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Grant gives Peppadew room to grow

MORGANVILLE, NJ -- Peppadew Fresh USA won a Value Added Working Capital Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will enable it to expand production and distribution of its Peppadew Goldew fruit.

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher chatting with Pierre Crawley, managing director of Peppadew Fresh Farms, prior to a ceremony at Peppadew Fresh Vineyards, where the company was awarded a Value Added Capital Working Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the largest grant of its type ever awarded to a New Jersey-based company. (Photo by John Groh)

During an April 16 ceremony at Peppadew Fresh Vineyards, here, local, state and federal officials on hand lauded the efforts of Pierre Crawley, managing director of Peppadew Fresh Farms, to bring a new agri-business to the state.

"This $259,625 grant will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship by providing Peppadew Fresh LLC with access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for the fruit," said Howard Henderson, New Jersey state director of the USDA Rural Development program. "[Peppadew Goldew] received tremendous response in both New Jersey and nationwide, and it is impressive because it had the support of local, state and federal officials. The fact that it was the largest producer grant ever awarded in New Jersey is a testament to that support."

"This is the exact kind of venture and partnership we are looking for," New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher added in remarks to the assembled crowd of officials, friends and media. "When a company brings a product from another continent and decides to pick New Jersey to grow it and distribute it nationwide, that's a perfect situation for us. We are thrilled that Jersey Fresh is involved with this product."

Peppadew Fresh LLC will use area food plants and the Rutgers Food Innovation Center to process and package Peppadew Goldew fruit.

Peppadew fruit, with its unique sweet-tangy flavor with a touch of heat, was originally discovered about 16 years ago in South Africa, where it is grown and processed before being shipped worldwide. It is now sold in 27 countries.

Peppadew Goldew, which is similar to the original red variety but with a slightly tropical flavor, will be grown in New Jersey and carry the "Jersey Fresh" brand.

"This grant will enable us to open new markets more quickly," said Mr. Crawley, who works with Basking Ridge, NJ-based Strohmeyer & Arpe, the exclusive North American distributor of Peppadew. "Additionally, [the grant] will allow other farms in the state to grow the product, thereby helping them -- and in some cases saving their farms. It will also help create a number of jobs both locally and nationally, when investments in machinery and equipment are considered."

The farm in Morganville was selected as the focal point of Peppadew USA because it is very similar to the farm in South Africa where Peppadew was originally discovered, according to Mr. Crawley.

In addition to Peppadew Goldew, the 15-acre farm will produce wine grapes, which will be processed on site, making the facility the 39th licensed winery in the state. The farmhouse has been renovated and has a new gourmet kitchen, which will be the site of cooking classes and other culinary education events. Additionally, Mr. Crawley said that he envisions Peppadew Fresh Farms to be the future headquarters of a yet-to-be-formed council or association for Peppadew, similar to those that serve other products in the produce industry.