Home Essex County This Clifton Non-Profit Serves the Community Through Agriculture + Education

This Clifton Non-Profit Serves the Community Through Agriculture + Education

by Stephanie Spear
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City Green farm is located on a five-acre property in Clifton, NJ. It’s likely you’ve driven by this special place and not even given it a second glance. The farm is located at 171 Grove Street and is open for neighbors to visit, shop, volunteer, or simply enjoy nature. But this agricultural oasis isn’t just nice to look at — City Green has a mission to serve the community. It is a multi-program, multi-dimensional non-profit organization focused on urban agriculture and environmental education. City Green offers programs for schools and hosts a farm stand in addition to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) delivery program. The Montclair Girl spoke with Jasmine Moreano, ​​Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy for City Green, about this amazing organization and how neighbors can get involved. Read on for more about City Green farm in Clifton, NJ.

city green farm clifton nj

(Photo credit: @citygreennj)

About City Green

City Green was established in 2004 by Clifton native Jennifer Papa. Jennifer is the founder and executive director of City Green. She spent a lot of her childhood driving through the area and observed many spaces that could make sense for a community garden location. In 2004, she started a partnership with a church in Paterson, and together they created the Women of Faith Community Garden on the church property.

Over time — and with involvement from the community — Jennifer increased the program to include youth programs in Paterson. She started to create educational programs for students, growing food near the library and at the Boys and Girls Club. The organization grew and began to employ high school students to help run and grow the program.

city green farm clifton

(Photo credit: @citygreennj)

Now, the organization has expanded to offer many resources to the community. Certainly, access to fresh and locally grown produce is at the heart of it, but City Green’s efforts reach members of the community in a number of different ways. City Green’s educational programs are accessible to students in Pre-K all the way through high school. Over 100 schools have a City Green school garden, and City Green offers teens a paid summer internship program.

City Green partners with senior centers and senior residences to deliver vegetable boxes as well as gardening and horticultural therapy. Individuals can shop at the farm stand or visit the farm for a festival or special event. The farm stand offers the Good Food Bucks program, which gives WIC and SNAP recipients double their dollars while purchasing produce.

city green farm clifton

(Photo credit: @citygreennj)

City Green sustainably grows thousands of pounds of produce at the Clifton eco-center and in a 10-acre plot of land in the South Mountain Preserve in Mount Olive, NJ. City Green also operates the Veggie Mobile, which offers local deliveries and farmers’ market stops throughout North Jersey. There are over 75 types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown by City Green. The produce choices are meant to reflect what’s in season as well as the cultural needs of the communities it serves.

Read More: Organizations + Non-Profits to Give Back to in Montclair

City Green’s Growth

Jasmine Moreano describes three pivotal moments in the organization’s history to explain its success and growth. The first took place in 2008, when City Green established a relationship with the City of Paterson to create a dedicated space in a city garden. This was the organization’s first ‘garden home’ and City Green was able to expand its offerings. It now had access to land and could host field trips. City Green also now had more space to work on different programs, such as an after-school program.

The second moment took place in 2011. City Green was approached by the City of Clifton to take over the property that is now the farm’s eco-center. The city of Clifton had purchased the Schultheis Farm with city and state funds, and at the same time, City Green now needed more space — including office spaces. The property is five acres and is a real farm. It was an easy move because City Green didn’t have to install water or utilities. The property had been a working, family farm. The location allows the preservation of the agricultural history of Clifton. The old farmhouse is where the offices are and where meetings are held. Additionally, there is a beautiful barn, festival space, outdoor kitchen, whole ‘learning farm’ which is a fenced-in portion that kids can explore, sensory activities, plus the production farm which is on the site.

city green farm clifton

(Photo credit: @citygreennj)

And the third moment took place in 2020. Jasmine said that the pandemic forced City Green to make a lot of changes in how it delivered food and services — and to make sure it was all done safely. The organization developed new opportunities for accessing safe, healthy produce.

For example, City Green hadn’t planned on operating as a CSA program but needed to safely deliver produce to people. Jasmine said the team realized they were essential workers because they were connecting people with fresh food. While still growing thousands of pounds of food, the whole staff redirected to support farmstand program and food delivery. They were able to deliver to food pantries, and help people access fresh food during an uncertain time. This happened at the same time that the organization developed the advocacy component of its program. As a result, Jasmine said that the organization is looking more at policy aspects to see what changes can be implemented at the state/county/local organization to help the mission.

About the Eco-Center

The Clifton eco-center is a destination unto itself. The biggest draw is probably the fact that its five acres of farmland are in the middle of suburban Clifton, but once visitors are on the property, there’s so much more to see and do. The old farmhouse houses the offices and administrative space of City Green, but much of the rest of the property is open for visitors to explore. There is an outdoor kitchen for special events and a space for hosting things like festivals. There is a farm stand open on Wednesdays and Fridays, and members can pick up their CSA boxes on site during that time.

The production farm is where the core of the organization’s efforts take place: sustainably growing produce. Staff and volunteers make the magic happen, and something is always being planted or harvested.

city green farm clifton

(Photo credit: @citygreennj)

The Learning Farm is an interactive farm experience for children, where they can learn about native plants, sustainable agriculture, and visit with farm animals like chickens and goats.

Jasmine told MG that the eco-center recently underwent some modernization and upgrading efforts. “City Green was the recipient of a grant from the state of New Jersey to help create inclusive and healthy communities, Jasmine said.”

She added that the organization is using the funds to make some aspects of the farm easier to visit. “We’ve been able to create paved pathways that are accessible for wheelchairs and other adaptive mobility devices, and also just easier to walk on.” She went on to say that other improvements are meant to help the facility be more welcoming overall. “We’ve made some capital improvements on things like parking to make it easier to get here. We’ve made raised beds in the garden that will be wheelchair accessible. We want to have a wide audience for field trips and make it safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

See More: The History of the Biggest U-Pick Tulip Farm — Right Here in New Jersey

Visiting the Eco-Center

One of the best parts about the eco-center, according to Jasmine, is the ability to host visitors. “The farm feels really alive when people are here. People can connect with nature, visit goats and chickens, enjoy the trees. We love to have people over and hang out. It’s a magical place. If you come here, you will become a City Green fan. It speaks for itself when you arrive.” There are many opportunities to visit, volunteer, or simply support the farm.

city green farm clifton

(Photo credit: @citygreennj)

The eco-center is open for visitors Monday through Friday, and the Farm Stand is open on Wednesdays and Fridays. There is special programming in the Learning Farm on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. There are frequently special events like Farm Tours and Children’s Storytime. Over the summer, there is a Farm Fest once a month, which is a family-friendly ‘day out’ on the farm with live music. Local breweries Ghost Hawk Brewery and Montclair Brewery will be on-site at various times. Guests can enjoy the farm and visit with the animals.

Volunteers are always needed, according to Jasmine. This might be the perfect fit for an apartment-bound green thumb. “There is a new volunteer orientation twice a month, in the evening,” Jasmine said. “Volunteers make a huge contribution to getting things done.” She said that last year, four volunteers and two staff planted over 10,000 onions at the South Mountain Preserve.

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