Rutgers fruit variety expert Jerry Frecon retires
Jerome “Jerry” Frecon, whose expertise in peaches is well known nationally as well as across the eastern United States, retired at the end of 2012. He plans to continue his work with peaches, other fruit varieties, and agriculture in general as a consultant.
Frecon joined the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension faculty in 1982, moving to New Jersey after spending nine years in Missouri seeking out and developing new fruit varieties and conducting nursery research for Stark Bros Nurseries and Orchards Co.
While Frecon never found a variety as famous as the Red and Golden Delicious apples that made Stark Bros famous, he was involved in the development a lot of good ones, like Gala apple, Redgold nectarine, and Saturn (the Donut peach) for Stark and later Encore, White Lady, Laurol, and Easterglo nectarine for the peach and nectarine growers in New Jersey and elsewhere.
“I haven’t seen much difference, except every day seems like Saturday,” he said early in the new year about his retirement. As a consultant, he plans to work with the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council and Adams County Nursery in Aspers, Pennsylvania, He joined Adams County Nursery on January 1 as a consultant on product development and advisor to commercial growers in the Northeast, according to nursery president Phil Baugher.
He hopes to keep his close association with Rutgers fruit breeder Joe Goffreda, while keeping his reputation as an evaluator and developer of good fruit varieties from breeding programs across the country.
He will speak to peach growers at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, giving the Ernie Christ Memorial lecture, "A look at the past and future of peach varieties."
Frecon was a professor at Rutgers, where agricultural agents have faculty status. He had a 100 percent extension appointment, which included teaching, research, and significant administrative duties as county department head. As an Agricultural Agent 1 located in Gloucester County, he worked with the fruit and nursery industry throughout southern New Jersey.
“I think I’ve helped the growers and nurserymen,” he said of his extension work. “I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction from serving them.”
Frecon was born on a Boyertown, Pennsylvania, fruit farm in 1944. He still maintains an interest in the family farm managed by his brother and sister but is enjoying seeing it transitioned to a new enterprise called Frecon Farms, now operated by his nephews.
Frecon graduated from Delaware Valley College, than gained a master’s degree at Rutgers and returned to DVC as assistant professor for seven years before going to Stark Bros in 1973.
One of his early accomplishments in New Jersey was helping growers learn to prune at a better time of the year, reducing tree death, canker infections and loss of crop during the winter. “Pruning metabolically activates peach trees,” he said. “Our research demonstrated the best time to prune was in March and April. This practice is less important these days because of warmer winters.”
Frecon has kept weather records for many years and, he says, winters in New Jersey for the past 18 years are no longer as cold. “We can now grow many peach, plum, and wine grape varieties we could never grow 20 years ago,” he said.
An article describing more of Frecon’s work appeared in the June 2011 issue of Good Fruit Grower. Fact sheets on some of the more than 1,000 peach varieties he has evaluated are on the Rutgers Web site, http://njaes.rutgers.edu/peach.