Urban agriculture is growing in the Garden State as increasing numbers of cities work to improve access to fresh, healthy foods. There are has hundreds of urban farms, gardens and markets, including those run by the Greater Newark Conservancy, the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden, Grow It Green in Morristown, Isles in Trenton, and City Green in Paterson and Clifton.
One exciting recent success story is Capital City Farm in Trenton, opened in 2016 on two acres in an industrial area.
The abandoned property had been a dumping ground for debris over the years, but a partnership led by D&R Greenway Land Trust was formed and transformed it into a healthy green oasis. Last year, Capital City Farm grew dozens of fruit and vegetable varieties, yielding more than 1,000 pounds of produce. More than 80% went to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, whose meals included daily fresh salads, and most of the rest was sold at a local farmers’ market.
Because of social distancing restrictions, Capital City can’t depend on student interns and volunteers this summer to plant, tend and harvest crops. But thanks to a grant secured by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Garden State Agrihood Project has been able to hire contract employees to work on the farm.
Capital City Farm board member Beth Feehan says that part of the Garden State Agrihood Project mission is to create entrepreneurial opportunities, like urban residents making food products with produce grown at Capital City Farm. “We might have someone who makes and sells their own tomato sauce with tomatoes grown at the farm,” she explained.
Throughout New Jersey this summer and fall, New Jersey cities will be relying on urban farms, community gardens and farmers’ markets to supply fresh and healthy foods to residents. Feehan also hopes to establish a new farm stand this summer on part of the Capital City Farm property. And plans are under way to add heating to the farm’s large greenhouse so that food can be grown year round.
And as the pandemic has illustrated, said Feehan, urban communities can’t depend solely on large national and international food supply systems — there must be local and regional food systems in place as well. In addition, many urban residents have lived in “food deserts” without a supermarket within a mile of their home.
“It’s been difficult, but we’re still standing,” says Feehan. “This is a moment when agriculture is not just about rural farms. This has to continue. Everyone deserves decent food.”
To learn more about Capital City Farm and the Garden State Agrihood Project, visit TheGSAP.org.
Every Tuesday though August 25, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen will distribute free meals from 60 East Park Ave. Hamilton NJ from 3 – 4:30PM on a first come, first served basis. For more info, email PaulJ @ Trenton Soup Kitchen. org