Get Ready, Set, Action….

IMG_2397Montclair Community Farms is excited about our new Mobile Farm Stand.  Our healthy nutrition strategy is to have our locally grown produce on wheels to enable us to effectively reach our senior citizens who are in need of these healthy and nutritious foods at affordable pricing.  Being mobile also minimizes barriers for our senior customers who might find transportation or high priced farmers markets a challenge.  As this is our inaugural year,  we will be looking to measure the number of customers served by the mobile farm stand, the number of pounds of produce sold and the number of community volunteer hours contributed.

With the tell tale signs of spring here, we are gearing up to get our beds ready to plant.  Our head farmer and his assistant are in place.  Seedlings are being grown in the greenhouses of Essex 4-H, Montclair State University and Essex Tech Vocational High School.  We are in the process of building raised beds to make growing more efficient at our farm site located at the Montclair Historical Society.  We hope to solve the drainage problem, which washed away many seeds last year!   Now we are rounding up all of our community volunteers, which are an essential ingredient to our success.

While the seeds are sprouting, we will be building our new Mobile Farm Stand. This stand will be hitched to our pick up truck!  We are currently working with our master carpenters to finalize the building plan.

To find out how you can volunteer, check out our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/montclaircommunityfarms.  You can also sign up for our email list by clicking the link on the top of the page.

Like the buds of spring, we are bursting with excitement.

So stay tuned for “What’s Growin’ On” with Montclair Community Farms.

PROJECT ACTION STEPS

Bloomfield Township Department of Health and Human Services selected strategies based on both a general action plan as well as discussions among team members.  Previous experience with project initiatives have also shaped our strategies going forward.

For the “Health Store Initiative” we thought that targeting stores near elementary schools would help foster healthy habits among younger students that can develop throughout their lives.  The baseline data points include the number sold of each of the four healthy products featured in the store, and the number of corner stores willing to participate in the initiative.

Owner, Vijay Shah, and Michael Hodges in front of one of the first stores to take part in the "Healthy Store Initiative."

Owner, Vijay Shah, and Michael Hodges in front of one of the first stores to take part in the “Healthy Store Initiative,” FRIENDLY NEWS & FOOD.

So far, out of the four stores approached, two stores have agreed to participate in the initiative.  FRIENDLY NEWS & FOOD on 128 Montgomery Street, owned by Vijay Shah, and TOBACCO KING II (don’t let the name fool you) on 143 Grove Street, owned by Mahesh Desai.  We are very excited to see how it all turns out!

The “Bike Rack Installation” is a continuation of past initiatives, so the strategies have been shaped by previous efforts to install the bike racks, including previous discussions on the costs of installation and the locations that would provide the most usage for the bike racks.  The baseline data point is the number of people who are using the bike racks.

Municipal Building hallways before the "Take the Stairs" initiative.

Municipal Building hallways before the “Take the Stairs” initiative.

“Take the Stairs” will be started in both the Civic Center and the Municipal Building so that we could take the opportunity to learn from our efforts, improve upon them, and expand the initiatives to other public buildings in Bloomfield.  The baseline here is the number of employees who are taking the stairs.

One idea for sprucing up the stairwells.

One idea for sprucing up the stairwells.

The Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition Garden Design Begins to Come to Life!

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The Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition partnership met on March 6, 2015 and, in anticipation of spring, began to plan in earnest. Thank you to all who attended—Barbara DiNovi, Virginia Bargisen, Beverley Kazickas, Mark Vangieri, Angela Bonnano-Lynch, Abbie Kesely, Carmen, Linda Morehouse, Joseph McElwain, Sue Shafer, Patti Wojtowicz, Angela Cupo, Kathy Wertalik, Thomas Jodice, Amy Heid, Andee Dixon, Tim Regan, Maria Dvorozniak, Diane Scarangella; the guidance and suggestions we received from our partners have helped us in creating our plan of action.

The Coalition’s goals for this upcoming spring/summer include:

  • Installing raised beds for growing vegetables and herbs adjacent to the Bergen County Special Services School District (BCSS), Career Crossroads program building. This will enable students with special learning needs in the Career Crossroads Hospitality/Food Service program to utilize fresh produce in their cooking activities (https://bcss.bergen.org/index.php/career-crossroads-vocational-programs)
  • Installing movable pots in the Bergen County Technical High School/Paramus (BCTHS/Paramus, http://bcts.bergen.org/index.php/programs38/bergen-tech-hs-paramus) courtyard for growing edible flowers and vegetables for use by students in the Culinary program.
  • Planting salt-tolerant plants in the grassy divider at the main entrance to the Bergen County Special Services entrance.
  • Establishing a wildflower meadow on or adjacent to the 90,000 square-foot potter’s field located near BCTHS/Paramus.
  • Converting a nursery trailer into a traveling native species garden

It was decided that the first step would be to design the garden spaces. BCTHS/Paramus Landscape Design Instructor Andee Dixon has come up with a fantastic sketch of the garden area to be located at Career Crossroads that will include four raised beds for vegetables.

SHAPING A GREEN BERGEN GARDEN

Mr. Dixon is also working with the construction and electrical shop teachers to design an enclosure for the mobile garden.

Once the Coalition knows exactly what materials are required for the garden beds, planters, wildflower meadow, and traveling garden, we will create a wish list to submit to local businesses, requesting donations.

We thank Bergen County Utilities Authority for their donation of composters and rain barrels. These will be distributed around the campus allowing students to learn about and implement conservation and recycling techniques such as composting food scraps and using collected rainwater for the gardens.

One of the Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition goals in building these garden spaces is to enhance the sense of community on our campus by creating opportunities for  interaction between students from BCSS and  BCTHS programs, and in the future between the campus and the larger Bergen County  community. This project presents an opportunity for us to all work together. The students can share the responsibilities of caring for the garden, and the produce can be used at the culinary programs at the BCTHS/Paramus and BCSS Career Crossroads and eventually distributed to local food pantries. The design of the raised beds will facilitate access for students with disabilities. These activities will enable our students to gain a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it’s part of a larger ecosystem.

Looking ahead to the future, the Coalition hopes to arrange for interns from Rutgers Cooperative Extension to help us maintain the gardens over the summer and to mentor BCSS Work Ready/Work Now students who will be assigned to work in the garden during the summer. Both partner schools will also reach out to parents and teachers interested in becoming dedicated volunteers as part of a 4H club on the BCTHS/Paramus Campus.

As the snow melts, we prepare to make our plans a reality and eagerly anticipate watching the flowers and produce grow!

Snow, Snow go away…

The Township of Nutley has a long history of being a fertile farming community.  Many residents still grow their own fruits and vegetables, but unfortunately not everyone is blessed enough to have a piece of land that they can cultivate.  Our township has seen a surge in residents and the construction of multi-dwelling buildings in the past several years, with no real sizable piece of property on which they could grow their own food.  We are hoping the new community garden will afford these resident the opportunity to do just that.

The ultimate goal for the Nutley Community Garden is twofold; to provide nutritious, fresh food to residents and to offer a physical, as well as an emotional outlet to all that participate. The first is pretty obvious, as most people are aware of the health benefits of fresh, organic produce as opposed to sugar and carbohydrate laden processed foods.  But many are not aware of the physical health benefit of gardening.  The National Institute of Health recommends gardening 3-5 a week for 30-45 minutes as a way to help reduce problems with obesity.  As previously mentioned, bike racks will be installed on premises, as well as a tool shed, so residents can bike or walk to the garden and not have to worry about transporting all their tools along with them.

The baseline data points we are hoping to impact would be the amount of produce we will be collecting and donating to the two organizations in town, as well as how many participants are actually biking and walking to the gardens and how much of a physical impact it will make on their lives.

Now that the weather is breaking and we are seeing longer and warmer days, it is only a matter of time before we can really start to see the fruits of our labors.  The wheels are set in motion to prep our garden area, construct the beds and get interested residents into the dirt!  We couldn’t be more excited!

Nutley Garden SiteNutley Garden_no Snow

What a difference a week makes!  This time last week our lot was knee deep in snow and now we have a clear view of what lies ahead of us, literally and figuratively.

Look…..grass!

 

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Walking by High Mountain and really, anywhere else in the Northeast…….I came across a strange green, textured natural material that hasn’t been seen since November.  Yet, I’m not getting too comfortable since more snow is getting dumped on us today and tomorrow.  It might be a few more days until I see it again….

Anyhow, I am happy to say that we are moving along with our trailhead improvements.  By chance, I had a meeting with members of William Paterson University, The Nature Conservancy, and the NY/NJ Trail Conference.  The meeting was regarding the High Mountain trails and potential cleanups, but I saw an opportunity to explain this great program to them to try and gather some additional support.  SUCCESS!  Who knows, this may open us up to more opportunities in the future.  Once I have the list of potential improvements from members of the NY/NJ Trail Conference on what would work best at the Red Trail entrance (and once the snow melts…again)  we will begin the physical work to apply those agreed upon enhancements.

Wayne Township’s Health Department is meeting with the health educator from Chilton Hospital next week to discuss the healthy food audit that will be performed in and around William Paterson University and its surrounding food businesses.  We anticipate starting the survey in the next couple of weeks.

Good luck to everyone with their projects.  Things should start ramping up now that the good weather is here…….

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Well, almost here…….