Innovative Nursery Advances Rutgers NJAES Tree Fruit Research


Grading machine measures the caliper of trees and releases them from the conveyor belt; employees then skid the trees according to size at Adams County Nursery in Aspers, PA. Photo credit : Anna Molinski, Rutgers NJAES.

Adams County Nursery (ACN) of Aspers, PA, recently donated $25,000 to the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) tree fruit breeding program for the second year in a row in which employees have supported the fruit tree industry through Rutgers research. ACN president Phil Baugher and NJAES tree fruit breeder Joe Goffreda have established a mutually beneficial alliance to benefit the industry. Baugher has been pleased with the results and plans to continue this annual gift and hopefully increase the amount over time. This philanthropic contribution is making a positive impact on tree fruit breeding through Rutgers NJAES.

Phillip D. Baugher, president of Adams County Nursery, Inc. in Aspers, PA, standing in front of nursery stock being stored for winter. Photo credit: Anna Molinski, Rutgers NJAES.

Employees at Adams County Nursery grade, bundle and store over a million fruit trees in 10 short weeks. This process is time-sensitive and labor-intensive and keeps them very busy over the winter months. According to Baugher, approximately 95% of all nursery stock in storage has already been sold. He recommends that any growers interested in purchasing trees place their orders two years in advance. Availability is tight and this helps their sales staff determine propagation needs. Adams County Nursery takes pride in variety selection for good reason.

Baugher commented, “For five generations we have made it our goal to provide our customers with the highest quality nursery stock. We strive to maintain a comprehensive product line by working with plant breeders from across the globe. These relationships coupled with our experienced staff allow us to bring you the best and newest varieties, and the knowledge to make them work for you.”

Founded, owned and operated by the Baugher family for over 100 years, ACN is now the largest producer of nursery stock in the Northeast. Their slogan “Growing with you…TM” demonstrates their willingness to adapt and meet the needs of commercial growers and backyard gardeners.

The ACN business model is based on giving back to the community and growing quality fruit trees. In speaking with Baugher, his passions for business and the environment are evident. As a family establishment, Baugher is confident that the next generation will carry on the values instilled in him by his father, including: production of quality fruit trees, dedication to the community, careful attention to detail, and philanthropy.

Poster of recent elite peach selections. Varieties are developed by Joe Goffreda of the Rutgers NJAES tree fruit breeding program and undergo trials at ACN. Photo Credit: Rutgers NJAES.

The tree fruit breeding program at the Rutgers NJAES began in 1907, and has since introduced several peach, nectarine, apple, and apricot varieties which have become standards in the fruit industry and were bred for their excellent eating quality, winter-hardiness, and disease resistance. Joseph Goffreda, associate professor of plant biology and pathology and director of the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center in Cream Ridge, New Jersey, has led the Rutgers tree fruit breeding program since 1989.

Goffreda has developed and patented more than a dozen peaches in addition to 14 varieties of apple, apricot, and nectarine; all of which are non-GMO. His cultivars have proven to be highly suitable for production in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The commercial success of these peach varieties contributes to New Jersey being ranked among the leading U.S. states in peach production. Goffreda has been developing superior tree fruit varieties for the Northeast for nearly 30 years. His work has contributed significantly to the success of the region’s fruit tree industry, and is one of New Jersey agriculture’s best kept secrets.

Looking to the future, it is important to consider the needs of growers, consumers, and the industry at large. In the Northeast, an increase in temperature could be critical for agricultural industries. Business-savvy leaders like Baugher have a holistic approach to conducting their operations. Supporting the research that will, in turn, support the business, is the kind of forward-looking decision making that will sustain agriculture in the Northeast. Thinking ahead can be as easy as taking a step back, seeing the big picture, and forming working relationships with your community, including fellow industry members and university researchers. This leads to constructive thinking about what precedes and follows, so that you can make informed decisions and take part in the entire food system.

Releasing a new variety for market often comes down to choosing a name. The desirability is there, but NJ 355 does not sell as well as Scarlet RoseTM. After years, sometimes decades, of research in developing a new variety with desired traits, it is no wonder why coming up with one or two words to describe the new fruit can be a challenge. In most cases, grower cooperators are identified to trial these new selections in their orchard before they are named and made commercially available. Of course, ACN reserves space in their own test blocks, but they also provide trees to grower cooperators willing to test Goffreda’s selections in a commercial setting.

You may be wondering what happens to all the fruit that is unable to be sold. Many times, it is left on the tree to be eaten by birds and worms. At ACN, volunteer groups are organized to pick, or glean, the fruit and bring harvests to help address food insecurity at nearby soup kitchens and food banks.

View at Adams County Nursery overlooking a stone fruit test block in one of the prominent fruit growing regions in the Northeast. Photo credit: Adams County Nursery.

Last year, ACN donated $25,000 to the NJAES to support Goffreda’s extensive tree fruit breeding program. The gift will help maintain and expand the program’s breeding research, with particular focus on the testing and evaluation of disease-resistant, novel, and commercially appealing tree fruit varieties. Special attention will also be given to potential new releases that offer unique characteristics, including new flavor profiles, increased durability, and ability to thrive in adverse conditions. This year, ACN is proud to commit an additional $25,000 in support of his valuable research for the tree fruit industry. For over 100 years, the Baugher family has demonstrated smart decision-making for the business and genuine care for community. ACN’s donations reflect a commitment to sustain the programs whose innovations, in turn, help to ensure the sustainability of the industry. On behalf of the NJAES, we thank them for their generosity and commitment.

For more information:
Adams County Nursery
NJAES Annual Report 2015
Rutgers Licensing and Technology: Agricultural Products
Rutgers NJAES Breeding
Rutgers NJAES Plant Breeding Fund


This article, Innovative Nursery Advances Rutgers NJAES Tree Fruit Research, first appeared on NJAES Newsroom.