John (Jack) Kupcho, former Essex County agricultural agent and former chair of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) within Rutgers Cooperative Extension passed away on May 11, 2020 at the age of 83.
Born in Peckville, PA, he served in the U.S. Air Force and earned his undergraduate degree in ornamental horticulture from the University of Tennessee. He received his Master of Science in environmental science and urban planning from Rutgers University and held the title of professor emeritus at Rutgers.
Jack began his career as the Essex County agricultural agent at Rutgers Cooperative Extension in 1963. He assisted commercial vegetable growers in Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties in changes to their production methods to maximize resources. He introduced use of clear plastic as a soil heating mulch resulting in higher, earlier and more quality yields of early sweet corn, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.
As chairman of the ANR Department, Jack developed the Master Gardener Program for Northeastern New Jersey. He organized leaf composting and ground water education programs for community leaders. He made changes in the Newark Urban Gardening Program to increase the efficiency and provide a more effective educational delivery system for the federally and state-funded urban project. Under his direction, in 1988 this program was chosen for the “Take Pride in America Award” – Jack accepted the award from then-president Ronald Reagan at a ceremony on the White House lawn.
During his tenure, Jack hired 21 new agents located in both critical agricultural and urban areas of the state.
For his 51 years of service to teaching, advising and improving New Jersey agriculture, Jack was honored in 2015 with a Distinguished Service Citation to New Jersey Agriculture at the State Agricultural Convention held in Atlantic City, which in part reads:
“Jack Kupcho changed the way farmers do business in New Jersey, helping to guide the industry toward direct marketing and high value crops,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “The state agriculture industry owes a lot to Jack. He has been an innovator who has inspired younger agriculture agents as well as farmers.”
In remembering Jack, the full citation is available at https://sebsnjaesnews.rutgers.edu/2015/02/former-essex-county-agriculture-agent-john-kupcho-honored-for-distinguished-service-to-agriculture. His obituary is posted here: https://obits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?n=john-j-kupcho&pid=196204163&fhid=4697