Irene takes a bite out of New Jersey crops

Growing conditions for farmers in New Jersey were considered to be ideal this summer. That was before Hurricane Irene arrived in the Garden State.

Some growers escaped serious damage, but New Jersey Farm Bureau executive director Peter Furey said the storm is a tough blow to the bottom line for many farmers.

“Some of the tomatoes and some of the fall pumpkins took some damage. The field crops for fall harvest, field corn and soybean, may have dodged a bullet,” Furey said. “We were worried about a lot of blow down. That did occur in northwest counties, but in the rest of the state the damage was somewhat contained.”

Furey said it’s fortunate the storm came near the end of the growing season. He says farmers are anxious about how they’ll be able to attract customers to farm markets because of the storm-damaged roadways.

At Tranquillity Farms in Allamuchy, Warren County, the corn maze attraction was completely flattened.

“We lost like four acres of sweet corn. All the fruit that was on our squash and zucchini and tomato plants is all pretty much gone,” said Erin Freeborn, farm manager. “All the cantaloupes that were on the ground—and now we’re coming to find out that a lot of the pumpkins are starting to rot too from sitting in water.”

At Norz Hill Farm in Hillsborough, Somerset County, floodwaters from the Raritan River damaged some crops.

“We’ve had pumpkin crops that were severely damaged,” said Rich Norz, farm owner. “We probably lost about 30 percent of our crop. We also lost part of the rest of our sweet corn crop … and there was also some damage to some field corn and some soybeans.”

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