New Jersey supports farming the Garden State

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A majority of New Jersey residents (57%) say that New Jersey is called the Garden State for its cultivation of produce and vegetables but 43% have other ideas or just don’t know.  According to a PublicMind study sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Jersey residents nonetheless have some sympathy for the plight of farmers in the Garden State and support their property tax breaks. Three of four residents say it’s very important to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in-state and 85% say farming should play a valuable role in the future of New Jersey while 83% say it’s appropriate for farmers to pay taxes at reduced rates on land under cultivation.

“Despite images of turnpike traffic and suburban sprawl, farming remains an important part of the state’s identity,” said John Schiemann, a professor of administrative science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and director of research for PublicMind.

Four out of five adults say they’ve stopped by a Jersey farm, mainly to buy produce, although younger people are more likely to have been there as an educational outing rather than to take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables.

New Jersey residents believe it is increasingly difficult for New Jersey farmers to stay in business and remain profitable. Large majorities support farmers on a range of issues including wildlife damage to crops, compensation for lost property values due to zoning changes, and water usage during droughts. “Even those in urban areas like the idea of home-grown produce and are generally sympathetic with farmers,” added Schiemann.  According to the Census Bureau, there are 9,924 farms in New Jersey and 86% of these are family owned. Nineteen cents of the retail dollar goes directly to farmers.

Respondents who have visited a farm or read about farming in the past year are more likely to support farming interests. “It may be that a little familiarity with farming goes a long way in providing support for New Jersey farmers,” Schiemann said. “The irony is that in the long run suburban sprawl and farming are really at odds with each other.”

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll of 906 New Jersey residents was conducted from October 15 through October 24 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

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Copyright © 2004, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 041115]