Tough Winter May Benefit New Jersey Farmers
While it's still pretty early in the year for Jersey Fresh, crops may actually have benefited from another brutal winter in the Garden State.
In fact, one farming expert said the snow, ice and cold weather did a lot of good for the state's farm fields.
"The snow adds nitrogen back into the soil. When we get down below zero, that kills a lot of the insects that would normally emerge in the spring," said Al Murray, assistant secretary of agriculture with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
One downside to winter though is that farmers have to wait for their fields to dry out before they can transport plants from their greenhouses to the fields.
"The fields are very, very saturated, and that's the problem because even as big as these tractors are, they get stuck very easily in these kinds of conditions," Murray said. "Right now, our farmers are just like a NASCAR driver, waiting for that flag to wave and to take off."
And even though the state has experienced a run of warmer days, the ground is still frozen underneath. Murray said farmers need about 10 days of dry, warm weather for the water to have a chance to percolate back to the water table.
So what Jersey Fresh items can people expect to see on store shelves first?
Murray said greenhouses throughout the state are bursting with early season lettuces, and those should hit markets around the end of March or the beginning of April. Shoppers will also see leeks and spinach. By the end of April, more lettuce varieties will be available.
With May comes the strawberries, and by the end of May a lot of Jersey Fresh items will be available.
"We're expecting a very good and great growing season," Murray said.
A spokesman for the New Jersey Farm Bureau declined to comment on the upcoming growing season in the state and said it was too early to determine how things will go.