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153 Washington Place
Passaic, NJ 07055
(973) 470-0844

Monday, August 8, 2016

How does our garden grow?

How does OUR garden grow?  With much collaboration!  In May 2013 in one of her first weeks as director of the Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women, Sister Ann Marie visited Josephine's Place in Elizabeth, NJ (a sponsored work of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, based in Convent Station, NJ).  The purpose of the visit was to seek advice about running a women's center  from Sister Judy Mertz, SC, founding director of Josephine's, who was in her tenth year there.  Providentially, it was the day that the women at Josephine's Place were planting a garden.  In conversation with those who were planting the garden there, Sister Ann Marie found out that an organization called City Green in Clifton, NJ would be able to help the Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women to plant a garden.

In May 2013, the Garden of Peace at Josephine's Place in Elizabeth, NJ
allowed us to  dream about growing our own garden.
Aided by the wonderful folks at City Green, we applied for and received a grant from the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders' Open Space Trust Fund, which funds City Green's Dig In! program.  During our three years of gardening, we are so grateful to have received close to $3,000 from this fund.

One of the checks that granted the funds to help our garden grow
With assistance from City Green, the Community Health Outreach Department at St. Mary's General Hospital, various religious communities and the Center's benefactors, we built three small garden beds behind the Center where we planted herbs and vegetables.

Our first garden beds awaiting their soil
2014 garden . . . planted!  This group of collaborators includes
Claudia, our City Green consultant; Sisters of Christian Charity Mary Irene (garden coordinator),
Ann Marie (Director of the Center) and Sister of Charity Marion (VP of Mission at St. Mary's Hospital);
Luz (Community Outreach at St. Mary's Hospital); Susie and Anne (two benefactors
of the Center); our women and some of their children.
This is a colorful portion of our 2014 crops!

Flash forward to year two (2015):  Enough interest was generated from the success of year one that each gardener wanted to have her own garden bed in year two.  Through the generosity of the pastor of St. Nicholas Church, we were able to secure enough land to plant ten individual beds behind the church.  With lots of assistance from City Green and the New Jersey Youth Corps from Paterson, NJ, our year two beds were constructed.

Construction begins on our 2015 garden . . . 
. . . And 10 beds are built, filled and ready for planting thanks
to so much collaboration and cooperation!  The 2015 crew includes
Claudia (from City Green), Ann Marie (our garden coordinator),
Sisters Mary Amata and Marie José, members of the New Jersey
Youth Corps, and -- of course -- our gardeners.

How well our 2015 garden grew!

Some of our 2015 crops
Now it is year three (2016):  Since the beds were built last year, we are now able to focus on mentoring the gardeners to be more fully responsible for all garden tasks -- from planting to watering, to weeding, to harvesting.  Again, we turned to the staff of City Green.  In addition to Claudia, we now have the assistance of Rosalba.  With their help, our women are becoming expert gardeners and leaders.   Additionally, they are growing more crops that they can use to feed their families.

In 2016, we planted . . . 

. . .  and cleaned up the perimeter of the garden area . . . 

. . . and harvested . . . 

. . . and harvested . . . 

. . . and trellised  so we can harvest some more!
Who else helps our garden grow?   No narrative about our garden would be complete without mentioning José German, a City Green educator and owner of Sustainable Eco-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Consulting Services.  Through the years, José has presented a number of workshops to our gardeners.  
José educates the gardeners in June 2014 . . . 
. . . in September 2014 . . . 
. . . and in July 2015, when he brought a special guest with him . . .
Trina Paulus, author/illustrator of Hope for the Flowers.
What is next for our garden?  We are in the process of participating in research being conducted by Dr. Renata Blumberg, a professor in the Nutrition and Food Science program at Montclair State University.  Dr. Blumberg is interviewing our women about their experiences with community gardens.  It is our hope that our participation in this research will bear fruit by increasing interest in urban gardening in years to come.

So, friends, our garden grows and grows and grows . . . thanks to our staff, our volunteers, our benefactors and EVERYONE with whom we collaborate.  Just look at all the hyperlinks throughout this post to see how many people it takes to make our garden grow.  To those mentioned in the post and those whose names we might have missed, we say, "Thank you!"

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