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Archive for July, 2009

Last week, Metrovation, which operates a community organic vegetable garden at their Shrewsbury retail property, The Grove West, donated all the remaining produce, fruits and other remainders from their farmers market to 180 Turning Lives Around’s domestic violence shelter. Seven families enjoyed fresh pepper, green beans, potatoes and herbs from a garden grown by the kids of Shrewsbury and surrounding areas.

A great example of community building and service we should all take to heart.

Updated Release

Community Organic Garden at the Grove West Donates Organic Produce to Domestic Violence Shelter, Shrewsbury New Jersey, Rt. 35, July 28, 2009

Metrovation, a privately owned real estate development company’s philosophy is to create shopping centers with a community focus. An area of grass in front of the shops at The Grove West in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, transforms a parking lot into a harvesting haven in the middle of suburban sprawl. The eco-conscious project is even being irrigated using run-off water from the buildings.

According to Chris Cole, partner in Metrovation’s East Coast operations based in Red Bank, The Organic Vegetable Garden was the result of brainstorming about new ways to benefit the community. The program’s, “From Seed to Need” plan is to “plant a garden where children can learn and get involved in everything from planting to harvesting and the vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, celery beans and herbs could be donated to local charities. Our largest community partner has been the Rumson Country Day School. The children are at the center at least once a week working on the garden.”
The produce from the garden is sold every other Thursday from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm throughout the summer. On July 23, the children from RCDS manned a cart filled with produce and flowers in front of the shops. The proceeds benefitted 180

Turning Lives Around, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault in Monmouth
County. 180’s services include support during crisis & group counseling, creative arts therapy for children, advocacy, education, prevention and outreach. Visit http://www.180nj.org for more information.

Fresh parsley, potatoes, peppers and green beans, the literal fruits of the children’s labor, were enjoyed by the families at the Safe House that evening. From “Seed to Need” is truly a grassroots approach to building community.

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The usual suspects, SF/Berkeley and Seattle are on the list and Denver is in the top 5 right now, Denver!? Denver, the city whose caterers nearly revolted when they were told they had to provide a full color assortment of veggies and fruits for the 2008 DNC convention?

And Minneapolis not in the top three? Minneapolis and the Twin Cities have the highest # of food co-ops outside of California and they are highly concentrated over a fairly small urban and suburban footprint. Plus, there is an amazing sustainable and organic farming community growing by leaps and bounds in SE Minnesota and SW Wisconsin. Local, fresh, inexpensive pork can be found in abundance and there is a plethora of choices for local milk, eggs and ice cream.

And NJ loses out again because we’re a not a city or real metro area, just a barrel tapped at two ends by Philly and NY as Ben Franklin put it oh so many years ago.

I would argue that for the local consumer NJ rivals any city in the country for the variety and array of local produce, fruits and baked goods at a families fingertips. If we don’t grow it or make it, we have many markets that provide excellent products from our fine neighbors from Pennsy and Upstate NY. Check out the Amish Market in Columbus on Route 206 South for some out of this world fresh meats.

Top 10 Cities for Local Food

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Breakfasting with blueberries from B&B Produce in Hammonton. They are some seriously traveling blueberries. I actually picked them up at a Wal Mart Neighborhood Market near LSU in Baton Rouge that we needed to stop in, and transported them back to my temp place in New Orleans.

So much for local AG, but it’s good to see the Jersey Fresh label in the deep south.

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Blueberry Farmers step up to help New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens

Great job by Atlantic Blueberry Co., Diamond Blueberry Inc., Macrie Brothers Blueberry Farms LLC and Donio Farms to make fresh fruits avalaible via the Farmers Against Hunger program. A great example that should be followed by all NJ farmers and producers.

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During my most recent trip to Minnesota I had the opportunity to meet with the good folks at the Rural Enterprise Center in Northfield Minnesota which is a program of the Mainstreet Project.

Regi and Niel are developing and testing a small-scale farm enterprise system that should provide a measure of self-sufficiency to rural Latino’s in Minnesota. Surveys from the Mainstreet Project show that 75% of Latino immigrants in rural Minnesota come from rural or agricultural backgrounds in their home countries. Many work in very low wage and exploitive jobs and often hold two and sometimes three jobs in order to keep their family afloat.

The Rural Enterprise Center has developed an innovative poultry raising system that requires only 8 acres to support a family of four with a living salary. Start-up costs are pretty low excluding the land (and the Center is pursuing several interesting strategies to help mitigate this issue) and the market segment is tightly focused on free-range natural chickens. Regi is developing and testing a number of natural and herbal supplements to the chickens feed and water based on traditional remedies from rural communities. Both the chickens and the remedies are being regularly tested by the USDA and Ag Labs at Missouri and Iowa State.

I’ve had a chance to see both the numbers and the farm and it looks pretty darn good. A burgeoning community and market garden network is being cultivated which helps identify potential farmers or “agripreneurs” as the REC calls them. So what does this have to do with New Jersey?

Traditionally, both rural New Jersey and upstate New York were home to small-scale, usually family run, chicken farms that supplied their local communities and immediate regions. Over the last twenty to thirty years many of these operations went out of business or were subsumed by large agribusiness enterprises like Perdue and Tyson. While land is prohibitively more expensive in New Jersey and in those areas of New York with good proximity to urban markets; small-scale, family run chicken farming might be an opportunity for the Garden State’s immigrant population. Many of these older farms in NJ and NY were run by first and second generation Eastern European immigrants and perhaps there’s an opportunity for the areas many Hispanic and Latino immigrants to develop family enterprises using the system being developed in Southern Minnesota.

However, we’ll have to see how the Minnesota project turns out before we can think about applying these lessons to New Jersey. I may be working on a business analysis project for the Rural Enterprise Center/Mainstreet Project, so hopefully I’ll get a first-hand look at the development and evolution of these small-scale poultry operations over time.

Regi’s ultimate goal is to apply this system nationally. New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic may be a natural fit.

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Not New Jersey Agriculture, but important nonethless. Help ensure a public option is included in health reform:

We Want a Public Option!

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One farmer I spoke to in central Jersey last week said he was 5-7 days behind. He’s lucky though he said because most of his land is hilly and he has good drainage.

From the Philly Inquirer

Heavy rains, lack of sun hamstring crops

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