NJ Department Of Agriculture Highlights Local Tomato Production

By: Follow South Jersey Staff

SWEDESBORO, N.J. — While New Jersey ranks 8th in the nation for the production of tomatoes, many local residents will claim, the best tomatoes come from right here in South Jersey.

Tomatoes were once nicknamed the “poisonous apple” because of fear of its acidic nature. According to the Smithsonian, there is a tale about how Robert Johnson of Salem “stood on the town’s courthouse steps and publicly ate a tomato to prove that it was safe; however, there’s no actual documentation it actually happened.”

To highlight the region’s tomato harvest, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher recently visited Viereck Farms in Swedesboro as the farm starts to harvest tomatoes, one of the several types of vegetables it grows.

“New Jersey is known for the high quality, flavorful tomatoes grown here, and operations like Viereck Farms do an exceptional job at upholding that high standard,” NJDA Secretary Douglas Fisher said in a press release from the Department of Agriculture. “With the summer months upon us now, tomatoes and other Jersey Fresh produce are coming into season and it is looking to be an outstanding year.”

Viereck Farms LLC is a fourth-generation farm on 490 acres that spans Woolwich and Logan Townships. The farm is owned by David and Larry Viereck, and operated with Joel and Mike Viereck, who are the fourth generation. The farm was started more than 100 years ago by Leslie Viereck and continued by Leslie Viereck Jr., who is now 96. Leslie Viereck III also works on the farm and leads their farmers market program.

“We take great pride with the way we grow all of our produce,” said Joel Viereck who is president of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey. “We are just now beginning to pick tomatoes and this has the makings of being an excellent year.”

According to the department, Viereck Farms grows more than 50 acres of tomatoes, including just over 40 acres in high tunnels. That allows the crops to be shaded, protecting them from the heat. A four- to five-degree temperature increase in the tunnels allows crops to be planted sooner in the spring. The plastic covering also diffuses the natural sunlight to increase plant photosynthesis, allows for controlled irrigation, and protects plants so they do not need to be treated nearly as often.

Viereck Farms also grows sweet corn, peppers, squash, and asparagus as well as wheat, soybeans, and field corn. They sell most of their produce wholesale through Eastern Fresh Growers, Procacci Brothers Sales, and Gaurino & Sons Inc. They are also at the Collingswood Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, the Haddon Heights Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays, and the Wenonah Farmers Market from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

For more information about Jersey Fresh produce go to www.findjerseyfresh.com.

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