UNION COUNTY, NJ – Union’s Community Garden was one of the 2017 Union County Means Green Community Garden Grants programs awarded with matching funds, announced the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. 

In addition, the WISE Center Branch Community Garden (Gateway Family Y) in Union was awarded a matching grant and 18 other garden projects in nine different municipalities. The gardens will provide donations of fresh produce to those in need as well as education, recreation, civic service and social opportunities for gardeners and their communities.

The new round of funding follows the success of the 2016 Union County Means Green Community Garden Grants program, an initiative of Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen.

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“This year’s group of awardees demonstrates that the community garden movement touches Union County residents of all ages and from all walks of life,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. “On behalf of the Freeholder Board I wish our awardees all the best for an enriching experience and a bountiful harvest.”

The 2017 UC Means Green garden grant program is administered by the non-profit organization Groundwork Elizabeth on behalf of Freeholder Board. Groundwork also administered the 2016 program, which covered 19 projects in 10 municipalities.

“Groundwork’s expert guidance helped to ensure a successful first year for the grant program,” said Bergen. “We’re pleased to have them on board again to administer the 2017 round of funding.”

“Many Union County residents are eager to reach out and help those in need, and community gardens provide an opportunity to participate in a service activity while also spending time out in the fresh air with friends and neighbors,” said Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados, who chairs the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. “It is especially meaningful to engage our young people in raising and donating fresh produce, both as an educational experience and because helps them to see that even at a very young age they can still have a positive impact on the health and well-being of their families and the whole community.”

To help fill the demand for educational gardens, this year Granados introduced a new community garden funding program for schools called Union County Kids Dig In. Also administered by Groundwork, the new program is funding garden projects at 32 schools.

“We are thrilled to administer UC Kids Dig In and UC Means Green on behalf of the Freeholder Board,” said Groundwork Executive Director Jonathan Phillips. “Interest in community gardening is strong all across Union County, from our cities to our suburban areas.  Growing food locally helps build healthier families, and often improves vacant and underused land for the benefit and enjoyment of local residents."

In addition to the Township of Union awardees, the other 2017 UC Means Green awardees are:

Elizabeth

·      Make the Road New Jersey Community Garden (located at the Snyder Academy)

·      Elmora Branch Library Community Garden

·      E’Port Community Garden (sponsored by Prevention Links)

·      P.I.S.C. Vera Verde (located at Portuguese Instructive Social Club)

·      Jewish Family Service Community Vegetable Garden

·      Elizabeth Branch Community Garden (Gateway Family YMCA)

·      Trinitas Community Garden (Trinitas Hospital)

Fanwood

·      Fanwood Borough Hall Pollinator and Butterfly Garden

New Providence

·      New Providence Community Garden

Plainfield

·      Planting Seeds Community Garden #1 (located at Mt. Zion AME Church)

·      Richmond Towers Garden Club

·      Grace’s Community Garden (located at Grace Episcopal Church)

Roselle

·      East 1st Avenue Garden (Community Access Unlimited)

·      BT and Diane Mathis Garden (Roselle Department of Recreation)

Scotch Plains

·      Brunner Children’s Garden (Howard B. Brunner School)

·      Scotch Plains-Fanwood Community Garden (located on the grounds of Frazee House)

Summit

·      Mary Reinhart Stackhouse Education Center Children’s Garden (Reeves-Reed Arboretum)

Westfield

·      Westfield Food Pantry (Holy Trinity Church)

UC Means Green and UC Kids Dig In awardees become members of Groundwork’s Come Grow With Us! community garden program, which provides seedlings and other resources to its members.

“Many of our UC Means Green awardees also receive support from their local municipalities,” said Bergen. “It’s a wonderful illustration of the ways in which County funding can enhance local resources to benefit more residents.”

The Union County community garden movement is also supported by community organizations and private sector partners, and it has even attracted state and federal interest.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has partnered with Groundwork through the More PEAS permaculture initiative, resulting in the construction of more than 100 new community garden beds in Elizabeth earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Conservation Resource Service has also begun to partner with Groundwork in of support Union County community gardens. The agency traditionally provides assistance to rural farmers. Its interest in Union County is part of a new initiative to reach urban farmers and community gardens.

Rounding out the community garden picture in Union County is the Rutgers Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden. Located by the County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, the garden has donated thousands of pounds of fresh produce for local food pantries and offers a variety of community education programs.

The Master Gardeners is an all-volunteer organization run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County and supported by the Freeholder Board, as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national Extension system.

For quick links to Union County environmental programs and more information about the Union County Extension, visit The Green Connection.