Author Archive: JackHarris

Jackie Stevenson, a Feminist Icon Passes

I think I would have liked this lady. RIP. – promoted by Rosi

A good friend of mine died in her sleep early Sunday morning. Jackie Stevenson spent over forty years in Minnesota politics as a trailblazer and a fierce advocate for women’s rights.

But what many people didn’t know about were Jackie’s ties to New Jersey where she was born. I always felt that that spark, that fire that animated Jackie and the passion that she brought to grassroots politics and women’s rights arose from those New Jersey links.

Jeff Blodgett writes on Facebook of Jackie’s close friendship with Paul and Sheila Wellstone, two other fierce, passionate advocates of grassroots politics and the common good, lost to the world too soon.

And who can ever forget Jackie’s fierce and undying support of Hillary Clinton.

To a large extent, Hillary’s path forward was forged by women like Jackie fighting the good fight year after year in the state parties and in their local communities to ensure that women had a place at the table and a path to leadership.

One of my fondest memories of Jackie was having breakfast with her in Hopkins MN, the day after Obama’s June 4th St. Paul Rally in 2008, where she was one of a handful of Hillary supporters to get face-time with the soon to be president.

I, an Obama supporter and she a Hillary supporter, marveled at the fact that the race barrier was broken before the gender barrier. We both agreed that there was still a lot of work that needed to be done to ensure that the gains women had made over the past 1/2 century weren’t lost.

And who can ever forget her beaming and just lighting up the room as we watched on the big screen Nancy Pelosi being sworn in as Speaker of the House.

Jackie was a key supporter of my efforts in Minnesota to garner DFL support for legislation to end the statue of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and was a long-time supporter of The Domestic Abuse Project in Minneapolis.

For Jackie, all politics was local and effective politics started with an inviolable right to a secure, safe, sense of self.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant writes of Citizen Jackie:

Stevenson started volunteering in DFL political campaigns in 1952, she said. While she loved the excitement of a campaign, what hooked her was the satisfaction of helping to shape government. She wasn’t a person with money or fame. But she had significant influence because she earned it, through unflagging commitment to the person-to-person work of building a political party.

Well, Jackie’s gone now, but we all of us, men and women alike need to step up our game and make sure that women have a seat at the table and a path to leadership, this year, next year and 50 years from now.

But as Jackie would be the first to tell you, it’s not just about Feminist Politics or Women’s Rights. It’s about everyone’s rights to a safe and secure home, a secure sense of self, and to safe and healthy communities.

She will be sorely missed.

Cross-posted at Pocket Farms—Keeping Jersey Fresh

Terraculture: Inventing a New Kind of Agriculture (That’s Perfectly Suited for NJ BTW!)

Perhaps in New Jersey the new concept of terraculture is just reinventing our old forms of agriculture, the kind that have given us the nickname the Garden State.

This TEDx talk by Jon Foley, Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota details the ways in which national and global agricultural practices contribute to climate change and calls for new practices that feed the world’s growing population while decreasing agriculture’s impact on land, water and climate.

In the video, Foley emphasizes that agriculture uses 70% of the water people consume worldwide, contributes 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions and consumes 60 times more land than suburban and urban land uses combined. Foley argues that we need to direct agriculture to areas where it already works well instead of constantly expanding into new and uncultivated areas.

In New Jersey, we’ve been using many of our agricultural lands since the 17th century. How’s that for reuse!

Foley calls for a new kind of agriculture that brings together the best ideas of commercial farming and the green revolution with the best practices of organic farming and environmental conservation.

New Jersey may be well suited for this intertwining of farms, open space and business development as I pointed out in my 2010 post Farms, Open Space Preservation and Business Development: Perfect Together!”

Our incredibly fertile soil, our abundant water resources and location between New York and Philadelphia as well as being right smack dab in the middle of the Boston to Washington D.C. megalopolis makes agriculture New Jersey’s one true competitive advantage.

However, New Jersey’s land base is under pressure and we need to make bioregional agriculture, open space preservation, and water supply & quality preservation a top-level, statewide priority now.

All of these issues are key parts of New Jersey’s $82 billion food and agricultural complex.  

Agriculture, open space preservation and water quality are entangled issues in New Jersey and need to be addressed in concert with one another as we develop plans for New Jersey’s future and struggle to jump start the economy.

Foley’s presentation is now up on the worldwide TED site as well as the TEDx site and is just under 18 minutes long. It’s well worth every minute.

Cross-posted at Pocket Farms—Keeping Jersey Fresh

A Blast from the Past: The Birth of the Rutgers Tomato

How am I not going to frontpage what will almost certainly be today’s only tomato story? – promoted by Rosi

In 1934 the NJ State Horticulture Society announced the birth of the Rutgers Tomato after eight years of breeding the tomato and field testing it at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

The goal was to create a better tomato for marketing and manufacture. Camden’s iconic Campbell Soup Company was actually birthed in the fields of South Jersey and owes it’s existence to the New Jersey tomato.

Have you had your soup today?

It’s too bad Campbell’s no longer manufactures in New Jersey though.

In 1933 the Rutgers Tomato was field tested at 75 NJ farms from Sussex County in the highlands of northwest New Jersey to Cape May along the coast in the extreme southeastern part of the state.

The Rutgers tomatoes that you see today are merely descendents of the original Rutgers tomato stock.

I tried some container gardening with the Rutgers Tomato last year but didn’t have much success, though I did get two smaller tomatoes that were unbelievably red, juicy and that had a nice tang to them. I have challenging sun/shade conditions on my patio and there’s no real consistency of light over the course of the growing season as foliage and the sun’s angle changes.

Sickles Market in Little Silver sold the Rutgers as well as the Ramapo Tomato last year. The Ramapo Tomato was also cultivated at the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) way back when.

Both the Rutgers and Ramapo tomatoes are part of the Rediscovering the Jersey Tomato project at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

Cross-posted at Pocket Farms-Keeping Jersey Fresh

NJ Agriculture and Passover: Perfect Together

promoted by Rosi

Real nice discussion of the bounty of the Garden State by Gloria Einhorn in New Jersey Jewish News.

She discusses how New Jersey’s bounty connects to both Passover and other Jewish Traditions like Shavuot and Sukkot. A good, quick read and chock full of information:  

Local produce: glorying in the Garden State

The Farm and Food Guide of the The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey is a good resource to find places that offer this bounty.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s in-season and farmers market guides are also a good resource.

I provide a sidebar of local resources for local and regional agriculture at my blog Pocket Farms – Keeping Jersey Fresh where this diary is cross-posted.  

If the Rutgers-Camden Takeover Goes Through, What Happens to NJ Ag?

Cross-posted at Pocketfarms — Keeping Jersey Fresh

Lost in all the debate over the potential takeover of the Rutgers-Camden campus in South Jersey is the extended presence of Rutgers and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station  throughout New Jersey and especially in the food producing regions south of 195.

Rutgers operates the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, participates on the State Agriculture Development Committee and has a presence in all counties in South Jersey through it’s county extension and cooperative services. The Rutgers-Camden Library serves the South Jersey extension agents and cooperative services programs and is a portal to Rutgers statewide network of 26 libraries and more then 10.5 million holdings.

As New Jersey’s land grant institution, Rutgers has a federal mission to serve the state.

If Rutgers is pushed back north of 195, what happens to the farmers, growers, producers, distributors, packers and canners in South Jersey?

Can the proposed regional university that is supposed to take the place of Rutgers in South Jersey quickly duplicate the reach, mission, and 150 years of service of Rutgers — New Jersey’s state university — to the New Jersey or South Jersey agricultural community?

Why further divide an already divided state and carve up one of the few institutions in New Jersey with real statewide reach? An institution that serves the entire $82 billion New Jersey agricultural and food sector from High Point to Cape May.  

The Importance of the Equine Industry to NJ Agriculture

Since I moved back to New Jersey several years ago, I’ve been keeping a small sometimes updated blog at Wordpress on local NJ agriculture and markets called  Pocket Farms-Keeping Jersey Fresh. Prompted by a class at Rutgers and ongoing issues impacting NJ’s dwindling land base (as well as the early Spring) I’m going to try and regularly update the blog and cross-post at Blue Jersey for the rest of the year.

A blast from the past, this is an opinion piece I penned last year after the state announced it was ending the casino subsidies for Horse racing at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands. I ended up not submitting it because of timing issues with obtaining and confirming some metrics that I’ve left out.

Follow me on Twitter at PocketFarmsNJ for insights about small-market NJ agriculture and broader NJ land base issues.  -jack


As New Jersey’s horse racing industry goes, so goes New Jersey’s agricultural industry. New Jersey’s horse racing industry contributes 176,000 acres or one third of New Jersey’s agricultural open space, $160 million dollars in tax receipts, 13,000 jobs and provides a $1.1 billion dollar economic impact according to the Rutgers Center for Equine Research. The economics of New Jersey’s horse racing industry extend far beyond the profit and loss statement of any individual track.

While on the surface Governor Christie’s proposal to restructure New Jersey’s sports, entertainment and gaming complex makes sense, his short-changing of New Jersey’s horse racing industry will have negative long-term impacts on the health of New Jersey’s agricultural industry and quality of life. Any chance that New Jersey has to transition into a major East Coast production center for locally sourced, sustainably grown foods will disappear as New Jersey horse farms are paved over and replaced by subdivisions and strip malls. Our remaining open space corridors such as the proposed Upper Freehold byway will face increased pressure as the economic viability of the New Jersey equine industry decreases with the demise of local racing venues, or the transfer of control to outside operators who don’t have New Jersey’s best interests at heart. Horse farms and horse racing is an old and historic part of New Jersey’s economy and part of our state’s heritage.

With Fort Monmouth closed, New Jersey’s historic communications industry has essentially ceased to exist , while our pharmaceutical companies continue to shift operations to the Cambridge to New Haven Corridor in New England and manufacturing and distribution services are just a shell of their former selves. But what we do have is our land and our location. As bioregional food systems become increasingly important in America’s food industries, New Jersey’s land and location can once again become a major competitive advantage for the state providing farmers, business owners and entrepreneurs unique opportunities to compete in the Boston to D.C. corridor with fresh, locally grown and produced foods.

But New Jersey’s agricultural viability depends on the open space and vistas of the horse farms. As a small state, our agricultural operations are necessarily small scale. Our advantage is that we can grow a mix of nursery crops, fruits, vegetables and feed all within close proximity to horse and dairy farms. This crop and farm diversity prevents the state from becoming a monoculture state dominated by only a few cash crops such as beets, soy beans, or feed corn. Our small size and small farms also help drive our tourism industry in summer and fall, a $38 billion dollar industry according to Global Insights. Tourism isn’t all about gambling in Atlantic City or rides on the boardwalk. It’s also about the drive to the destination. It’s a short trip off the Parkway or Turnpike for dinner or breakfast at a family-owned coffee shop or restaurant or a drive through farm country to buy just-picked fruits and vegetables or locally produced jams, honeys and breads. It’s overnight stays at Bed & Breakfasts throughout the fall harvest season. And all these seemingly small, discrete activities add up and build off of one another.

Governor Christie’s agricultural transition team estimated that NJ’s food and agriculture sector has $82 billion in sales, contributes 8.5% of New Jersey’s Gross State Product, and employs 400,000 workers. Without a doubt, agriculture and food production is a critical part of New Jersey’s economy and the equine industry is a key part of New Jersey’s agricultural and food complex. However, between 1972 and 2002 New Jersey lost 384,000 acres of agricultural land, almost all of it to development. Combined, New Jersey lost 672,000 acres of farms, forests and wetlands over the same period, fourteen percent of our open space in a state of only 4.8 million acres!

New Jersey tourism, agriculture and food production all depend upon diverse agricultural lands. Horse farms are a critical part of New Jersey’s agricultural ecosystem and landscape. Without in-state racing venues, horse farms and their $1.1 billion dollar state economic impact will slowly fade away and put increased real estate pressures on our remaining agricultural lands. Not looking at the whole New Jersey equine sector and  

Defend Rutgers: Why RU-Camden Matters to Rutgers

promoted by Rosi

Defend Rutgers: Why RU-Camden Matters to Rutgers University

Big Rutgers Board of Trustees Meeting tonight at 7pm at the College Avenue Student Center on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers. The BOT will be dining across the street at Brower Commons immediately before the meeting.

So here is the third and installment of the three video series Defend Rutgers: Communicating our Identity 101. This one on why Rutgers-Camden matters to Rutgers.

In addition to the issues laid out in the video, what happens to other Rutgers facilities and the Rutgers cooperative extension programs in South Jersey?

What happens to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton?

The Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown?

The Pinelands Field Station?

The Rutgers Marine Science Field Station in Tuckerton?

Rutgers Marine Sciences program is ranked fourth best in the world.  Will Rutgers have to give up it’s Marine Science program and/or facilities as part of the merger?

Defend Rutgers: Why Rutgers Matters to New Jersey

Part Two of the Three Part Series: Defend Rutgers: Communicating our Identity 101.  This one on why Rutgers matters to New Jersey.

Defend Rutgers: Why Rutgers Matters to New Jersey:

$433 million in grants for research and commercialization in 2010; more than all NJ other state colleges and universities combined.  

These dollars are not fungible and easily sliced up for regional distribution, they are based on a lot of hard-work by faculty and staff on specific projects and are built off Rutgers existing research and academic infrastructure.

About 200,000 living alumni in New Jersey, about 400,000 living alumni worldwide.

Rhodes Scholars, Gates Scholars, Goldwater Scholars, Fulbright Fellows are all part of the Rutgers family.

Business owners, founders and CEOs are all Rutgers alumni.

As are Celebrity Chef(s), actors and actresses.

Rutgers alumni, students and faculty mirror New Jersey’s diversity.

Rutgers is one of the few institutions that brings people together from across the state on a regular basis.

Rutgers is one of New Jersey’s strongest, direct links to our colonial heritage.  

The Simple and Reasonable Solution to Reforming NJ Higher Ed

Lost in all the conversation over the RutRo merger (que Scooby Dooooo!!!) is the fairly obvious solution for  ensuring efficiencies and effectiveness in NJ Higher Education and ensuring that our universities help drive and develop the New Jersey economy:

Merging Rowan, Stockton and other New Jersey public colleges and universities into a single system that runs parallel to the Rutgers University system!

Hey it works for states like California and Minnesota with their Cal State and MNSCU systems and highly rated public universities.

In Minnesota, the MNSCU system combines 31 state colleges, universities and community colleges into a single state-wide sytem that complements the University of Minnesota System with it’s flagship Minneapolis-St.Paul campus (which is part of the Big 10) and regional universities in Duluth and Rochester and public liberal arts and technical college components at Morris and Crookston.

The University of Minnesota’s Rochester campus was established in 2006 to bring the research university system into one of Minnesota’a major cities and to help drive economic growth in the region.

The University of Minnesota Rochester remains distinct from MNSCU schools in southeastern Minnesota like Winona State and Mankato State, both of which contiinue to focus on undergraduate and pre-professional education.

California has flagship world-class universities in Berkely and Los Angeles and research universities in other cities like San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz in one system and a Cal State system  in places like Long Beach, Fullerton and San Francisco which focuses on undergraduate education and access.

A pilot merger of Rowan and Stockton could be launched instead of the Rowan-Rutgers merger and cooperative programs between the two systems could be established to link Rowan/Stockton undergrads to professional and grad programs in the Rutgers system.  Both systems could also collaborate on economic development, service and outreach in new and innovative ways that other states haven’t done.

If succcessful, the pilot Rowan/Stockton merger could become the model for integrating the rest of the former NJ state colleges —- Montclair, Kean, Ramapo College, NJ University in Jersey City for instance, into a single NJSCU system which could even include the community colleges.

What this ends up doing for New Jersey is a.) ensuring that NJ keeps a world-class research university with a historic and national reputation intact,


b.) Creating a new statewide system that can better serve the needs of the different parts of the state by allocating resources as the state’s population continues to shift.

Also, stay tuned for Videos II and III in My Defend Rutgers: Communicating our Identity 101 series. They should post to Youtube tomorrow. These short videos are designed to weave together and simplify key elements of the Rutgers story.  

Defend Rutgers: Communicating Rutgers Identity 101

This video was developed by the writer for a class assignment in Rutgers Master of Communication and Information Studies program. We’re hearing a lot of Rutgers exceptionalism; well-deserved. We’re also interested in hearing from Rowan University students and community members. – promoted by Rosi

This video is a little experiment that I put together to help tell the Rutgers story during a time of significant transition.

Rutgers is one of the few institutiuons that reaches all parts of New Jersey and is one of only 59 universities in the country that is a member of the prestigious American Association

Yet, Rutgers has never recieved the in-state support that other large public, flagship universities, like Penn State, Indiana, Wisconsin and Virginia regularly recieve.

Now the Rutgers-Camden campus is being used as a pawn in the long overdue reorganization of medical education in the state while a nationwide search for a new Rutgers  president is underway.

New Jersey needs a robust flagship public university as part of it’s economy and public life.  

Help Defend Rutgers and help us tell the Rutgers story to key leaders across the state.