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DuBois Named 2024 Outstanding Young Farmer

Byron DuBois, a Salem County vegetable and grain grower, has been chosen as New Jersey’s 2024 Outstanding Young Farmer by the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture. He and his wife Karen were recognized at the Joint State Agricultural Convention Banquet earlier this month.

Byron joins his father (both pictured above) in winning this award, as Henry DuBois was the New Jersey Outstanding Young Farmer in 1983.

“The DuBois family has a storied history in New Jersey’s agricultural industry and Byron has done exemplary work in continuing a generations-long legacy,” New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joe Atchison III said. “Byron’s ability and willingness to use innovative, efficient, and environmentally friendly practices has allowed Spring Brook Farms to continue as one of the outstanding operations in the state.”

Byron is a seventh-generation farmer and learned many intricacies of the business from his father. By the time he was a teenager, Byron was operating equipment for spinach harvest, combining grain, and harvesting green beans. In his high school years, Byron played a significant role in purchasing equipment as his parents would drive him to dealers to inspect machinery or equipment before purchasing. Byron then attended Delaware Valley College where he studied agricultural business management. It was there that he met other students with agricultural backgrounds and learned about different methods of farming.

“All I have ever wanted to do is farm,” Byron said. “It runs through my veins, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else as it is a passion and a love that I get to experience every day of my life with my family by my side.”

The primary crops grown on the more than 4,000 acres owned by Byron and his father include carryover spinach, spring spinach, fall spinach, winter spinach, sweet corn, tomatoes, field corn, soybeans, and wheat.

“Every season creates a new opportunity to start fresh, plant seeds to grow crops and nurture them through harvest time,” Byron said. “That hard, honest, and sometimes thankless work that goes into every season provides immeasurable rewards that fuel my appetite for farming.”

At awards ceremony at the Joint State Agricultural Convention earlier this month, from left: Karen and Byron DuBois, Henry and Marlene DuBois (Byron’s father and mother). Henry DuBois won the same award in 1983. All photos courtesy of DuVois family
At awards ceremony at the Joint State Agricultural Convention earlier this month, from left: Karen and Byron DuBois, Henry and Marlene DuBois (Byron’s father and mother). Henry DuBois won the same award in 1983. All photos courtesy of DuVois family

Throughout the years, Byron has led the farm’s efforts to become more efficient in many facets of the operation. This includes upgrading equipment for quicker spinach and tomato harvests, and using GPS technology for more precise planting, harvesting and treatment methods.

The farm also uses detailed mapping information to find specific soil types in fields, which in turn has led to more economical use of fertilizers and irrigation.

The DuBois farm participates in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and Natural Resources Conservation Service Irrigation Water Management Programs that have helped reduce soil erosion allowing water to drain from fields without soil disturbance.

Byron also points out that Karen does more than her share to help the farm’s success, even though she is a full-time teacher at the local elementary school.

“Karen is an incredibly supportive wife in every aspect,” Byron said. “She is always willing to lend a hand on the farm, whether it is helping my mother prepare meals for the team working late, working on the tomato harvester, driving the dump cart for harvesting spinach, moving equipment around or just being there when I need her.”

The DuBois farm is active in the community. In addition to volunteering the use of its water tanker trailer at the Salem County Fair each year, it has hosted a Salem County Emergency Management farm safety event, and drills for local fire departments where they can practice by cutting apart old farm equipment. The farm is also a corporate sponsor for the local Little League and supports the Salem County 4-H Club.

2022 Census of Agriculture Shows 115 Farms Added in State

The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2022 Census of Agriculture released recently shows that New Jersey’s agricultural industry added 115 new farms, leaving the Garden State just short of the 10,000 farms mark at 9,998. The increase went against the national trend, which showed a 7 percent decrease in the number of farms in the U.S.

“It is encouraging to see that more residents of our state are taking a deeper interest in our industry by becoming more heavily involved in agriculture,” New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joe Atchison III said. “This shows there are opportunities to farm in our state. The census data also confirms how we continue to grow a wide variety of crops to meet the diverse needs of our residents. It’s a great credit to our farmers who continue to adapt to meet the most current demands of consumers.”

New Jersey’s overall agriculture products sold increased from just over $1.1 billion in 2017, to almost $1.5 billion in 2022.

The data showed that the nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod industry continues to be New Jersey’s leading agricultural sector with sales at nearly $725 million, an increase of $225 million from the previous census. New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation in nursery stock sales at $296 million and is third in potted flowering plant sales at $77.5 million.

The vegetable industry is New Jersey’s second highest in sales at nearly $295 million, followed by fruits and berries at nearly $200 million. The top three sectors comprise more than 80 percent of total sales for New Jersey agriculture.

The census shows that New Jersey continues to be among the top producers in the U.S. of several crops such as eggplant at No. 3, cranberries and asparagus at No. 4, and blueberries at No. 5. Other crops New Jersey ranked in the top 10 in the nation for production include peaches, plums, bell peppers, spinach, bok choy, escarole, kale, and romaine lettuce.

One sector that flourished was agritourism, which went from more than $18 million in total sales in the 2017 census to more than $29 million.

The amount of land in farms for New Jersey decreased to nearly 712,00 acres, down from the 2017 census number of 734,000 acres, when the state added 20,000 acres of farmland. The percentage of decreased farmland in New Jersey was almost even with the national average, which saw a decrease of 2 percent.

The expense to farm in New Jersey increased by an average of $37,000 per farm per year, which was well below the national average increase of more than $60,000 per farm.

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. More detailed data will be released throughout 2024, including information on individual counties, and congressional district profiles and rankings.

To be counted in the federal census, a farm must have sold or had the potential to sell at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products.

The Outstanding Young Farmer program

The Outstanding Young Farmer (OYF) program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, with the first group of national winners selected in 1955. The goals of the OYF program are to foster better urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers/ranchers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy.

The OYF program encourages a greater interest in agriculture and recognizes local citizens’ contributions. The National OYF program is sponsored by Deere & Company, administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America Fraternity, and supported by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, the National Association of Conservation Districts, and the US Junior Chamber of Commerce.

For more information on the State’s Outstanding Young Farmer program, visit nj.gov/agriculture/about/sba/cover.html or contact Assistant Secretary/Marketing and Development Director Joe Atchison at joe.atchison@ag.nj.gov.