Ripe for success: New Jersey’s 2024 season highlights innovation and quality
July 1, 2024

New Jersey's eagerly anticipated blueberry season for 2024 has commenced, heralding not only the beginning of a fruitful harvest but also a testament to the state's rich agricultural heritage and innovative spirit. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Wengryn recently inaugurated the season at Macrie Brothers Blueberry Farm in Atlantic County, underscoring the pivotal role of blueberries in the state's economy and culinary culture. "Blueberries are a cornerstone of New Jersey's agriculture, and an integral part of our growing season," Secretary Wengryn stated. 

In 2023, New Jersey's blueberry production reached a record value of $92.1 million, solidifying its position as the state's top-grossing crop. With approximately 10,800 acres dedicated to blueberry cultivation, the state consistently ranks among the top six in the U.S. for blueberry production, yielding an  50 million pounds annually. 

The New Jersey blueberry season typically spans from mid-June to late July, coinciding with National Blueberry Month. Industry sources anticipate a fruitful season characterized by excellent berry quality, attributed to optimal weather conditions favoring berry firmness and flavor development. 

Rutgers University is nearing the culmination of a decade-long research effort to develop a new blueberry variety tailored to New Jersey's climate and consumer preferences. After 10 years of research, the institution is in its final trial stages of developing a sweeter, firmer blueberry variety. From thousands of evaluated plants at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension in Chatsworth, only three to four varieties showing promise for enhanced sweetness and firmness will advance. This innovation promises economic benefits for local growers aiming to meet evolving consumer tastes.                                                                                    

Hammonton, often hailed as "the blueberry capital of the world," plays a pivotal role in New Jersey's blueberry industry. The region's 56 farms, concentrated in Atlantic County, epitomize the state's prowess. A prominent local distributor notes significant growth in organic blueberry sales over recent years. This trend aligns with increasing consumer awareness of health benefits associated with organic farming practices, despite slightly higher pricing compared to conventionally grown berries.

Source: IBO

“You’re seeing more imported blueberries becoming organic which then creates a year-long program of organic blueberries that customers seem to grow towards more, synthetic pesticides    

are a huge reason for that. New Jersey, specifically, has changed its acreage from conventional to organic, and that’s why it’s believed the market is more ready for a larger growth of organics. There’s data across the past 12 months that shows that the percentage of growth is higher than the conventional market. While organic is a bit more expensive, if a consumer knows the berry is grown with good, organic fertilizer without synthetic pesticides, they’ll pay the extra dollar for it. I think that’s partially why the category has grown because the price differentiating is minimal especially during the domestic season,” says an industry source. 

As consumers increasingly favor organic options and the state prepares for competitive summer markets, New Jersey's blueberry growers continue to demonstrate resilience, quality, and a commitment to meeting evolving demands.