NJ farmers looking to revive agritourism

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:59

    NEWARK - Hay rides and apple-picking aren’t too much fun in the rain. New Jersey farmers said last week’s torrential rains and flooding kept tourists away during what is traditionally a busy season for the state’s pumpkin patches, apple orchards and other agritourism businesses. "The worst thing is the shortage of customers for a week and a half,’’ Harvey Ort Jr., a farmer from Long Valley, told The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark. He said revenue at his Morris County farm was down 90 percent during the recent period of rain. Agriculture experts said this year’s growing season was basically finished. And William Hlubik, an agricultural agent at Rutgers Cooperative Research Center for Middlesex County, said the problem is that at this time of the year, farmers earn revenue by people visiting the farm. Hlubik said many festivals where farmers earn a large portion of their revenue were delayed due to the rain. And the weather helped and hindered many _ apple growers said the storms helped clean the fruit of blemishes and fungus but also drove customers away from pick-your-own farms. "If you miss anything between Sept. 20 and Columbus Day weekend in the pick-your-own business, it’s painful,’’ said Deborah Post, owner of Riamede Farm in Chester Township. She said the apples in her farm were washed by Mother Nature, but the strong winds also blew the fruit from the trees. During peak weekends, Post said about 1,000 customers will visit her farm, but on Saturday just a few dozen cars filled the parking lot. Some crops, like pumpkins that have already ripened, were not especially damaged by the rain, but other crops like tomatoes and peppers became so full of water, they burst. With the sun finally making an appearance this weekend, some people decided to brave the muddy fields at many farms and came out to pick apples or choose a pumpkin for Halloween.