Joel Flagler, Bergen County Ag Agent counted 11 back-of–the-truck hawkers on his way to work this past holiday season. Overnight “nurseries” spring up just before major holidays, selling trees, plants, and plant products.
These are venders who don’t have their products inspected for diseases and pests like Jersey Nursery Growers must in accordance with New Jersey’s Nursery Law. They undercut local growers, evade New Jersey taxes, spend their proceeds elsewhere, and risk importing insect or diseased infested plant materials into our state. It’s a worsening problem.
Long standing local nurserymen, who have helped safeguard our nursery industry by crafting protocols and following regulations, are asking what can be done to stop uncertified roadside peddlers of plant materials.
Generally these violations fall under the purview of municipal retail code enforcement, but small numbers of over-stretched code compliance officers can’t really deal with the problem effectively. Police officers only get involved when the roadside vendors create dangerous traffic problems.
The best way to get at the problem is through consumer education. Communication between growers and NJ residents is key to raising awareness about the benefits of buying local. As residents, we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to these uncertified illegal venders that hurt local nursery growers, local economies, and put NJ agriculture at risk. When buying holiday and spring landscape plants, we need to support local growers we know and trust.
This is a chance to “vote with your wallet” and help sustain farming on the urban fringe.