It turns out that there is a rather robust wheat industry in New Jersey that I did not know about. In fact, I don’t think it occurs to many in the state that wheat is something grown in the state at all. People think of Kansas and Nebraska as the grain states and think of New Jersey as the blueberry state or the corn or tomato state. But it’s true, wheat is grown here, and in large amounts.
In my own personal search to find out whether New Jersey could provide more food resiliency than it already does, I wondered about the basic grains that are needed to sustain an adequate diet. After all, if suddenly we find ourselves amid a global or national food shortage, we wouldn’t be able to survive on peppers, blueberries, cranberries, and eggplant, which are some the leading crops within the state. So, I started with the best known and most common grain, wheat, and this is what I found.
According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2020, New Jersey farmers planted 25,000 acres of winter wheat and harvested 18,000 acres at 67bu/acre. That is equal to 1,206,000bu. Each bushel is worth $5.80, making the total value of state wheat a hefty $6,633,000.
To break it down further, let’s look at what that all means in everyday speak. A bushel of wheat is set at 60lbs. That means that our 1.2 million bushels could be milled into 50,652,00lbs of flour, which could then make 84,420,000 loaves of bread. If each loaf yields 14 slices, well, you get the point. That’s a whole lot of sandwiches. With just over 9 million people living here, that would be enough bread to feed everyone….for a long time. Each person would receive 9.3 million loaves to eat.
Wheat is grown throughout the state but is particularly prevalent in the north-west portion of the state. So, when you go out for a drive this Spring (winter wheat is harvested in the Spring) look out the window and see if you notice any large fields filled with rows of some tall grass-like plant other than corn. It might be wheat. Although, it could be oats. We grow that too, but that’s for another time….