New Jersey's farms, breweries and distilleries have a lot to offer — but a lot more can be done to make sure people know, industry representatives say.

State agriculture and tourism officials and representatives from New Jersey wineries, craft beer breweries and distilleries gathered for a special hearing Monday with members of the state Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee as well as the the Senate Economic Growth Committees at Amalthea Cellars Farm Winery in Atco.

“We need to do a better job of letting people know what we do in the state of New Jersey, whether it’s wine growers to craft breweries and distilleries that are popping up all over our state,” said State Senator Jim Beach, the chair of the state Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

According to New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Doug Fisher, agri-tourism is “when people visit a farm and experience what they have to offer. Sometimes it’s an event such as picking grapes to make wine. Sometimes it’s apple-picking or hayrides.”

He said agri-tourism helps generate an income for farmers, and "it helps their bottom line enormously.”

Fisher estimated agri-tourism adds at least $19 million a year to the New Jersey economy, and said it's fun for the whole family.

“To be able to sort of go back, and just sort of put their foot on the earth and enjoy being on a farm is transformational," he said.

Fisher pointed out the Agriculture Department has just launched the online Find Jersey Fresh campaign.

“It allows people to go on and target what they’re looking for, what activity they want, what product they want to find, what farm experience is appealing to them," he said.

Fisher said signage on federal highways that directs visitors to agri-tourism sites, including wineries and craft breweries, is not allowed in New Jersey — but he said that could change,  “so we’ll work on that.”

Beach said if other states can have agri-tourism signage on interstate highways, New Jersey should be able to as well.

“That’s pretty stupid if we’re not taking advantage of people traveling, whether they’re coming from New York, driving through New Jersey," he said. "We should be able to take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of motorists that may be looking for a winery, but because we don’t have signage in certain places, they don’t know they’re there.”

He said additional hearings are in the works in the coming months.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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