Despite a series of unanticipated set-backs, the Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition was able to plant and harvest the first of its four student-constructed, raised garden beds!
Students Begin Working on Our First Raised Bed
Lettuce, mums and a variety of peppers – hot, red peppers included – were planted and have made their way into the lunch bowls of students and staff alike. The lettuce has also proven to be a favorite of our local deer population, who we hope will be foiled by the installation of a fence before the next growing season!
Lettuce, Mums & Hot Red Peppers
Garden growth is supported by composters and rain barrels provided by the Bergen County Utility Authority, one of our valued partners. Students and staff installed both composters and rain barrels and monitor their use as a key component of sustainable gardening.
Sustaining the Garden with Rain Water
Rain water proved sufficient for our current garden, but ongoing expansion calls for the design of alternative methods to supply water during long dry spells. In the coming year, the Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition will expand the garden by an additional three raised beds and finish construction and planting of its native species trailer-garden. Future plans include the development of alternative, environmentally friendly water sources, the installation of fencing and walkways between beds, and the creation of a wildflower meadow and a walking trail around the meadow — all with the intent of building new opportunities for the the Bergen Tech and Special Service School community to walk more and continue to develop healthy eating habits.
The mission of the new Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition is to design, plant, and maintain a teaching/community garden that showcases native species, supports nutrition education, and brings together diverse populations in a hands-on activity that supports fitness and healthy eating habits.
To accomplish this mission, Bergen County Technical Schools (BCTS) reached out to organizations that demonstrated the dedication and expertise needed to support the successful design and creation of a garden and gardening community on the BCTS Paramus Campus. Partners were identified through referral and word-of-mouth and committed to participating because they believe in the intent of the project and its long-term goals.
PRESENTING THE SHAPING A GREEN BERGEN COALITION-PARTNERSHIP
- Bergen County Technical High School (BCTS) – a county-wide vocational school district with three campuses that enrolls high school students from over 70 Bergen County communities. Paramus-based programs include Culinary and Landscape Design, Sustainable Sciences, and an Environmental Club.
- Bergen County Special Services (BCSS) – one of eight regional special services school districts, enrolls students with disabilities from Bergen and adjacent counties. Paramus-based programs include the Bleshman School (children with multiple disabilities), Washington School (children with Autism Spectrum Disorder), and the following high school age programs: the Career Crossroads training program (Hospitality/Food Service), Springboard Life Skills program and the Work Ready summer internship program.
- Demarest Garden Club, which was founded in 1930 and currently has 30 active members, promotes amateur gardening, the exchange of plants/seeds, and conducts programs on gardening methods including environmental and conservation concerns. The Club assists in the development of a Youth Garden Club, provides advice, educational programming and helps to coordinate volunteers to water/harvest crops in the summer.
- Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension Services – maintains offices in all 21 New Jersey counties and partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Bergen County office, a partner in another NJ Healthy Communities grant, provides access to 4-H Club volunteers, Rutgers University trained volunteer Master Gardeners and Horticulture Therapists, educational programming and assistance identifying/applying for other funding.
- SNAP-Ed Program of Bergen County – provides nutrition education to limited resource adults, seniors, SNAP (Food Stamp) participants and school systems which enroll 50% or more children receiving free or reduced school lunches. SNAP-Ed provides nutrition education to support garden activities, outreaches to students in low income schools and to SNAP recipients to promote the involvement in the garden.
- Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA) – is responsible for wastewater treatment for 47 and solid waste management services for all 70 Bergen County municipalities. BCUA guides the integration of recycling methods into garden design/implementation, donates 4 composting units and 4 rain barrells, conducts community outreach, and assists in identifying funding sources.
- Garden Club of New Jersey (GCNJ) – is a federation of individual local garden clubs throughout the state, with over 5,000 members, age 6-adult. The GCNJ supports the District’s application for membership as a Youth Garden Club, provides outreach/promotion of project/garden the through a club link on the GCNJ website, provides teacher training, and technical assistance in urban garden (square foot) gardening design.
- Center for Food Action – provides emergency food packages, rental and utility assistance, counseling, advocacy and other services to those living in poverty in northern New Jersey. CFA operates two gardens established in collaboration with the City of Englewood, Dwight Englewood School and commits to helping design and develop garden space, assisting in coordinating Bergen County garden groups and with the collection and distribution of fresh produce, herbs and native edibles to local families in need.
- Bergen County Department of Health Services -The Mental Health Services Division of the BCDOH works with agencies that serve people of all ages who experience chronic health disease, including mental illness or substance use disorder. The Division promotes the project’s gardening and nutrition education activities and encourages the involvement of members of the mental health and disability community.
TOGETHER, members of the Shaping a Green Bergen Coalition welcome spring and begin to see our plans take shape. This spring will see the construction and installation of one raised bed, with the remaining two to be constructed in the fall, and the preparation of the trailer-bed for the planting of a moveable, native species garden. The raised beds will be located near the Bergen Special Services Career Crossroads program building, providing fresh herbs and vegetables for the program’s culinary students. An area has been staked out an area on the campus which will be allowed to revert to a meadow and will be planted with milkweed and wild flowers to attract butterflies, birds, and bees. Partners hope to be able to install seating in these areas so everyone from campus and community can enjoy the gardens.
There’s a lot to accomplish before the end of the school year and we have the partnership to do it!