UNION, NJ – City residents can now reap the benefits of farm fresh food, thanks to a new, state-funded program from Groundwork Elizabeth, launched April 15, at Liberty Hall Farm at Kean University.

More P.E.A.S. (Permaculture Education Agricultural Systems) is a community-based, sustainable agriculture initiative aiming to transform brownfields and underused properties into healthier, sustainable areas in Elizabeth, Union Township, and other areas of Union County. The program promotes environmental stewardship, social and cultural revitalization, and reinvestment and recycling. Its objectives are to improve access to healthy foods, strategies to build sustainable agricultural systems, development of green-focused career opportunities, and quality of life in socially and economically challenged areas.

One such place is the community garden at Josephine’s Place, which is inviting neighbors to Come Grow With Us, Friday, April 29, from 1 to 2 p.m. Attendees can plant their own herbs and learn about the community garden. Registration is required at www.josephinesplace.org. Josephine’s Place is located at 622 Elizabeth Avenue.

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Groundwork Elizabeth has partnered with the Department of Environmental Protection, and the DEP has provided $250,000 toward the $403,125 initiative. “By transforming brownfields and underutilized properties into gardens and places where people can get outdoors and enjoy physical activity, these types of urban agriculture partnerships ultimately benefit the greater community,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.

Groundwork is also the Freeholder Board’s partner for the new Community Garden Grants Program, which will be administered by the non-profit organization Groundwork Elizabeth under its Come Grow With Us! community garden program.

“Groundwork Elizabeth’s mission and goal is to build a healthy, sustainable community, and our work with the More P.E.A.S. initiative directly speaks to this issue of sustainability,” said Jonathan Phillips, Groundwork’s executive director. “Permaculture addresses the restoration of our physical environment by promoting care for the earth, care for people, and prudent use of recycling.”

The P.E.A.S. initiative has six projects”

  • Two agricultural demonstration and learning laboratories to serve school-age students.
  • Twp fully irrigated community plot gardens in Elizabeth.
  • A long-term permaculture plan that willinclude the 10-acre Liberty Hall Farm,  as well as 20 partner gardens, where residents can learn all aspects of healthy and sustainable food production.
  • Six mini agricultural demonstration and learning laboratories featuring storage, shelter and gathering opportunities at partner gardens in Elizabeth. Each lab will be made from either recycled shipping containers from the Port of Elizabeth or from traditional timber structures. This component would be done in collaboration with Kean University’s new Michael Graves School of Architecture.
  • A website that will host an online video learning library demonstrating Best Management Practices focusing on urban agriculture goals.
  • A farm and garden coordinator position to manage the overall permaculture plan.

For more information about Groundwork visit groundworkelizabeth.com or call 908-289-0262, ext. 203.