Japanese Pay Crazy Prices for NJ Strawberries — So Why Aren’t They Sold Here?
When you go into a New Jersey supermarket, have you ever wondered why you can’t score Jersey fresh farm-grown strawberries there?
Typically, the berries sold in plastic containers in our supermarkets are from Driscoll’s, a company headquartered in California, not in the Garden State.
Finally, the question has been answered.
Most of the strawberries that are grown in New Jersey are extremely perishable, so they are sold directly from farms to farm stands and farmers’ markets, and most times do not end up in supermarkets because they spoil too quickly, said Doug Fisher, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture.
He said the berries found in supermarkets (like the ones from Driscoll's) are grown with the intention of being shipped so they lose some of the basic properties that people are looking for, such as sweetness.
But Jersey-grown berries are incredibly plump and sweet, and that’s what people are looking for, Fisher said. However, because they are so perishable they are typically sold at farmers’ markets and farm stands where they are snatched up pretty quickly.
It’s not Jersey residents who go crazy over Jersey strawberries, either.
Oishii is a Japanese agricultural technology company that opened a vertical farm in Jersey City to grow Omakase strawberries, which are then shipped back to Japan.
Omakase berries are grown differently than typical strawberries because instead of growing in soil, they are grown indoors, via vertical farming. That means they are pesticide-free, non-GMO, and perfectly ripe.
However, they can be quite expensive. Some berries sell for $6 apiece.
According to a 2022 CNBC report, a box of six extra-large berries to sell for $50 at Whole Foods. These berries are sweeter, with a denser, juicier center.
“Indoor farming is an as important part of our farming agricultural landscape as it is farming in the ground. New Jersey has all these operations, many of them headquartered in the Garden State. This is a very targeted market with an extraordinary product,” Fisher said.
But don't fret about the strawberries, folks. Plenty of other Jersey produce, like green, leafy vegetables can be found in state supermarkets, especially if the public asks for them, and that’s the key.
“The key is when people ask for it, these supermarkets will definitely carry it. That’s just the nature of marketing,” Fisher said.
What Jersey produce is out and about now that it’s May? Fisher said while it is the beginning of strawberry season, you'll also start to see asparagus, lettuce, dandelion greens, leeks, kale and spinach available at local farm stands, farmers’ markets, and supermarkets.
To find a pick-your-own farm in Jersey, what's in season or “Find Jersey Fresh” produce availability, visit here.
“Grown Right.Here” is the state agriculture department’s latest motto to indicate that any produce that is grown right, is grown right here.
Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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