AmericanFarm.com

Wrangle Brook CSA appears to be worth wait

By RICHARD SKELLY
AFP Correspondent

BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, Ocean County (May 15, 2015) — As Bonney Parker, Deborah Shaw and others in Parker’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lanoka Harbor will tell you, good things come to those who are patient.
In 2013, Parker and a fellow church mate found out about a tract of land where they could launch their own farm.
Two years later, the Wrangle Brook Farm CSA is now a reality, as the group broke ground on April 15 to get just about an acre of ground ready for individual vegetable growing beds for families as well as a Community Food Bank area.
“I said to a friend of mine, I think it would be great for us to have a community garden. We came out here and looked at this space,” Parker explained at the site off Lakehurst Road.
“I did some research and found out it belongs to Berkeley Township, so I sent a letter to the council and asked them if they would lease the space to us,” Parker explained.
Township officials were enthused with the idea, as well as the Community Garden concept for the Toms River Area Food Bank, so Berkeley Township leased it to the church group for one dollar a year for a five-year period.
“The public works supervisor, Mark Vannella helped us out a lot, he’s brought work crews here to help us, and they sent guys down here two years ago to begin cleaning it up,” she said, noting it had been a baseball field with shuffleboard and basketball courts that had fallen into disrepair over a number of years.
Members of the Pinelands Preservation Group came to the site last year to spread compost around and members of the church planted winter rye grass.
A grant came through too late last year to put up a deer fence, so that is being installed this spring, Parker explained.
“About half of this will be called Common Ground,” Parker said. “We’re planting food for the food banks and the other half will be individual beds for members and their families.”
Parker and her sister reached out to the Pinelands Antique Engines Association and they offered up their tractors and other riding equipment to till the land for the group.
“They were here in the fall to disc the compost and all the mulch we put down, separating it all and making it into a looser topsoil,” Parker said, noting the Wrangle Brook CSA currently has about 30 members, “and several friends will be working the Common Ground area on behalf of the food bank. We’ve been meeting once a month to talk about plans.”
What sparked Parker’s interest in and passion for farming?
“I’m not much of a gardener, honestly,” she said, “but, I am an organizer and a cook. Almost 40 years ago, my sister and I formed a co-op called Loving Family Co-Op based in Toms River and Berkeley and it’s still in existence. We started buying wholesale organic produce from different companies because it was really expensive at the time, and so we’d buy at the wholesale price and then sell it to members at wholesale price. But the idea goes back a long time, because my father had an organic garden,” Parker said.
“We have a Facebook page and our congregation also has a website (www.Uuocc.org),” Parker said, adding they could always use more volunteer help.
A team of volunteers, some of whom have beds of their own, will be working the Common Ground area, “because we asked the Farmers for Hunger organization what kinds of crops are most needed.”