What once were food deserts in Newark are now becoming havens for juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and crunchy kale – grown and handpicked right in Brick City.
Seven youth farm stands selling fresh vegetables and fruits have cropped up throughout the city this summer, offering residents the healthy food options they've long sought after and young adults hands-on experience in farming. The farm stand program is part of Greater Newark Conservancy's Youth Leadership Project.
"The problem in urban areas is there's a lack of fresh produce and it's an inconvenience for some residents to reach a supermarket," said Justin Allen, Greater Newark Conservancy's farm stand coordinator. "These farm stands put (fresh produce) right at residents' front doors."
Most of what is sold at the seven locations – which has grown from just two sites last year – is grown at the conservancy's Court Street Farm. The half-acre plot, located behind Krueger Mansion, harvests eggplants, cantaloupe, okra, carrots, cabbage, swiss chard, zucchini, lettuce, spinach and watermelon, depending on the season. The stands also sell sweet Jersey corn and sometimes peaches brought in from local farms.
Fifteen youths this summer learned about agriculture, horticulture, nutrition and even business management through running the farm stand as part of Greater Newark Conservancy's six-week program. Responsibilities also include picking produce, tilling the farm and taking educational classes each week.
"I'm more conscious of where my food comes from," said Oluwaseyi Amorin, a sophomore at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and one of the program's education mentors. "It's a good feeling knowing you grew your own food."
Amorin, a West Orange resident, staffed the youth farm stand Thursday in downtown Newark along with Ashley Berry, sophomore at The College of New Jersey, Bennie Atkins, junior at Barringer High School, and William Paterson University senior Akintayo Famakinwa, all Newark natives.
On a tour of the downtown market near Military Park for National Farmers Market Week, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) marveled at the gleaming fruits and vegetables for sale.
"It's called the Garden State," he said. "Sometimes I think we forget that it's still the Garden State, but it is."
Click here to locate youth farm stands in Newark.