The Garden State is now officially New Jersey’s state slogan.
Gov. Chris Christie’s signing of the bill formalizes the slogan that has appeared on the state’s license plates since 1954.
Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan says a Girl Scout troop proposed the idea after discovering the state did not have a slogan written into law.
According to the bill, New Jersey is home to more than 9,701 farms covering 715,057 acres of farmland. Food and agriculture account for New Jersey’s third largest industry, generating approximately $1.14 billion in total sales in 2012.
As of June 30, 2014, approximately 2,200 farms have been preserved under the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program, accounting for more than 209,000 acres of preserved farmland.
The bill’s sponsors say the phrase was first made popular during a speech by Camden attorney and farmer Abraham Browning at the Philadelphia Centennial exhibition in 1876.
Abraham Browning’s reference of “Garden State” was meant to describe New Jersey’s geographical and agricultural relationship with New York and Pennsylvania.
The slogan has also been used in naming areas and programs within New Jersey including the Garden State Parkway, Garden State Art Center, Garden State Growth Zone, and Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
But “Garden State” almost didn’t make it onto license plates even after the state legislature passed a bill permitting it. In 1954, Governor Robert Meyner vetoed the bill, but the legislature overrode.
“I do not believe that the average citizen of New Jersey regards his state as more peculiarly identifiable with gardening for farming than any of its other industries or occupations,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.