Now that summer is basically here, it’s time to step out and smell the roses… or herbs. There’s no better way to celebrate the warm weather than by farming and gardening. Whether you’re considering taking up a new hobby, want to volunteer in the local community, or simply enjoy getting down and dirty, there are many opportunities in the area to help channel that energy while serving communities in need. Read on for a list of community farms and gardens in Montclair and Bloomfield.
A Lot to Grow | 27 Hillside Avenue + 12 Munn Street, Montclair
This volunteer-driven organization partners with various organizations in the community to grow fresh, chemical-free vegetables and herbs for distribution to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and non-profit senior community homes. A Lot to Grow currently runs four gardens in Montclair, Glen Ridge, and Nutley in the growing season, typically from April 1st to November 31st. There are opportunities, typically during weekday mornings, to help with packing and delivery of foods as well as weekend hours for garden maintenance. The organization welcomes volunteers of all ages and experience levels so, send an email to volunteer.
Montclair Community Farms | 108 Orange Road, Montclair
(Photo credit: @montclaircommunityfarms)
At Montclair Community farms, the mission is “to serve as a local hands-on resource that engages and educates the community through urban farming, affordable food access, and healthy living.” The organization was created in 2011 by the Montclair Department of Health and Human Services with United Way and Home Corps to increase access to affordable and freshly-grown fruits and vegetables within the community. Since its inception, the farm has grown over 3,300 pounds of food, including 2,500 eggs, hosted over 10,000 hours of community service, and grown its partners and coalition network. The farm offers a Grow Your Own Veggie Garden webinar for $115, which consists of seven sessions to help bring out your inner gardener and some starter plants. There is also an expansive set of youth programs for kids that vary from Scout group workshops to season-long farming classes. Volunteer opportunities are currently limited due to COVID-19 however, as they become available they will be posted on the website.
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Northeast Earth Coalition – Urban Growers | P.O. Box 550, Montclair
(Photo credit: Northeast Earth Coalition)
The Urban Growers program is run by the Northeast Earth Coalition (NEEC), which is a non-profit organization based in Montclair created by Jose German-Gomez, a New Jersey environmental educator and activist. Urban Growers is one of three programs run by NEEC where the food produced by the gardens is shared with local organizations serving low-income and food-insecure communities. The community gardens are located at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church on Pine Street, the First Congregational Church on South Fullerton Avenue, and Crane Park on Glenridge Avenue. To volunteer in any of the NEEC programs, complete the form here.
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Oakeside Community Garden | 240 Belleville Avenue, Bloomfield
(Photo credit: Oakeside Community Garden)
The namesake estate where these gardens reside was home to the Oakes family when they settled in Bloomfield in the early 19th century. Bloomfield township took over the mansion and grounds in the 1980s and has since been dedicated to preserving the estate to honor the family vital to the evolution and growth of the town. In 2010, the Bloomfield Cultural Center established the gardens to educate the community about healthy eating habits and gardening. Plots are available to rent each season for Bloomfield residents ($50/plot) and non-Bloomfield residents ($75/plot). Gardeners are expected to spend approximately four hours a week maintaining their plots and an additional hour per month for general gardening maintenance/chores. At the end of the season, all plants and roots must be removed and composted so the plot is available for the next season. To get involved, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Van Vleck House + Gardens | 21 Van Vleck Street, Montclair
For those who have more interest in photography, strolling through gardens, and enjoying the sounds of nature than in gardening and farming, Van Vleck is an ideal destination for a fun-filled afternoon. The home and grounds were donated by an heir to the Van Vleck family in 1993 to support non-profits. Today, the Montclair Foundation manages the property and is open to the public 365 days a year. The foundation also hosts educational classes, tours, and workshops about plants, wildlife, pollination, and so much more for a small registration fee. The venue hosts outdoor yoga classes – talk about #views. Contact Van Vleck directly to volunteer for events or grounds maintenance, or to make a more lasting commitment and become a member.