Is it time to change NJ’s nickname? Most like it just fine
Keep "the Garden State" in the Garden State.
According to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, along with support from the New Jersey Farm Bureau, more than 77% of New Jersey voters believe "The Garden State" is a good nickname for us. Only 13% think the name should be changed and 10% are unsure.
Ryck Suydam, president of the New Jersey Farm Bureau and a farmer himself, said with Jersey tomatoes, corn, peaches and blueberries around, this makes sense.
"We think the poll shows New Jerseyans appreciate not only their highly productive local farms but also displays their love of landscape plants and protected open space lands," he said.
Some issues confronting farmers also affect homeowners, including the damage to plants that can be done by the overpopulation of deer. About 63% of New Jersey residents said they favor hunts in addition to the current levels to control the deer population. This is up from the most recent FDU poll conducted in March 2020 where only 49% favored additional hunts.
Suydam said there's just too many deer. In Somerset County, there are 110 deer per square mile. In Warren, it's 200 deer per square mile.=
He said whether it's ecological damage to the forests, increases in tick-borne diseases, deer-car collisions or the damage to agricultural crops, deer affects everyone's lives. While these are beautiful majestic animals, he said there's just too many of them.
Homeowners may not understand the monetary impact on farmers, but they do understand deer are chewing up their landscaping and forests. The next generation of New Jerseyans are going to lose out, said Suydam because the next generation of trees are being eaten up by the deer.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of having food grown locally and New Jerseyans recognize the role of farms. The FDU poll found 60% indicate having local farms near them as a source of locally grown food is "very important" to them. Suydam said people want food closer to them. The closer the food is to them, the fresher it is and it's almost like a food security for residents to have food close by.
The state Legislature is considering a bill that would regulate how many solar panels would interfere with or harm prime farmland. Others say the development of solar panels is important to New Jersey's clean energy goals. So what did the poll find?
More than half (52%) of New Jerseyans believe it's important to grow crops on these lands even at the cost of having less solar energy while 26% said it's more important to generate additional solar energy even if it means less prime farmland.
Covering good New Jersey farmland is going to have to happen to some degree but farmers can grow crops in and around solar panels if it's done right, said Suydam.
"It's called dual-use so we are harvesting the sun and can still pasture animals around those panels or grow crops that can tolerate some shade," he added. It just has to be done right so that we don't chew up some of the best farmland in the country but still have opportunity to have solar panels to create green energy.