HOWELL –Officials broke ground on an expansion project at the Howell Organic Community Garden with the hopes of creating a bigger, more efficient space for local gardeners and the community.
A ribbon cutting for the Howell Organic Community Garden (HOCG) expansion project was held on July 13 at the garden, located at the corner of Squankum-Yellowbrook and Adelphia Road in Howell Township.
Work is slated to be completed by October 15.
According to Richard Perreira, president of the HOCG, “the expansion includes an increase in the size of the garden by 25 percent which includes 13 new plots, a new permanent fence around the increased area, and upgrade to the access driveway.”
Of those 13, seven new plots are to be leased to HOCG members to grow organic food. There will then be six PAR, or “Plant a Row,” plots, which are rows designated to growing fresh, organic vegetables destined for food pantries and the township’s Senior Center.
Perreira explained that the “Plant a Row” plots create a “higher productivity of existing space which will be better protected from the local wildlife by a better fence,” which will in turn yield higher donations of locally sourced produce for local food pantries.
The expansion project will not only increase the amount of produce harvested in general, but it will also provide more opportunities to gardeners looking for a space to work. There is currently a wait list to join the HOCG.
With the expansion, the Howell Township Environmental Commission hopes to “afford further opportunities to local residents who have been on a waiting list to lease plots at the Garden, and provide increased charitable donations of fresh food to local food banks and assistance agencies,” Perreira added.
Anyone wishing to get on the wait list can download an application from the HOCG website at howellorganiccommunitygardens.com. No membership fees will be charged at this time.
Officials from the Howell Township Environmental Commission also noted that the project will be funded through a combination of township open space funds and a grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commission (ANJEC).
ANJEC is a non-profit organization that “helps New Jersey environmental commissions, individuals, local and state agencies preserve natural resources and promote sustainable communities,” according to their website.
Through the grant, ANJEC will fund $1,500 of the project, while the township donates $2,600 from its Open Space Funds “to assist with the cost of the fencing, as the permanent fence is to be on town owned property designated as Open Space.”
In addition, the HOCG will be funding $1,000 on its own.
“Initially, the HOCG was going to match the town’s donation of up to $3,500, but due to a savings realized in a revised estimate from the fence contractor, both the town and the HOCG realized a savings,” said Perreira.
Since its inception four years ago, the HOCG has proven to be a successful Howell institution creating opportunities for numerous local organizations including the Master Gardeners of Monmouth County, 4-H, and Boy Scouts and Girl Scout troops.
“They are pleased to partner with ANJEC, the Howell Environmental Commission, The Howell Township Green Team and the Township of Howell, to continue their mission of fostering sustainable methods of food production in the local community,” stated the Environmental Commission.
The HOCG is open from early spring through late fall; however, composting activities that are utilized for fertilizing the planting rows take place year round, Perreira said.
Anyone can join the garden, whether you are a young novice or a Master Gardener.
“The Community Garden, as an entity, offers a wealth of experience from its members and to its members to assist in succeeding at organic gardening and its many challenges. Many members utilize their space as family plots and it’s rewarding to see children and young adults gardening,” he said.