FAIRFIELD, NJ — On behalf of the Fairfield Public Library’s garden group, library director Brianne Colombo addressed the mayor and council last week on the possibility of developing a community garden. The proposed location for the garden is behind the Van Dessel fields located on Hollywood Avenue and Big Piece Road.

“Community gardens provide equitable, ecological, and healthy advantages to communities,” said Colombo. “They benefit whole communities by restoring vibrancy to often-unused land and by bringing neighbors together. Community gardens improve the quality of life, social interactions, and self-reliance of neighborhoods like ours by creating safe, public space, conserving energy and resources and by preserving green space.”

If the governing body agrees, the garden group, in partnership with the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Essex County, would explore all aspects of the creation and maintenance of the community gardens. These considerations would include the garden’s size, plots, plot rentals, access, soil composition/soil testing for safety, access to water, fencing, possible sponsors, as well as creating and promoting community uses and partnerships.

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Once the research is conducted, Colombo said the garden group would develop a landscape design with guidelines, including financial needs for the community garden.

The garden group believes that the more diverse the uses of the community garden, the more it will be used and supported.

“The garden can include community spaces/plots as well as individual plots in order to incorporate food assistance programs that can provide fresh, local food to our local food pantry at St. Thomas More Church,” said Colombo. “It can be used in conjunction with existing township celebrations and programming such as Family Fun Night, summer recreation camp, school service projects, teenage volunteer service hour needs, all of the amazing programming of the Municipal Alliance Committee, the Fairfield Free Public Library adult, teen and children’s programming, the library’s annual Fall Festival and more.”

Colombo explained that community gardens in New Jersey have followed a national trend of rising popularity. Citizens are becoming more aware of the ecological and social impact of where food comes from, and in response, are choosing to grow their own food, shopping at farmer’s markets and looking for local, New Jersey-grown produce in stores.

According to Colombo, community gardens allow people to provide themselves with healthy, nutritious, delicious and affordable food while also encouraging an active lifestyle and bringing families, friends and neighbors together in a positive and safe environment. They also give access to land for people who might not otherwise be able to grow their own food, which Colombo noted is significant given the rise of housing units within the community.

The group believes that with the news of the phase two renovations and improvements for the recreation center, it is an opportune time to request a space to be reserved for a community garden in town.

Fairfield Township Mayor James Gasparini said that phase three of the renovations and improvements to the recreation center will include some renovations to the Van Dessel property that might interfere with the community gardens being placed there. However, he said that the governing body would look into other potential locations.

“Once the appropriate location and plans have been finalized, the community garden should prove to be another great gathering place for the township residents,” said Antonia LaForgia, president of the Fairfield Library Board and member of the garden group.