AmericanFarm.com

City Green devoted toward ag education

By JANE PRIMERANO
AFP Correspondent

CLIFTON (Oct. 15, 2014) — Between Route 46 and the Garden State Parkway on a rise with a view, on clear days, of the New York skyline, is a five-acre tract with gardens, a small flock of chickens and three very cute goats.
This little plot of land is the headquarters of City Green, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to bringing good food and farming knowledge to people with little access to either.
The City Green website says the program “facilitates the development of community gardens, green spaces and natural beautification projects while promoting community collaboration.”
Jennifer Papa is the founder and executive director of City Green. She describes herself as descended from people “from gritty New Jersey cities.” Interested in gardening since age 7, she became fascinated by the CSA movement and there wasn’t one in this very urban area.
The town of Clifton bought the property from the Schulteis family and preserved it as open space and City Green took it over to present Papa’s mission.
City Green just celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing diverse programs to adults and children in Northeast New Jersey.
In the beginning, Papa invested $2,000 of her own money for supplies and started spreading her message. She went to the city council and non-profit groups.
The first non-profit that partnered with City Green was Women of Faith, a Bible-study group. Soon the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Paterson Public Library followed.
Farmer Todd Gustafson moved here from the Midwest in January to work on City Green’s land. He works the “learning garden,” where adults and children can come to find out about how things grow.
It features “Mr. MacGregor’s Garden,” complete with Peter Rabbit’s little blue coat hanging up waiting for him. Barnabus Health donated funds for a stage which was used this summer by children attending camp. Samsung built a meditation area.
Besides about 10 regular volunteers, employees from J Crew, Mercedes, The Gap and Viacom come to help out, Papa said.
The latest gift is from Kessler Rehabilitation to create a wheelchair accessible area with very raised beds and access for a van to pull right up to the fence.
The fence is necessary because the chickens roam around during the day.
The goats, George, Willie and Harry, are in an enclosure they are almost big enough prevent escape. They are four months old. Because they came at only a few days old, they were bottle-fed and treated as pets.
They were a big hit with the City Sprouts, children who come to City Green to learn about gardening, Papa said. A six-week summer camp this year gave the children an opportunity to see what they grew. Local high school students also come to the farm in the summer.
Interns come from Montclair, Ramapo, William Paterson and Rutgers. Some are studying agriculture, but others are learning about nutrition and want to see where food comes from, Papa said.
City Green maintains another garden at Eastside Park in Paterson, she said.