Newark, NJ – May 15, 2013 – Mayor Cory A. Booker introduced New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglass Fisher to the City of Newark’s Urban Agriculture and farmer’s market initiatives with a tour of two urban farms and an urban garden that have received funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), yesterday.
Mayor Booker and Secretary Fisher visited the Branch Brook Park Alliance’s Essex County Urban Farm Greenhouses, the Ironbound Community Corporation’s community garden, and the Greater Newark Conservancy’s Hawthorne Hawks Healthy Harvest Farm during the tour, meeting with workers and volunteers at the sites.
“The City of Newark is leading New Jersey and the nation in creating urban farming and agriculture sites and programs that provide residents with affordable and nutritious food,” said Mayor Booker. “These programs also provide residents with jobs, our youth with career training opportunities, and improve our environment. By working with our private and public partners and our community members, the City of Newark is defining the future of green development for our country’s future. We are proud to share our achievements with State Secretary of Agriculture Fisher and to be a model for our state and nation.”
“There’s a clamoring for fresh, local, New Jersey produce and we have the ability to grow in so many different venues. Urban agriculture is demonstrating the tremendous opportunity to meet this demand. Newark’s urban agriculture initiatives are terrific examples of the opportunity to provide access to fresh produce in neighborhoods, for urban residents to experience the life cycle of planting, harvesting, and selling crops. There’s extraordinary lessons learned from growing food. I witnessed extraordinary passion from Newarkers working the land and greenhouses all the way to the administration in its support to fulfill the desire of residents to have access to resources to develop urban agriculture,” said Secretary Fisher.
The CDBG grants are awarded to projects, services, or activities that are consistent with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to principally benefit low and moderate-income Newark residents. For the past three years, the City of Newark has aligned CDBG funding priorities to include urban agriculture; which is one of Mayor Booker’s food policy strategies for increasing healthy food access within the city.
The Essex County Urban Farm at Branch Brook Park has two 4,000 sq. foot greenhouses
where majority of the produce will be distributed to Newark residents at affordable prices at select market locations. Currently, the greenhouses yield 400 lbs. produce per week, for an annual yield of 15,000-20,000 lbs. of food. This year, the Essex County Urban Farm will provide workforce training to 20 adults, a summer internship for 10-12 high school and college students and workshops to Newark Public School students.
”Our community gardens and urban farms demonstrate the enormous commitment of residents to develop home-grown solutions to repair our food system,” said City of Newark Food Policy Director, Elizabeth Reynoso. “Through urban agriculture we are determining what we eat, who grows it, how it is grown and where it comes from. The City is committed to supporting initiatives that expand economic opportunity, equity, and protect the environment. Through urban agriculture we increase the availability and affordability of foods that represent our city’s multi-ethnic culinary traditions, we stimulate food enterprises and urban agriculture technologies developed locally, and our gardens and farm help us reduce food waste through composting and manage stormwater with increased green spaces.”
The Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) community gardening efforts aims to advance their neighborhood revitalization goals, and expand experiential learning and access to information and activities that can alleviate the environmental and public health issues that affect the East Ferry Street neighborhood. In addition to the community garden, the ICC has a rainwater cistern to manage stormwater that was installed by the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension. Funding provided by the CDBG will support their ICC greenhouse, increase the number of garden beds offered to the community and Hawkins Street Elementary School, where the ICC provides programming.
The final stop on the tour was the 2.5 acre farm site in the South Ward on Hawthorne Avenue. Named by the youth studying at Hawthorne Avenue Elementary School, theHawthorne Hawks Healthy Harvest Farmwill be the site of an intensive vegetable and fruit farm managed by the Greater Newark Conservancy with the help of hundreds of residents and the Office of Reentry through their Clean & Green program. In addition the to the intensive farm area, residents can use 350 raised 4’ x 8’ beds to grow their own vegetables.
Sustainability has been a major priority for the Booker Administration since it took office in 2006. Based on recommendations from hundreds of stakeholders gathered through Newark’s Green Future Summit held in 2008, the City established it’s first-ever Environmental Commission and a fully staffed Sustainability Office to advance an agenda focused on public health, quality of life, and economic opportunity for Newarkers. Sustainability policies and projects take place both within municipal operations and through community partnerships in support of healthy neighborhoods and job creation.
Priority projects are captured in the Newark Sustainability Action Plan (www.sustainablenwk.org) released in 2013. Notable accomplishments to date include leveraging state and federal programs to reduce energy costs in municipal buildings, increasing urban farming and gardening, enhancing city capacity to manage stormwater through green infrastructure, including tree planting, and rolling out programs that improve outdoor and indoor air quality. Since 2006, Newark has facilitated the development of hundreds of units of new energy-efficient affordable housing units, including several LEED Platinum multi-family buildings; connected thousands of households to cost saving weatherization programs; helped more than 50 businesses reduce operating costs through energy efficiency upgrades; and supported career path job-training programs to put Newarkers to work in green jobs.