Above: Gottheimer with Explore Warren County Tourism Partnership Director Art Charlton (left) and Garden State Wine Growers Association Legal Chair Audrey Cross (right).
KNOWLTON, NJ — This week at Brook Hollow Winery, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) met with Warren County and Sussex County growers, farmers, small business owners, and local officials as a part of his Tourism Task Force — to discuss how to boost agritourism and ecotourism to Northwestern New Jersey.
“Here in Northwestern New Jersey, our incredible farms and orchards and vineyards are true destination spots and, importantly, major revenue generators for those who live and work in this beautiful part of New Jersey,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “We need to be working to attract more of our fellow Garden State residents to Sussex and Warren Counties, to come spend time in our region, visit our businesses and participate in agritourism and ecotourism — highlighting the region’s assets, helping the industry flourish, and boosting our local economies.”
This meeting was the latest installment in the Sussex and Warren Tourism Task Force, which Gottheimer started with NJ State Senator Steve Oroho, Sussex Chamber of Commerce President Tammy Horsfield, and the Farm Bureau to work towards bringing more tourism to Warren County and Sussex County by focusing on ecotourism and agritourism.
“This meeting was a great start. It was pretty exciting to see a lot of us have the same ideas and I really look forward to our next steps on this. We have a lot of terrific tourism assets up here, and working together we can come up with ways to let visitors know what we have to offer,” said Explore Warren County Tourism Partnership Director Art Charlton. “I’m really gratified that the Congressman brought us together and got us in the same room to start talking about these things. We’ve been working on a county level, but it helps to have somebody get us together to collaborate.”
Gottheimer was joined today by Paul Ritter of Brook Hollow Winery, Hardwick Mayor Kevin Duffy, Knowlton Councilman and Warren County Ag Board Member Frank Van Horn, Warren County Commissioner Director James Kern, Mayor Tim McDonough, Blairstown Deputy Mayor Deb Waldron, Blairstown Committeewoman Giovanna Van Valkenburg, Washington Boro Councilwoman Josephine Noone, Andover Township Committeeman John Carafello, Explore Warren County Tourism Partnership Director Art Charlton, Washington Borough Business Improvement District Executive Director & Warren County Economic Development Boardmember Mel Thiel, New Jersey Farm Bureau Research Associate Nicole Kavanaugh, Garden State Wine Growers Association Legal Chair Audrey Cross, and Tour de Farm Executive Director Mitchell Morrison.
Below: Gottheimer with Hardwick Mayor Kevin Duffy.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I’d like to thank Paul Ritter of Brook Hollow for hosting us. It is so great to be here at your beautiful winery — such a great way to start off the week before I head back down to Washington to work on making sure we get the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and our other priorities across the finish line.
So, we are here today, as a part of my Tourism Task Force, because beautiful and scenic Northwestern New Jersey is becoming a year-round destination for agritourism in our state and, in fact, in our whole region. These incredible farms and orchards and vineyards that you have developed are true destination spots and, importantly, major revenue generators for those visiting this beautiful part of New Jersey. Because of that, we all realize the need to continue focusing on finding the right ways to highlight this region’s assets and help this burgeoning agritourism industry flourish in Northwest Jersey. We know that New Jersey tourism is so much more than just the Jersey Shore.
This region has so much to offer — with both agritourism destinations and ecotourism spots — from the beautiful Delaware Water Gap, to pumpkin picking and apple picking, to the Northwest Morris Canal Greenway Trail, which I know you are working on getting connected into the Waterloo Village, to horseback riding and the Appalachian Trail. And then in the winter, there’s wonderful Christmas tree farms and skiing, too — ecotourism in practice.
That’s why I started our Sussex and Warren Tourism Task Force with Senator Oroho, Sussex Chamber of Commerce President Tammy Horsfield, and the Farm Bureau, so we can continue to discuss how to bring even more tourism to Warren County and Sussex County, by focusing on ecotourism and agritourism. As a part of this effort, I have continued to work with state and federal agencies to try to bring more resources for our region in tourism grants and investment — all with the goal of capitalizing on our natural resources and our agritourism potential. We also need to continue our fight to cut taxes, cut through red tape, and invest our dollars in the right advertising for the region.
We should be working on attracting more of our fellow Garden State residents to Sussex and Warren Counties, to come spend time in our region, visit our businesses and participate in agritourism and ecotourism — boosting our local economies.
Also, I can’t forget to mention — I’m very happy to be here today as a proud representative from the Congressional Wine Caucus.
I also want to provide a brief update of some of our work in Congress, before opening up our discussion.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill I’m fighting to get passed will help improve transportation networks — for farmers to efficiently move products, critically increase our infrastructure’s climate resilience, invest in providing access to clean drinking water for all, and expand New Jersey’s access to broadband internet, which is especially important for Sussex and Warren County businesses, workers, and families. I’m also working to ensure that we land on a commonsense reconciliation package that includes key priorities, like SALT relief, that are good for the Fifth District.
Additionally, I realize that there are many factors that impact your ability to be successful agritourism destinations, beyond just marketing challenges. So, I want to talk about what those specific issues are right now, so that we can work together to mitigate them and ensure that this industry here in Sussex and Warren keeps growing.
Even though many people don’t know this, it is always at the front of my mind that food and agriculture is the third-largest industry across New Jersey, and there are more than 1,500 farms in the Fifth District alone. By providing healthy food to our communities, state, and nation, our farms create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars to our region. Not to mention, New Jersey agritourism alone has a statewide positive economic impact of more than 100 million dollars every year.
Agriculture is a driving force in our community and agritourism is a key component of commerce in our region — and I am committed to working with you all to ensure this industry continues to grow year round.
I have focused on supporting the agriculture and agritourism industry through critical pathways in Congress — from ensuring that farmers and agricultural businesses were not left behind in the major COVID relief packages — the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, to advocating for rural broadband access in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, to recently joining a congressional effort to push Agriculture Secretary Vilsak to address the spotted lantern fly issue.
Now, I want to hear from you about what you need, how this fall season is going so far, and what I can do to help and support you.