New Jersey Ag News
New Jersey Farm Bureau gathers for 96th annual meeting
By RICHARD SKELLY
PRINCETON (Dec. 1, 2015) — New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher used humor and offered up support in his remarks to a crowd of nearly 200 farmers at the New Jersey Farm Bureau’s 96th annual meeting on Nov. 17-18 at the Westin Hotel, Forrestal Village.
Fisher’s address on Nov. 17 to the assembly of hard-working farmers and their relatives was followed by a surf and turf dinner at the Westin Hotel, complete with locally grown spinach, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, wine, salad dressing, scallops, potatoes and ice cream.
Patrons also found copies of a new magazine for Garden State foodies, “Edible Jersey” on their seats in the dining hall as well as small sample bottles of Trapper’s Honey, also produced locally.
Fisher told the crowd of 191 people: “I have a confession to make, I passed a farm vehicle on the way up here, it was a double line, and I had to pass the vehicle on the way,” he said, referring to a slide presentation earlier that afternoon on farm safety and disaster preparedness.
“I bring greetings from Gov. Chris Christie,” he said. “I was with him two days after the elections and I don’t know if any of you saw him, he was wearing his Jersey Fresh fleece all over the country,” Fisher said.
“He was in Iowa, and this woman walked up to him and asked, ‘Governor, what is this ‘Jersey Fresh?’ He said, ‘Well, we have agriculture in New Jersey, you know we’re the Garden State of the country.’ And the woman standing next to him said, ‘Governor, I’ve been to New Jersey and they have the best corn in the country!’ And the governor turned around and said, ‘I know I’m in Iowa, but our corn beats your corn. You know why, because you grow corn for animals, we grow corn for people!’ I didn’t want to tell him about how much corn we grow for animals, I was just so happy he was wearing his ‘Jersey Fresh’ fleece.”
Fisher made reference to what many think is the reality of global climate change when talking about the past few growing seasons.
“Year after year, New Jersey farmers deal with issues both natural and man-made,” he said. “You know I’m not a farmer, but it seems to me the weather is more unpredictable than ever, and the swings are even greater each year.
“The demands among consumers for practices that they think are preferable, I know you’re all concerned about what your neighbors are thinking, what the general public is thinking, what the press is thinking, and you all do a great job.
“But we all know you have to keep your guard up.”
Fisher suggested that the federal government may soon approve consumer protection legislation allowing for GMO labels on food.
“I think if the federal government takes the standard up, it will go a long way in benefiting agriculture.”
Fisher urged the assembled farmers and growers, who sometimes come into conflict with their neighbors in the nation’s most densely populated state, to be willing and ready to defend their operations and businesses with facts.
“Don’t forget about the who, what, where, when and why, because there’s always somebody asking those kinds of questions and it’s up to you to provide those answers. When you do, a lot of these issues go away,” Fisher said, praising the long-standing and friendly relationship the New Jersey Farm Bureau and the state’s department of agriculture have enjoyed through most of the NJFB’s 96 years. “Unified, we have the opportunity to make extraordinary strides in this state.”
Congressman Jon Runyan, Republican of Mount Laurel, was keynote speaker at the dinner, and he focused on his frustration with the slow-moving nature of federal government and recounted life lessons from his youth in Flint, Mich., as well as his time in college football at the University of Michigan.
Most recently, Runyan had a distinguished tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, but left pro football shortly before being elected to the House for New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District in 2010.
Interestingly, Runyan raises miniature donkeys on his farm in Mount Laurel Township. He is the fourth former pro football player to serve in the U.S. House of Representative, but he said he is leaving politics and going back to “the private sector,” but said he was unsure yet what his plans for the future will include.
He shared a lesson he learned from Lloyd Carr, his football coach at the University of Michigan.
Runyan described Carr as an old, classic coach whose mission in life was to “make men out of boys.”
He recalled what Carr told him and his teammates: “If there is one thing you learn from me and your four years here at the University of Michigan, it is simply to respect people and respect their opinions, cause if you don’t, you’re not going to be able to communicate with anybody in your life.
“If you don’t respect that opinion you’re not going to get anything out of it ... .translate that into what’s going on in Washington.. the respect factor, where’s that 10 percent where you can sit down and have a conversation and go from there?” he asked.
He also urged the assembled crowd to look for ways to give back to their community and their customer base.
“One percent of your day is 14 minutes, and if you add that up over a year, it’s 87 hours,” Runyan said. “Think about giving 87 hours a year to something or someone else.”
In closing, he stressed the importance of teamwork, and added: “I’ve never done anything in life by myself, I’ve always surrounded myself with people that are better than me and smarter than me,” he said.
“I love that quote, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Work your tail off and good things will happen to you.”