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.
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!