TRENTON, N.J. — Edward “Ned” Gaine, an Atlantic County aquaculture farmer, has been chosen as New Jersey’s 2020 Outstanding Young Farmer by the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture.

Gaine and his wife, Olga, are one of 10 finalists for the National Outstanding Young Farmer Award. He was recognized for the state honor at the 2020 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention in Atlantic City on Feb. 5.

Gaine, originally from Brooklyn, New York, earned degrees in marine biology and marine resource management from Stockton University, and after he began growing oysters for Rutgers in Cape May, he earned a master’s degree in biology from Rutgers University.

Gaine then became the first person to acquire a fully permitted aquaculture lease when New Jersey opened the Aquaculture Development Zone to allow shellfish farming in 2012.

“I sat outside the state office from 3 a.m. until they opened,” Gaine said in his application. “I was not going to let opportunity pass me by.”

Gaine uses mostly the rack and bag technique to raise his crop of oysters. Rack and bag farming involves metal racks shaped like low tables in tandem rows hundreds of feet long.

The product is stocked in mesh bags and suspended off the bottom of the bay floor on top of the racks.

“The most common question asked after stating you are a farmer is ‘what do you farm?’” Gaine said. “As you may imagine, when I say oyster, it tends to involve a lot of explaining.”

The time that Gaine can tend to his crop is dictated by the tides, averaging about four hours per day. The maximum farm hours per week can reach 38.

“I have no control over my business on-farm hours,” Gaine said. “It is dictated by the sun and the moon. My life revolves around the lunar schedule, and every day the tide is an hour later. One Tuesday I’ll be on the farm at 6 a.m., and following Tuesday at 2 in the afternoon.”

The support from Olga is also vital to the family business. She has a background in agricultural accounting and is also a licensed shellfisherman. She often worked in the field with Ned before they had their son Ted. Olga is also a registered nurse.

“Olga’s primary contributions are as a consultant and her masterful time management at balancing life around the lunar cycle,” Gaine said.

Gaine has been presented with U.S. congressional recognition for his collaborative efforts. He has also been involved in habitat restoration on his leases, including placing over 10,000 bushels of shell to build the foundation of a new oyster reef.

Gaine sits on the Leasing Committee for the New Jersey Shellfisheries Councils, serves on the Atlantic County Board of Agriculture executive committee, and is a delegate to the State Agricultural Convention for that board.

The Outstanding Young Farmer program is the oldest farmer recognition program in the United States, with the first group of national winners selected in 1955.

The goals of the program are to foster urban-rural relations through the understanding of farmers’ challenges, as well as the appreciation of their contributions and achievements; to bring about a greater interest in farmers; and to help build an urban awareness of the farmers’ importance and impact on America’s economy.

The Outstanding Young Farmer program encourages a greater interest in agriculture and recognizes local citizens’ contributions.

The national program is sponsored by Deere & Co., administered by the Outstanding Farmers of America Fraternity, and supported by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, the National Association of Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.

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