Newark Conservancy is City's 'Green' Gem

Twenty-five-old agency provides low-cost fresh produce and a bucolic escape from urban life

Having just celebrated its 25th anniversary, The Greater Newark Conservancy, with its beautiful gardens located just steps from downtown Newark, has helped to make the city a greener place.  And now it will be making it a healthier one too.  High school students working with the Conservancy will be selling fresh Jersey-grown produce at its Youth Farm Stand, located at 32 Prince St., every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 2 and 5 pm, with extended morning hours starting July 17.

The Youth Farm Stand, much like a garden, is a model project constructed of many harmonious elements weaved together to benefit everyone.  In an attempt to provide Newark residents with better access to fresh produce, the Greater Newark Conservancy teamed up with the city in establishing nearly two dozen urban farms on vacant lots throughout the city.  The lots, if left empty, could potentially attract dumping or vandalism, but when transformed into gardens, add beauty to the city’s landscape --- as well as nutritious vegetables. 

High school students involved in the Newark Youth Leadership Project tend the garden and are involved with the entire process, from planting the seeds to selling the produce.  The students learn how to garden, work together as a team, and get a chance to sharpen their business acumen.

Given Newark’s pollution, the gardening does not take place in the native soil.  Instead, fresh soil is brought in and raised garden beds are built  to ensure the well-being of the plants and nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables. 

Building these garden beds requires a bit of manual labor – enter project Clean and Green, a transitional job program, which employs non-violent ex-offenders to help with the construction and maintenance of the gardens.  This initiative gives its participants an opportunity to learn marketable landscaping abilities as well as a chance to practice basic job skills.  It provides a smoother path towards a transition to a new beginning.

The Conservancy itself is open to the public and consists of a series of lush and serene gardens as well as a “green” administrative building.  Built with the help of a grant from the Prudential Foundation, the Conservancy’s Outdoor Learning Center came together with the help of Prudential employees who pitched in their time and labors to construct it.  Visitors can wander through The Sensory Garden exploring lavender scents, tasting basil, and even playing with prickly pears.  The center also hosts a variety of events – it recently held an open mic at their Sundial Amphitheatre, giving inner city kids a chance to share their talents and it will be hosting tea in the gardens every second Saturday throughout the summer.

Settled on its fields, a historic synagogue built in 1884 and converted into a church in 1911 is now in the process of being renovated into the Main Building of the Center,  to be used by community groups and events.  Also in progress, the Greater Newark Conservancy is currently accepting donations for its 25th Anniversary Fund, a rainy day fund ensuring that money will never be pulled from programming priorities in the case of any unforeseen expenses, and that the flowers will keep blooming.


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