The City of Garfield was in bloom during the Spring and Summer of 2013 as multiple community gardens took root through a Shaping NJ Mini Grant and The Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader’s Grant. The Jewel Street Community Garden was the first garden site that had its ribbon cutting during the Y’s Healthy Kid’s Day. The community came out to show their support of growing nutritious vegetables locally, especially after the only mass food retailer closed earlier in 2013. Throughout the Spring and Summer children from the community were able to experience the growing of food by attending to the garden under the care of Master Gardeners from Rutger’s Univerity and the guidance of Lorraine Gibbons from Garden State Urban Farms.
In the Fall of 2013 the Jewel Street Community Garden’s earth boxes were relocated to classrooms inside the Garfield YMCA and the Garfield High school’s greenhouse to continue growing.
As Spring 2014 approaches and a new grant cycle begins with another round of Shaping NJ Mini Grants, the discussion of past success weighs heavily on the location of the earth boxes. The Jewel Street Community Garden was a huge success in that the community had access to fresh food through harvesting from The Garfield Y Summer Camp, general community members harvesting their own food, and excess being given to the community food bank-Meals with A Mission; however, manageability became an issue. The garden, located in a public park, a few blocks away from the Y, had its fair share of minor vandalism. Although the community took pride in the garden for the most part, it was a very sorrowful experience to walk into the garden to see heads of cabbage tossed to and fro. With the intention to beautify a park and give the community access to fresh, healthy foods at the start of this project, the later realization is that the risk of having this vital food wasted does not outweigh the benefit of placing the garden in a public park. While one may ask, in the grand scheme of things what is a wasted cabbage? The larger reality is a plant has life, has been nourished, and is needed for consumption. This was a wake up call to going deeper with our intentions- we want to feed those in need of this experience and minimize waste. We realized there are other delivery methods of getting this food to the community. Instead of an open, public, garden, we believe feeding the community through programs creates less waste and more opportunity. Garden supplies were damaged as well.
In light of this, a new project proposal aims to relocate the Garden to the a more enclosed property in a populated area of the Garfield YMCA. Not only will this help in reducing vandalism; the garden can be more readily care by the children, members and programs that run at the Y. It is our hope to bring an Inter-generational garden to the community by expanding our senior citizen group with our preschoolers. The food will be used at community wide events like Healthy Kid’s Day, Multi Cultural Night, and Movies Under the Stars which also provide opportunity for physical activity. In tandem with these events is a marketing budget to help our garden and programs through social media posts targeting populations of the community to come out to our events to access fresh vegetables!