Chappine Farms

Joe Berenato

Joe Berenato has been in the blueberry business since 1988 and grows 150-acres of blueberries in the fruit-rich region of Hammonton in Atlantic County. The crop is wholesaled through the Jersey Fruit Cooperative.

When it comes to the legal issues that he is faced with in his business dealings, he feels, “You almost have to be afraid to let people on your farm. It’s hard when you are trying to promote agriculture in New Jersey, but you have to be so careful about letting people on your property.”

This is one of the reasons why he does not allow anyone on the farm for “pick-your-own”, even if it is a well-meaning family just curious about agriculture and wants to have the experience. Additionally, his farm operation is not set up for pick-your-own. “Our operation is too big to also offer pick-your-own. We’re too commercialized and there’s too much happening too fast to be worrying about other people being on the farm,” he said.

He feels strongly that adhering to this “rule” decreases his chances for being sued or having to deal with anyone other than an employee suffering an injury on the farm.

He says, “We are carrying most insurances, but it all makes you so cautious. I think there has been an increase in frivolous and nuisance cases overall and this is what’s driving the cost of insurance up. It makes it harder to stay in business and causes you to rethink how you do things.”

And he does feel some of the potential legal issues associated with agriculture will only worsen in the future. To increase safety on the farm he even typically has an employee on clean-up detail so that the work areas are neat and clean. “Overall, I feel I’m doing the best I can, but it’s something I’m always thinking about.”