Feature Stories Recent News

New Jersey Dept. of Agriculture Announces 2021 Hemp Applications Available

(TRENTON) – On December 9, 2020, New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher announced today that applications for potential growers and processors of hemp for the 2021 season are now available on the Department’s website.

Hemp applications, rules, and regulations can also be found on the webite.

“Working together with our farmers, university partners, and other organizations, we are encouraged by the interest that is being shown and expect continued growth of hemp in New Jersey,” Secretary Fisher said.

There is no deadline to apply as applications are accepted throughout the year. There is no limit to the number hemp growers or processors for New Jersey.

There are more than 25,000 reported uses for hemp products globally according to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report. Hemp is grown mainly for seed production (food products, culinary oils, soaps, lotions, cosmetics) and fiber production (fabrics, yarns, paper products, construction materials, etc.).

Photo credit: NJ Dept. of Agriculture

Hemp is also grown to produce cannabidiol (CBD) oil extracted from resins produced largely in its flowers. CBD is used as a health supplement
with purported health benefits including pain relief, reducing inflammation, and others.

The growing time for hemp can range from 45-120 days based on the variety and intended use of the crop.

Industrial hemp (cannabis sativa) was a major crop grown in America starting in the Colonial period, and is used for textiles, paper, and rope, and continues to this day to be used in fiberboard, construction materials, protein for both humans and livestock, lubricating oils, and energy-producing biomass.

New Jersey hemp legislation at the state-level was signed into law by Governor Philip Murphy on August 9, 2019, after which followed the process of New Jersey filing for USDA approval. New Jersey will be entering its second year of growing hemp after being one of the first three states to have its hemp plan approved by the USDA.

New Jersey had 59 licensed growers, 13 processors and 6 handlers and grew 89 varieties of hemp in 2020.

The NJDA’s Division of Plant Industry is responsible for inspecting hemp growing facilities and testing hemp varieties to ensure that the THC content is within the 0.3 percent limit set by the USDA.

The manufacturing of products for human and animal consumption derived from hemp remains within the purview of the Federal Food & Drug Administration.

For further information about the New Jersey Hemp Program, email or call 609-406-6941.

Bright Side Education

Salem County Agriscience Educator, Keely DiTizio, Wins National Innovation Award

The Curriculum for Agricultural Science and Education (CASE) has announced that Keely DiTizio, a Teacher of Agriculture at Salem County Career and Technical School in Mannington Township, is the 2020 CASE National Innovation Award winner.

The award highlights a creative classroom and teaching approach as CASE certified teachers implement and promote the curriculum.

DiTizio was honored at the National Association of Agricultural Educators Convention between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4. The convention was held virtually this year.

Keely DiTizio checks on a project looking through the microscope. (Photo provided)

“As a life-long learner, I love thinking of new ways to teach, inspire, or impact my students,” DiTizio said. “It really enriches my life, and I get very excited about implementing new ideas or programs into my school’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences.”

DiTizio founded Salem Tech’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences and revamped the program by implementing one of the first full CASE pathways in the country, which prepares students for the science, business, and technology of agriculture.

DiTizio’s innovative courses for agriscience quadrupled the average number of freshmen recruited to the program within the first five years and continues to be a popular choice for Salem Tech students.

The FFA Chapter she advises has been named New Jersey FFA’s Most Improved Chapter twice in her tenure. Her husband, Matt DiTizio is also an agriculture instructor at the school, and she finds they complement one another as educators. “Every evening after work, we go for a ‘post-game’ walk, which we coined because we discuss the highlights, the triumphs and tribulations, of our work day in the classroom,” Keely DiTizio said.

“Through our informal discussions, we identify areas of need, and we brainstorm, and problem solve together.”

In addition to her certifications to teach six different CASE courses, DiTizio participated in the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy (NATAA) and was selected as the 2015 New Jersey Advisor of the Year.

A former high school agriscience student and FFA chapter president, she also was the Association for Career and Technical Education Region 1 New Teacher of the Year in 2017.

Currently, she serves on the New Jersey Association of Agricultural Educators (NJAAE) Member Services Committee and on the state STAR
(State Teach Ag Results) Team, where she helps plan and promote activities that inspire students to become agricultural educators.

“Mrs. DiTizio takes a creative approach when designing lessons that allow students to take ownership of their progress, while ensuring they meet the learning objectives of agriculture education,” Salem Tech Principal Jason Helder said. “Every time I visit her classroom, I see students engaged and enjoying learning. I believe that to be the mark of excellent teaching.”

Along with developing the CASE program at Salem Tech, DiTizio had a mobile chicken coop built by agriculture students on school grounds.

“Keely’s ability to integrate the CASE program at Salem Tech has given her students a great opportunity to explore various subjects included in the agriscience program at the school,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “This type of the educational innovation is part of the foundation that will advance agriculture to higher levels throughout the 21st century.”

DiTizio has earned a reputation for her dynamic, student-directed lessons designed to lead students to draw their own conclusions. She ingrains project-based learning into her courses and through cross-curricular activities.

Following FFA’s model of connecting students with Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE), DiTizio has placed her students in work opportunities at farms, animal shelters, Rutgers University, and various facilities for the state’s Land Grant Institution.

To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at and or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.

Feature Stories News

Op Ed From Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher: Please Give Our Farmers a Brake

In New Jersey, agricultural operations enjoy both a luxury and a challenge in being close to where people live who want their farm products.

This creates a beneficial dynamic in which residents of many New Jersey communities form a close bond with their local farmers, get to see the creation of their dietary raw ingredients “just down the road,” and even visit those nearby farms that have incorporated agri-tourism into their business models.

This is especially true in autumn of each year. Outdoor on-farm activities are always popular in the fall, from corn mazes to apple picking to pumpkin patches, many farms in New Jersey have successfully added a farm-visit experience to their offerings. This year, with many popular indoor activities curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor farm visits are being embraced by more and more residents seeking farm products and wholesome fun.

Autumn also brings to our industry the height of the harvest season.

Farmers are racing against the clock to bring in all their wonderful fall agricultural products and wrap up production activities for the year.

Soon, as winter descends upon our region, those farms that don’t operate year-round will take their short respite between the end of the autumn harvest and the next planting season in the spring.

So, for the next several weeks, as this year’s fall harvest culminates, New Jersey residents should see increased activity of farm vehicles out on the roads, from tractors to trucks to hay wagons. It’s an important time to remind other motorists that these are working vehicles driven by farmers and their employees, many of whom are their family members, from whom we all benefit through close proximity.

Please, as you are out and about, even if it’s just making your daily commute, or errands, consider the work our farmers are conducting and the vital job they do by cooperating.

No one likes being caught behind a slow-moving vehicle on the road, whether it is a tractor or just someone driving a passenger car very slowly. But it is only a few minutes and doing something rash like trying to pass a long line of cars without knowing what’s coming in the opposite direction could endanger lives.

Please make sure our farmers will still be here with us next year. Show some patience. It is one of the best thank you gestures we can give to them. Stay safe!


Douglas H. Fisher, Secretary of Agriculture

Education Feature Stories

Academy360 Awarded “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award”

From left, NJDA Farm to School Coordinator Erin Maguire, Academy360 Executive Chef Michael Matthews, Spectrum360’s Carol Minardi, and Academy360 Principal Lynn Muir (Photo provided).

(LIVINGSTON) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture today presented Academy360 in Livingston with the “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award” for its Culinary Academy360 and gardening program.

The presentation kicked off the celebration of the 10th annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week being held September 21-25.

Academy360 is a program of the NJ nonprofit Spectrum360, which serves children and adults with autism and other related disabilities.

“It is great to see Farm to School used to expand horizons by using local produce in the teaching kitchen and for growing plants in the greenhouse,” NJDA Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher said. “Academy360 uses Farm to School as a therapy and skills tool for students with special needs.”

Academy360 Executive Chef Michael Matthews and  school Principal Lynn Muir were on hand to accept the award.

“We try to teach our students the full circle of food from seed to harvest to the kitchen and finally the table,” Matthews said. “We have a greenhouse on campus that we can take full advantage of, for items such as herbs, assorted greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc., depending on the season, of course.”

When the COVID-19 Pandemic began last March, Matthews continued to teach by using Google Classroom. He decided the theme for the cooking classes for each week, and he and the students prepared the dishes.

Critical lessons such as culinary math, culinary science, weights, measure, food safety, kitchen safety, proper personal hygiene, world geography, appropriate cutlery skills, time, and temperature were reinforced while creating the dishes.

To support families and provide further enrichment to the Spectrum360 community, Matthews also led an after-school virtual cooking class for all family, staff, and students, which allowed them to explore everything from cake decorating to barbeque preparations.

In addition to the award presented to Academy360, 23 schools are being recognized for their Farm to School efforts in the 2019-20 school year. To enter the competition, schools had to showcase how their work with farmers and the community ensures that students have access to healthy fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and classrooms.

Due to unforeseen circumstances and school closures last school year, schools had to react quickly and creatively with their meals. Many schools provided a variety of fresh produce in their grab and go meals with funding from the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (FFVP) and Department of Defense (DoDFresh) Programs.

Other 2019-2020 School Year applicants were:

  • Absegami High School, Galloway
  • Bridgeton High School, Bridgeton
  • Broad Street School, Bridgeton
  • Buckshutem Road School, Bridgeton
  • Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, Somerset
  • Cherry Street School, Bridgeton
  • Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology, Newark
  • Essex County – West Caldwell Tech, West Caldwell
  • Geraldyn O Foster Early Childhood Center, Bridgeton
  • Hamburg Elementary School, Hamburg
  • High Bridge Elementary, High Bridge
  • Indian Avenue School, Bridgeton
  • John P. Stevens High School, Edison
  • Juan Pablo Duarte – Jose Julian Marti School 28, Elizabeth
  • Mount Olive Township School District, Budd Lake
  • Nicholas LaCorte School # 3, Elizabeth
  • Paul Robeson Charter School, Trenton
  • Plainfield Schools, Plainfield
  • Quarter Mile Lane, Bridgeton
  • Red Bank Primary School, Red Bank
  • Somerset Intermediate School, North Plainfield
  • West Avenue School, Bridgeton

These schools received Jersey Fresh Farm to School promotional materials kits including Jersey Fresh Farm to School masks, banner, stickers, and seasonality charts.

All Schools who submit an application and meet the criteria are added to our list of School Recognition Program Schools. To see all Recognition Program Schools and Farms, check our program map.

Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week was designated as the last week of each September by a law signed in 2010. During this week, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture showcases schools that connect with New Jersey farmers to purchase local produce for school meals to increase student consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.  

The influence of the Farm to School Program led to more than 250 schools purchasing local produce from their main distributor, more than 200 districts buying local produce directly from farms and using a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and more than 100 districts organizing field trips to farms.

For more information, click here.

Feature Stories Recent News

N.J. Dept. of Agriculture Provides Instructions & Information When Encountering Spotted Lanternfly

On August 12, 2020, New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher announced information and instructions for residents who encounter the Spotted Lanternfly as the Department continues to receive numerous calls about this exotic invasive insect.

The Department is partnering with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) to curb the on-going spread of the Spotted Lanternfly.

“We have been working diligently to slow the advance of this bug,” Secretary Fisher said. “We are targeting areas where severe infestations have been confirmed, and we also encourage residents to destroy the Spotted Lanternfly if possible when they see it. It will take a combined effort to help keep this pest from spreading.”

While the Spotted Lanternfly is no threat to humans or animals, it is known to feed on 70 different types of plants and trees. It is native to China and South Korea, but arrived in the U.S. in Berks County, Pa., on a shipment in 2014. The species has been advancing ever since, causing Pennsylvania to have 26 counties currently under quarantine.

The New Jersey counties under quarantine are Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Somerset. The Spotted Lanternfly is a plant hopper and can only fly short distances. However, it is an excellent hitchhiker and has been known to ride on any kind of transportation. The Department asks that anyone who travels in a quarantined county do a quick inspection of their vehicle for the Spotted Lanternfly before leaving.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture and USDA-APHIS have several crews throughout the state that are working to treat areas where infestations have been reported. Those crews may seek permission to come on to a property where large infestations exist. They will have proper identification and follow proper safety protocols. The crews will need to check only the specific areas outdoors where the Spotted Lanternfly has been found.

Treatments will only occur on the Tree of Heaven, which the Spotted Lanternfly prefers and is believed to need to reproduce.

Since surveys and treatments for the Spotted Lanternfly in New Jersey began in 2018, there have been more than 200,000 Trees of Heaven treated on almost 19,000 acres.

“NJDA and USDA crews have worked to control the spread of this invasive pest,” NJDA Plant Industry Division Director Joe Zoltowski said. “Its ability to travel easily on any mode of transportation has allowed it to spread. We are asking residents to do their part by eliminating this bug whenever possible.”

If a resident has an infestation and would like to treat their own property, consult the graphic below for a list of options:

Using items such as sticky traps are not recommended as they may harm other wildlife.

While the Spotted Lanternfly is currently in its full adult stage, it will begin laying egg masses in early to mid-September. The gray looking egg masses can be scraped off, double bagged and then thrown away.

The egg masses can also be placed into alcohol, bleach or hand sanitizer to kill them.

Residents outside of the quarantine counties can report the exact address of sightings of the Spotted Lanternfly by calling 609-406-6943 or by emailing: or

Watch an instructional video on how to destroy the egg masses: