The Garden State

New Jersey’s nickname of ‘The Garden State’ always seems to be a surprising one for people who haven’t heard it before. New Jersey is not known for its acres of agriculture and natural beauty but for the refineries and decaying industrial areas that line the Turnpike. However, there is much more to the state than is immediately obvious, especially if you have only seen the state from the freeway. If you take the time to put some distance between yourself and the Turnpike, you’ll find that New Jersey offers quite a bit in terms of landscape and natural beauty.

The nickname ‘Garden State’ is tenuously attributed to Benjamin Franklin. There is a clearer connection to a man named Abraham Browning, who in 1876 described New Jersey as a barrel full of good food, with New York and Philadelphia indulging themselves from both ends. It was added to the license plate in 1954 and has been the cause of surprised faces and remarks of ‘no kidding?’ ever since.

Though officially enshrined above the bumper of every car registered in New Jersey, the agricultural aspect of New Jersey has long since been surpassed by pharmaceuticals, finance, and technology. However, if we are to trust wikipedia (and honestly, who doesn’t these days), New Jersey remains a significant producer of agricultural products. It is the second largest producer of blueberries, the third largest producer of cranberries and spinach, and is fourth in the production of bell peppers, peaches, and head lettuce. In addition to its crops, Jersey also has a significant amount of woodland. Half the state is wooded, with oaks in the north and the (in)famous Pine Barrens in the south.

There are 52 state parks, forests, and historic sites covering over 375,000 acres, many of which figured prominently in the Revolutionary War. The Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park runs through New Brunswick and provides a beautiful place to ride your bike or go for a run. Riding your bike from New Brunswick to Princeton along the canal path is a great way to spend a spring day. Or, you can visit Island Beach State Park and get a taste of what the shore was before the boardwalks went up. Wharton State Forest is the largest of the parks at over 122,000 acres, and features a historic village that gives you a sample of what early 19th century industry was like.

There is much more to New Jersey than its status as the ultimate bedroom community, and much more to do than simply taking the train into the big city of your choice. Spending a little time away from the freeways can be very rewarding for anyone looking to escape the concrete jungle of Philadelphia or New York. It’s a beautiful state, trust me. You just have to know where to look.

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