A light rain fell, bees buzzed between our newly blooming sunflowers, and one of New Jersey’s most influential women shared stories about her grandfather’s farm in Georgia and her late husband’s legendary garden here in Newark. Always committed to the issues of hunger, Ms. Crump spoke with us about how churches and governments, local and national, have helped and at times hurt the cause of food security over the years. She enthusiastically welcomed us to the community, describing our work as, “fabulous!” Stay tuned for Ms. Crump’s favorite eggplant recipe.
With great energy, dedication, and curiosity, the Greater Newark Conservancy’s Junior Rangers paid us a visit and lent a helping hand. They spent a while giving the plants their much needed watering (they’re thirsty in 95 degree city heat!) and weeding, and even both at the same time. Thanks for all of your hard work!
While working a little later than usual a few kids from our neighborhood stopped by the fence asking if they could have a few of the squash and zucchini. Of course they could, as long as they came in the gate and took a look around at the rest of the garden too. All of a sudden, a whole band of children came bounding in, including our friend Kameron, back from camp. As they surveyed the garden they wanted to taste everything they could (well except for the hot peppers). One girl in particular, Briyante, in the pink shirt and a chef in the making, was determined to try all of the different types of lettuce, exclaiming that each one was better than the last.
It seems like just yesterday that we were shoveling dirt and sowing the first seeds. Plants sure do grow up quick, and over the last few days we’ve been doing our best to keep up with the zucchini, yellow squash, peppers (both hot and sweet), and basil that are dying to be eaten. Just today, we harvested our very first cucumber, which is on it’s way to a much needed salad on a scorching July afternoon. Our neighbor Francisco also stopped by to help us harvest some of the vegetables, and take some home too.
Also, Ken Walker from The Daily Newarker, and his cute as can be daughter Dahlia came by to check out the farm and take a few photos. The Daily Newarker is a wonderful blog that is doing its best to inform the public of many of the positive things going on in Newark. We want to thank Ken for thinking enough of us to include BCUF in his weblog.
Upon opening the gate to the Farm, West Ward Councilman Ron Rice was instantly moved by what he saw: varieties of peppers (he prefers sweet), rows of corn (“growing in Newark?!”, which is the nearly universal response), lettuce, herbs, a pumpkin patch, and a field of tomatoes. “Wow! And you can do this on rooftops too? How do we bring this to the West Ward?”
Every other Wednesday, Purple Dragon Co-op distributes their produce from the lot. It’s a fun experience to have visitors (especially Elizabeth and Leroy, the recent Purple Dragon representatives and some of the nicest people you will meet, shown in the top picture in the cherry skirt and white tee respectively) and getting to show them around and answer questions, but also as a glimpse into what the future will hopefully hold.
If you’re wondering what a food Co-op is, the Purple Dragon website defines it as, “a group of families buying food together and sharing the labor involved to save money and/or to get better products or products normally unavailable in their area.” They are a wonderful way to get great food, support local agriculture, and still save time and money. How can you turn that one down?
Just the other day, 12-year-old Kameron (with a K, he will tell you), a kid from around the corner who has been keeping a close eye on our work, showed up at our lot with a head full of questions and a real enthusiasm to help out. Since then he’s been doing pretty much everything there is to do, from staking and tying tomatoes to attempting to drag bags of soil that might be a little bit bigger than he is. He was even taking control of the business side of things, when he was helping to plant our latest pumpkin patch and determined that “with 8 seedlings with an average of 5 pumpkins per plant, we will have 40 pumpkins for Halloween!” Easily now the most charming member of our team, it has been a real pleasure to have him, and his scores of friends who stop by to see what’s going on, around.
One of the most immediately rewarding aspects of the farm, besides seeing the crops grow, is the enthusiasm that the project has infused in our neighbors. Corn growing on Spruce Street has attracted curiosity. People stop by to check out what’s going on. And in the spirit of neighborliness, (or neighborly competition) the guys next door have their backyard sparkling.
Perhaps inspired by our lot’s aesthetic overhaul, the guys at Cura gave their backyard a face-lift. A few days after we started planting, they whacked weeds and mowed their grass. They ask questions and offer advice. One guy was skeptical at first. “I didn’t expect anything to grow at all; what’s in that water you guys use?”
It’s just Newark’s finest.