The state Department of Agriculture highlighted July as National Blueberry Month with a visit to Mento Farms in Atlantic County, noting that New Jersey is the blueberry capital of the world.
Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher along with state and local officials toured the farm’s packing facility and the fields where Jersey Fresh blueberries are grown to emphasize that local produce and farm products are readily available at farmers markets and stores around the state.
“The blueberry season in the Garden State is one of the primary indicators that the Jersey Fresh season is at its peak,” Fisher said. “Blueberry farms like the one the Mentos own and operate are part of the fabric of New Jersey agriculture. Our blueberry farmers are dedicated and passionate about the crop they grow, and it is evident in the high quality and delicious produce they deliver to consumers each year.”
Blueberries were the No. 1 crop in New Jersey for 2020 with a production value of $85 million, according to the USDA. New Jersey annually ranks in the top six in the U.S. in the production of blueberries. Farmers in the Garden State harvested 46 million pounds of blueberries on 9,300 acres last year.
The Hammonton, New Jersey area is home to 56 blueberry farms, including the family-owned Mentor Blueberry Farm.
“This has been a great season so far as we have had ideal growing conditions this year,” said Sam Mento III, who owns the farm along with his wife, Kathy. “We have been blessed with a really nice crop. All this sunshine has made the berries big and super sweet. We know people really anticipate and love Jersey Fresh blueberries and we are proud to deliver one of our state’s most well-known crops to our customers.”
Mento has been growing blueberries in New Jersey for the last 14 years on a 50-acre operation. Local customers can find Mento Blueberries by stopping at the farm on 14th Street in Hammonton, or visiting one of the many farmers markets they participate in.
“Today, we live in a society that’s so far removed from the food chain,” said Mento. “It’s great to have (journalists) out here so we can show people where blueberries come from, and it’s a little bit more than just going to the convenience store and grabbing a pint.”
Those markets include Steve and Cookies by the Bay in Margate on Thursday morning, Historic Smithville on Thursday nights, the Ventnor City Market on Friday nights, and the Brigantine Farmers Market on Saturdays. The majority of the farm’s fruit is shipped to New England.
Sam Mento III is also an active member of the New Jersey Blueberry Industry Advisory Council.
The blueberry season for New Jersey lasts through the end of July. During the height of blueberry season, production can be as high as 250,000-300,000 crates per day. Eating blueberries is beneficial to health as they are known as the “King of Anti-Oxidants.” Blueberries are low in calories and high in nutrients.
Go to www.FindJerseyFresh.com to see where Jersey Fresh blueberries are available locally and to find recipes that include great tasting Jersey Fresh blueberries.
A total of 80% of all the state’s blueberries come from Hammonton. New Jersey produces 40 to 50 million pounds of blueberries annually, accounting for $70 million in revenue.