jersey Fresh campaign continues to be substantial for us,” he says. “It serves as a powerful endorsement of the quality and authenticity of New Jersey-grown produce, resonating strongly with our customers. Over the years, we’ve seen the campaign evolve to embrace new marketing strategies and messaging, but its core message of promoting locally sourced products remains consistent.”

Bill Nardelli Jr., vice president of sales at Nardelli Bros. — Lake View Farms, Cedarville, NJ, has three growing seasons in New Jersey. However the company is a full-year grower-shipper, working with grower partners in Georgia and Florida in addition to its operations in New Jersey.

“We continue to try to increase our acreage and commodity list as sustainably as possible without sparing our quality and service,” says Nardelli.

“Corn is a very popular item throughout the summer,” Nardelli adds. “That’s something we’ve been expanding our capabilities on, with a tray pack operation that we’ve run here for the past few years. We are looking to the future to see what items consumers are interested in outside of what we’ve done in the past. We pivot a bit to meet consumer demand and where that demand is going.”

Dan Graiff Farms, Newfield, NJ, has evolved over time, starting out as a traditional vegetable grower that developed into two operations, both operated by the Graiff family, then tapping growing areas in California, Florida, Arizona and Texas to become a year-round supplier. The company has evolved in part due to tougher economics in the business, with New Jersey’s peak season subject to regional competition from Michigan to the Carolinas, as well as from California and Mexico. The circumstances prompted a decision to grow more herbs and related items.

The business also has come back around to vegetables, and is focused on select vegetables, including tunnel tomatoes as well as bok choy, peppers and red and gold beets, says James Graiff. It also has built its production capabilities, today operating a state-of-the-art, 33,000-square-foot processing and packaging facility.

Still, operating in New Jersey does have its particular imperatives, and the company started growing high tunnel tomatoes, Graiff says, “because, obviously, the New Jersey tomato is the top tomato out there. Everybody wants it. It’s a very high dollar crop as long as you come in early.”

Field production is dwindling, he adds, because of weather changes. “The high tunnels seemed to be the way to go, to get the quality out of the crop that you need.”

The volume cultivated is limited and mainly grown for roadside farmers markets and nearby retailers Graiff serves directly.

DeFoor says the Vineland Produce Auction has also evolved to ensure New Jersey growers continue to have an operation that keeps their produce moving through the supply chain.

“We have updated our auction program to make it easier for remote buyers to make purchases,” she says. “We also installed a new hydro/vac cooler to ensure that the produce stays fresh after harvest.”
The auction typically starts in late April and operates until late November.

“Our growers start with radishes and progress to cilantro, parsley, asparagus, which leads into the spring lettuce season. They grow almost everything between arugula and zucchini. New Jersey is currently in the top 10 for bell pepper and zucchini production. We are best known for our tomatoes and blueberries,” says DeFoor.


The Jersey tomato is heralded along the Eastern Seaboard and remains in high demand. However, New Jersey blueberries have become a main consumer consideration when it comes to Garden State produce.

“Blueberries remain one of New Jersey’s most noteworthy and valuable crops,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Atchison says. “The growing season for blueberries in New Jersey generally begins in the middle of June and lasts until late July or early August. Blueberry growers in the state expect to have a robust crop of the most plump and juicy berries that can be found anywhere.”

Blueberry acreage in New Jersey has remained consistent over the past several years, with between 7,200 and 8,000 acres in production.

“New Jersey growers are within less than five hours of millions of consumers between Washington, D.C., and Boston all along the I-95 corridor. It allows consumers access to fresh blueberries that can be harvested and transported to retail locations in less than a day,” Atchison says.

Even if New Jersey is most famous for blueberries and tomatoes, and is well known for a number of other vegetable and greens items, not everyone recognizes that it is an important peach-growing state, with about 3,300 acres of peaches in New Jersey today.

Bonnie Lundblad, chair of the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council, says the first part of spring kicked off well for the commodity, such that, as the weather began to warm, participants in the sector were “very confident the 2024 season will be good. The weather has cooperated: No adverse weather events.”

“Last year, there was tremendous demand on New Jersey peaches, due to virtually no crop from the South,” she adds. “As a result, there were many receivers who depended on the New Jersey crop. Our deliveries of excellent quality and volume for the full season illustrated New Jersey is a viable region throughout the summer stone fruit season. Harvest should begin late June and continue until mid-September.”

DeFoor emphasizes why the state is a produce powerhouse. “For retailers on the East Coast, we are a wonderful source of the freshest produce. There are times our growers are still picking and packing the produce as it is being sold. The growers are in the field and overseeing the packing to ensure only the finest product has their name on the box. Jersey Fresh is just that: Fresh!”