New Jersey, the Garden State—where over 40% of its own residents aren’t sure why this nickname is on every license plate in the state—has approximately 715,000 acres dedicated to agriculture. Farmers produce 100 different kinds of fruits and vegetables in rural areas that extend from southern New Jersey to points north. Agriculture is the state’s third-largest industry and is valued at well over a billion dollars! Here’s something else many New Jerseyans don’t know. While most may be privileged to have access to abundant, affordable produce year round, many of us don’t know where that food comes from. Or who tends and harvests the crops. Each year, millions of farmworkers and their families labor in orchards, vineyards and fields across the country to provide us with fresh fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products.
Farmworkers are comprised mainly of immigrant labor. While some farmworkers are permanent workers, almost 30,000 farmworkers leave their homes in Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and other Central American countries to follow the Eastern Migrant Stream from Florida through Maine. They stop along the way in New Jersey every year, many working the rural areas of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem Counties. They hand pick blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, cranberries, strawberries, corn and other fruits and vegetables grown in the area.