Princeton, N.J.— D&R Greenway Land Trust's Capital City Farm in Trenton has been awarded a Smart Growth Award from New Jersey Future. Only projects that represent some of the best examples of sustainable growth and development in the state have been recognized with Smart Growth Awards.
From left – Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, NJ Future; Marty Johnson, Isles Inc.; Allegra Lovejoy, CCF Farm Manager; Ron Brown, Escher Street SRO; Barrett Young, Rescue Mission of Trenton; Lisa Fritzinger, Mercer County; Dennis Micai, TASK; Jay Watson, D&R Greenway Land Trust; JR Capasso, City of Trenton; Andrew Carten, East Trenton Collaborative.
"Capital City Farm is a great example of how land in an area that might not yet be ready to support market-rate development can be put to innovative, productive use," says Andrew Hendry, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Utilities Association and a New Jersey Future trustee, who chaired the Smart Growth Awards jury. "This small plot will bring big benefits to the community it serves—not just healthy food, but nutrition education, job training and opportunities for community collaboration. On all those levels, the project is a clear winner."
An urban farm in the heart of Trenton, "Capital City Farm offers access to healthy produce and is a home for wellness education, micro-enterprise development and arts and culture," says Capital City Farm Coordinator Allegra Lovejoy. The project has been supported and lauded by Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes as a major asset to the city and county, and for its residents, social service agencies and businesses."
Located next to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen on Escher Street, the land for the Capital City Farm was acquired for the project by the City of Trenton with funding from Mercer County's Open Space Fund. The project has been guided by a collaborative composed of D&R Greenway, East Trenton Collaborative, Isles Inc., Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Escher Street SRO, Helping Arms, Rescue Mission, the Watson Institute, Designing the We, the City of Trenton and Mercer County.
The site was a formerly abandoned piece of land in East Trenton that had filled in with weeds and debris and was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Trenton volunteer and supporter Kate Mittnacht passed the blighted land every day and saw possibility. She approached D&R Greenway with the idea of transforming the property.
Street surveys conducted by volunteers revealed that, overwhelmingly, employment and youth development were priorities for residents of the adjacent neighborhood and other parts of the city. Interested city residents became active in guiding development of the property.
After remediation during the spring and summer of 2015, the abandoned lot began to transform into a true urban amenity: The chain-link fence was replaced with an attractive tubular aluminum one; a new walkway along one side of the property was installed; a pollinator garden was seeded; trees and shrubs were planted along adjoining streets; and an iconic sign was added. In the fall of 2016, electrical and water hookups were completed, a cistern and greenhouse were installed, and a small demonstration vegetable garden provided food to six Trenton families.
"Although the farm's first full growing season in 2016 is expected to yield approximately 9,000 pounds of produce for nearby residents, food is not the only thing Capital City Farm is providing," says D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead. "Engaging signage explains the history of the neighborhood and educates passers-by about the project, with information on how to get involved. The pollinator garden provides nutrition and respite for both native bees and butterflies and for the beehives installed at the farm. Agricultural education and nutrition programs are being planned, as are job-training opportunities."
"Throughout the process, members of the advisory committee were able to contribute different kinds of expertise, from extensive technical knowledge of site remediation and agriculture, to administration of a Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit for farm purposes, to effective outreach from trusted agencies to local residents," says D&R Greenway Vice-President Jay Watson. "With the help of the Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University, the collaborative is now developing into something more structured to enable it to oversee the effort more effectively going forward."
Capital City Farm is well on its way to becoming a green oasis that can nourish the mind, body and soul.
New Jersey Future is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings together concerned citizens and leaders to promote responsible land-use policies. The organization employs original research, analysis and advocacy to build coalitions and drive land-use policies that help revitalize cities and towns, protect natural lands and farms, provide more transportation choices beyond cars, expand access to safe and affordable neighborhoods and fuel a prosperous economy.
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