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Newark Promoting Urban Farms

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The city has been pushing for more community gardens and farmer’s markets to address the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables in parts of the city.

But farmer’s markets throughout Newark have been struggling to attract business.

The city got close to $90,000 from the USDA to promote farmer’s markets through “culturally appropriate marketing” aimed at attracting more customers.

And for the first time starting this June, the city’s 77,000 residents on food stamps will be able to use them at each of the cities community-run markets.

But Cynthia Mellon with the Ironbound Community Corporation garden says getting residents to shop at those markets and grow their own food in the urban gardens is challenging.   

The group has hosted a farmer’s stand for the past two years, but Mellon says it’s only attracted a part of the community.  

“For the Latino people to shop at a moveable stand, they’re very comfortable with it and they love it and come,” she said. “For the African American community, that way of shopping is not as natural. It’s much newer to them.”

They’re not holding a market this year – turnout hasn’t been high enough and the farmers making the trek from South Jersey weren’t making a profit.

"But we are going to fight to get it back because we need our farmer’s market,” said resident Bobbie James. “If you look around we don’t have too many supermarkets with the vegetables and fruits that we need."

This week Mayor Cory Booker visited three community gardens with the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, Doug Fisher.

“For me, it’s all about dealing with the food deserts,” Booker said. “Getting our people more access to healthy food.”

Getting Men in the Gardens

Adult men are the hardest people to get into community gardens, says Emily Turonis with the Ironbound garden.

“It’s tough but slowly but surely we’re reeling them in, trying to get father-son time in the garden,” she said.

In the Clinton Hill neighborhood, a garden run by the Greater Newark Conservancy has found one way to bring in guys. They offer jobs.

Four men in their mid twenties, a few with dreadlocks down to their waists, are planting peach trees in a lot of bright green grass surrounded by residential buildings.

Tahjee Pickens is one of the paid farmers, which is a title some of his friends in Newark are still getting used to.

“They laugh but they see that what I do is serious, and they know that I love my job and now they want to do it,” Pickens said. “They like it too because they see we’re making the city a better place. It’s alright, being a farmer is good.”